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Simon Callow

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Simon Callow
Callow in 2009
Simon Phillip Hugh Callow

(1949-06-15) 15 June 1949 (age 75)
Streatham, London, England
  • Actor
  • director
  • author
  • musician
  • singer
Years active1973–present
Sebastian Fox
(m. 2016)

Simon Phillip Hugh Callow CBE[1] (born 15 June 1949) is an English actor. Known as a character actor on stage and screen, he has received numerous accolades including an Olivier Award and Screen Actors Guild Award as well as nominations for two BAFTA Awards. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to acting by Queen Elizabeth II in 1999.

Callow rose to prominence originating the title role of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the 1979 Peter Shaffer play Amadeus, for which he received a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role nomination. Callow joined the Miloš Forman 1984 film adaptation, this time portraying Emanuel Schikaneder. In 1992, Callow won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director of a Musical for Carmen Jones. As an actor, he won acclaim for his comedic roles in A Room with a View (1985) and Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) earning BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for each. Other notable roles include in Maurice (1987), Howards End (1992), Shakespeare in Love (1998), and The Phantom of the Opera (2004).

His television roles include Tom Chance in the Channel 4 series Chance in a Million (1984) and The Duke of Sandringham in the series Outlander from 2014 to 2016. He portrayed Napoleon in The Man of Destiny (1981), and Charles Dickens in numerous television projects. He has also appeared on numerous shows such as Midsomer Murders, Rome, Angels in America, Doctor Who, Galavant, Hawkeye, and The Witcher.

Early years[edit]

Callow was born on 15 June 1949 in Streatham, south London, the son of Yvonne Mary (née Guise), a secretary and Neil Francis Callow, a businessman.[2] His father was of French descent and his mother was of Danish and German ancestry.[3] His father left when Simon was eighteen months old, and he was brought up by his mother and grandmothers. He and his mother travelled to Northern Rhodesia (now called Zambia) when he was nine to try and reconcile with his father. This did not happen, and Callow was sent for three years to boarding school in South Africa. He and his mother returned to Britain when he was twelve. He was raised as a Catholic.[3] Callow was a student at the London Oratory School in west Brompton,[4] and then went on to study briefly at Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland,[5] where he was active in the gay liberation movement.[5] He gave up his degree course after a year to take a three-year acting course at the Drama Centre London.[4]



Callow's immersion in the theatre began after he wrote a fan letter to Sir Laurence Olivier, the artistic director of the National Theatre, and received a response suggesting he join their box-office staff. While watching actors rehearse, he realised he wanted to act.[6]

Callow made his stage debut in 1973, appearing in The Three Estates at the Assembly Rooms Theatre, Edinburgh. In the early 1970s, he joined the Gay Sweatshop theatre company and performed in Martin Sherman's critically acclaimed Passing By.[7][8] In 1977, he took various parts in the Joint Stock Theatre Company's production of Epsom Downs and in 1979, he starred in Snoo Wilson's The Soul of the White Ant at the Soho Poly.[9]

Callow appeared as Verlaine in Total Eclipse (1982), Lord Foppington in The Relapse (1983) and the title role in Faust (1988) at the Lyric Hammersmith, where he also directed The Infernal Machine (with Dame Maggie Smith) in 1986.[10] In 1985, he played Molina in Kiss of the Spiderwoman at the Bush Theatre, London.[10] He played Mozart in the premiere of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus at the National Theatre (1979), also appearing in the 1983 BBC original cast radio production.[10] He later wrote of having "discovered Mozart quite early: the operas, the symphonies, the concertos, the wind serenades were all very much part of my musical landscape when I was asked to play the part of the composer in Peter Shaffer's Amadeus; possibly this was one of the reasons I got the job."[11] He appeared at the National Theatre as Orlando in As You Like It (1979) and Fulganzio in Life of Galileo (1980).[10]

Callow appeared with Saeed Jaffrey in the 1994 British television drama series Little Napoleons, playing a scheming Conservative councillor in local government. In 1996, Callow directed Cantabile in three musical pieces (Commuting, The Waiter's Revenge, Ricercare No. 4) composed by his friend Stephen Oliver. Ricercare No. 4 was commissioned by Callow especially for Cantabile. He voice-acted the sly and traitorous Wolfgang in Shoebox Zoo. In 2004, he appeared on a Comic Relief episode of Little Britain for charity causes. In 2006, he wrote a piece for the BBC1 programme This Week bemoaning the lack of characters in modern politics. He has starred as Count Fosco, the villain of Wilkie Collins's novel The Woman in White, in film (1997) and on stage (2005, in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical in the West End).

Callow starred in the three-part original Gold comedy The Rebel in 2016.[12]

In 2022, he joined the cast of the UK revival of Cole Porter's Anything Goes replacing Gary Wilmot as Elisha Whitney. The production would complete a UK tour before finishing with a run at the Barbican Centre.[13] From 11 July to 3 August 2008, Callow appeared at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada in There Reigns Love, a performance of the sonnets of William Shakespeare.[14] The same year, he appeared at the Edinburgh Festival, performing "Dr. Marigold" and "Mr. Chops" by Charles Dickens, adapted and directed by Patrick Garland; repeating them from December 2009 to January 2010 at the Riverside Studios and on tour in 2011.

In February 2008, he played the psychiatrist in the Chichester Festival Theatre's production of Peter Shaffer's Equus.

Between March and August 2009, he played Pozzo in Sean Mathias's production of Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett with Ian McKellen as Estragon, Patrick Stewart as Vladimir, and Ronald Pickup as Lucky. The production toured Britain before a run at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, in London

From June to November 2010, he appeared in a national tour of a new one-man play, Shakespeare: the Man from Stratford, written by Jonathan Bate, directed by Tom Cairns, and produced by the Ambassador Theatre Group. The play was renamed Being Shakespeare for its West End debut at the Trafalgar Studios, where it opened on 15 June 2011. It was revived at the same theatre in March 2012, prior to a run in New York City and Chicago. In March 2014, it returned to the West End, this time at the Harold Pinter Theatre.[15]

In October 2014, Callow appeared in a comedy sketch made for Channel 4's The Feeling Nuts Comedy Night to raise awareness of testicular cancer. The same year, he played the recurring role of the fictional Duke of Sandringham in the Starz period TV series, Outlander.[16]

In December 2022, Callow appeared as Dick in the Christmas special of BBC dark comedy Inside No. 9, "The Bones of St Nicholas".[17][18]


He made his first film appearance in 1984 as Schikaneder in Amadeus. The following year, he appeared as the Reverend Mr. Beebe in A Room with a View. His first television role was in the Carry On Laughing episode "Orgy and Bess" in 1975, but it was cut from the final print. He starred in several series of the Channel 4 situation comedy Chance in a Million, as Tom Chance, an eccentric individual to whom coincidences happened regularly. Roles like this and his part in Four Weddings and a Funeral brought him to a wider audience.[19] Callow portrayed Pliny the Elder in CBBC's 2007 children's drama series, Roman Mysteries in the episode "The Secrets of Vesuvius". He played Armand Duquesne in Marvel's Hawkeye on Disney+.[20]


Callow also directed plays and wrote: his Being An Actor (1984) was a critique of 'director dominated' theatre, in addition to containing autobiographical sections relating to his early career as an actor. In 1992, he directed the play Shades by Sharman MacDonald and the musical My Fair Lady, featuring costumes designed by Jasper Conran.[21] In 1995, he directed a stage version of the classic French film Les Enfants du Paradis for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Among opera productions directed by Callow are a Così fan tutte in Lucerne, Die Fledermaus for Scottish Opera in 1988,[22] Il tritico for the Broomhill Trust, Kent in August 1995,[23] Menotti's The Consul at Holland Park Opera, London in 1999 and Le roi malgré lui by Chabrier at Grange Park Opera in 2003.[24] He also directed Carmen Jones at the Old Vic, London in 1991, with Wilhelmenia Fernandez in the title role.[25]

One of Callow's best-known books is Love Is Where It Falls, an analysis of his 11-year relationship with Peggy Ramsay (1908–91), a prominent British theatrical agent from the 1960s to the 1980s. He has also written extensively about Charles Dickens, whom he has played several times: in a one-man show, The Mystery of Charles Dickens by Peter Ackroyd; in the films Hans Christian Andersen: My Life as a Fairytale, and Christmas Carol: The Movie; and on television several times including An Audience with Charles Dickens (BBC, 1996) and in "The Unquiet Dead", a 2005 episode of the BBC science-fiction series Doctor Who. He returned to Doctor Who for the 2011 season finale, again taking the role of Dickens.[26]

In December 2004, he hosted the London Gay Men's Chorus Christmas Show, Make the Yuletide Gay at the Barbican Centre in London. He is currently one of the patrons of the Michael Chekhov Studio London. In July 2006, the London Oratory School Schola announced Callow as one of their new patrons. In November 2007, he threatened to resign the post over controversy surrounding the Terrence Higgins Trust (an AIDS charity of which Callow is also a patron). Other patrons of the Catholic choir are Princess Michael of Kent and the leading Scottish composer James MacMillan. He reprised his role as Wolfgang in Shoebox Zoo and voice-acted the wild and action-seeking Hunter, as well.[when?]


Callow has written biographies of Oscar Wilde, Charles Laughton, Orson Welles, and Richard Wagner. He has also written an anthology of Shakespeare passages, Shakespeare on Love, and contributed to Cambridge's Actors on Shakespeare series.

A devotee of classical music, he has contributed articles to Gramophone and The New York Review of Books.


Callow was the reader of The Twits and The Witches in the Puffin Roald Dahl Audio Books Collection (ISBN 978-0-140-92255-4), and has done audio versions of several abridged P.G. Wodehouse books that feature, among others, the fictional character Jeeves. They include Very Good, Jeeves and Aunts Aren't Gentlemen. Callow is the reader of the audio book edition of William E. Wallace's Michelangelo, God's Architect, published by Princeton University Press.[27] Callow narrated the audiobook of Robert Fagles' 2006 translation of Virgil's The Aeneid. In November 2009, "Mini Stories", a recording by the Caput Ensemble of Haflidi Hallgrimsson's settings of the surreal poetry of Daniil Kharms, featuring Callow as the narrator, was released by Hyperion Records.[28]

Callow played Stroganoff in the 1987 Saturday Night Theatre production of A Bullet in the Ballet dramatised by Pat Hooker on BBC Radio 4.[29]

Personal life[edit]

Callow was one of the first actors to declare their homosexuality publicly, doing so in his 1984 book Being An Actor. He was listed 28th in The Independent's 2007 listing of the most influential gay men and women in the UK.[30] He married Sebastian Fox in June 2016.[31][32]

In an interview, Callow stated:

I'm not really an activist, although I am aware that there are some political acts one can do that actually make a difference and I think my coming out as a gay man was probably one of the most valuable things I've done in my life. I don't think any actor had done so voluntarily and I think it helped to change the culture.[33]

In August 2014, Callow was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian expressing their hope that Scotland would vote to remain part of the United Kingdom in September's referendum on that issue.[34]

In the 1999 Birthday Honours, he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to acting.[35]


Denotes films that have not yet been released


Simon Callow's film credits with year of release, film titles and roles
Year Title Role Notes
1984 Amadeus Emanuel Schikaneder / Papageno Callow created the role of Mozart in the premiere stage production
1985 The Good Father Mark Varda
A Room with a View The Reverend Mr. Beebe Nominated – BAFTA Film Award for Best Actor in a Supporting role
1987 Maurice Mr. Ducie
1988 Manifesto Police Chief Hunt
1990 Postcards from the Edge Simon Asquith
Mr. & Mrs. Bridge Dr. Alex Sauer
1991 The Ballad of the Sad Cafe Director
Nominated – Golden Berlin Bear
1992 Howards End Music and Meaning Lecturer Cameo a
  Soft Top Hard Shoulder Eddie Cherdowski
1994  Four Weddings and a Funeral Gareth Nominated – BAFTA Film Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Street Fighter A.N. Official
1995 England, My England Charles II
Jefferson in Paris Richard Cosway
Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls Vincent Cadby Main antagonist
1996  James and the Giant Peach Mr. Grasshopper Voice role
1996 Victory Zangiacomo
1998 The Scarlet Tunic Captain Fairfax
Bedrooms and Hallways Keith
Shakespeare in Love Sir Edmund Tilney Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
1999 Around the World in 80 Days Phileas Fogg Voice role
Notting Hill Himself Uncredited film-within-a-film role
2001 No Man's Land Colonel Soft
Christmas Carol: The Movie Ebenezer Scrooge Voice role
2002 Thunderpants Sir John Osgood
Merci Docteur Rey Bob
2003 Bright Young Things King of Anatolia
2004 George and the Dragon King Edgar
The Phantom of the Opera Andre
2005 Rag Tale Fat Boy Rourke
The Civilization of Maxwell Bright Mr. Wroth
Bob the Butler Mr. Butler
2006 Sabina Eugene Bleuler
2007 Chemical Wedding Professor Haddo / Aleister Crowley
Arn - The Knight Templar Father Henry
2011 No Ordinary Trifle Guy Witherspoon
2012 Acts of Godfrey Godfrey
2014 Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles Himself
2016 Golden Years Royston
Viceroy's House Cyril Radcliffe
2017 Hampstead The Judge
Victoria & Abdul Giacomo Puccini
The Man Who Invented Christmas John Leech
2018 Blue Iguana Uncle Martin
2024 Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2 Mark Cavendish
TBA The Pay Day  † Post-production
Surprised by Oxford Post-production
Doctor Jekyll Post-production
Eternal Return Malcolm Post-production


Simon Callow's television credits with year of release, film titles and roles
Year Title Role Notes
1975 Get Some In! Wally Episode: "36-Hour Pass"
1976 The Sweeney Detective Sergeant Episode: "Down to You, Brother"
1980 Play for Today Max Episode: "Instant Enlightenment Including VAT"
1981 The Man of Destiny Napoleon Television film
W.H.Auden Monologue W.H.Auden Television film
1984-1986 Chance in a Million Tom Chance 19 episodes
1985 Honour, Profit and Pleasure Handel Television film
1986 Dead Head Hugo Silver 2 episodes
David Copperfield Mr Micawber 7 episodes
1987 Inspector Morse Theodore Kemp Episode: "The Wolvercote Tongue"
1990 Screen Two Nathaniel Quass Episode: "Old Flames"
1993 Femme Fatale Vicar Ronnie
1994 Little Napoleons Edward Feathers
1995 El pasajero clandestino Major Owens
1996 An Audience With Charles Dickens Charles Dickens
1997 The Woman in White Count Fosco
1998 Trial & Retribution II Rupert Halliday
2000 The Mystery of Charles Dickens Charles Dickens Television film
2001 Don't Eat the Neighbours Fox & Bear
2002 NOVA: Galileo's Battle for the Heavens Galileo Documentary
2003 Angels in America Prior Walter ancestor 2 Miniseries
2004 Shoebox Zoo Wolfgang the Wolf
Hunter the Horse
12 episodes
Agatha Christie's Marple Colonel Terence Melchett Episode: "The Body in the Library"
2005 Rome Publius Servilius Isauricus Episode: "Egeria"
2005, 2011 Doctor Who Charles Dickens Episodes: "The Unquiet Dead", "The Wedding of River Song"
2006 Midsomer Murders Dr. Richard Wellow Episode: "Dead Letters"
Classical Destinations Narrator[36]
2007 Roman Mysteries Pliny the Elder Episodes: "The Secrets of Vesuvius"
The Company Elihu
How Gay Sex Changed the World Himself
Trick or Treat Episode: "#1.4"
2008 The Mr. Men Show Narrator 2 episodes
2009 Lewis Vernon Oxe Episode: "Counter Culture Blues"
The Sarah Jane Adventures Tree Blathereen Voice
Episode: "The Gift"
2011 This is Jinsy Threcker Episode: "Nameworm"
Popstar to Operastar Himself 13 episodes
Jamie's Dream School 4 episodes
2013 Agatha Christie's Poirot Dr. Heinrich Lutz Episode: "The Labours of Hercules"
2014–2016 Outlander The Duke of Sandringham 5 episodes
2014 Plebs Victor Episode: "The Candidate"
The Feeling Nuts Comedy Night Himself Episode: "#2"
2015 Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway Guest in The End of The Show Show 2 episodes
2016 Galavant Edwin the Magnificent Episode: "World's Best Kiss"
The Rebel Henry Palmer Lead character
The Life of Rock with Brian Pern Bennett St John Episode: "The Thotch Reunion"
2017 George III: The Genius of the Mad King George III Voice role; BBC Documentary on George III
Midsomer Murders Vernon De Harthog Episode: "The Curse of the Ninth"
Sarah & Duck Poetry Pete Episode: "Mountain Mints"
2018 Death in Paradise Larry South Episode: "Written in Murder"
A Christmas Carol Narrator/Actor Television film
The Dead Room Aubrey Judd Television film
2021 Hawkeye Armand Duquesne III Episode: "Never Meet Your Heroes"
2021-2023 The Witcher Codringher 2 episodes
2022 Inside No. 9 Dick Episode: "The Bones of St Nicholas"[37]
2023 The Cleaner Mr. Abahassine Episode: "The Clown"
Dodger The Archbishop of Canterbury Episode: "Coronation"[38]



  1. ^ "Queen's Birthday Honours: The Full List". The Independent. 12 June 1999.
  2. ^ "Simon Callow Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 1 September 2008.
  3. ^ a b Lee, Luaine (30 October 2002). "Spending time in Africa shaped who Simon Callow is today". Star News. Wilmington, North Carolina. p. 9.
  4. ^ a b "Simon Callow in Being Shakespeare". chicagoshakes.com. 18 April 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Simon Callow muses on coffee, causes and life in Belfast as a student". irishnews.com. 16 July 2016.
  6. ^ Fryer, Jonathan (24 March 2010). "Simon Callow Laid Bare". Jonathan Fryer. WordPress.
  7. ^ Church, Michael (20 June 1975). "Passing By". The Times. p. 13.
  8. ^ Callow, Simon (31 October 2008). "Sexual healing: From The Boys in the Band to Brokeback Mountain, gay roles in cinema have come a long way from their tortured beginnings". The Observer.
  9. ^ Snoo Wilson, Plays 1, Methuen 1999
  10. ^ a b c d Biographical note for Simon Callow in programme book for Faust at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, London, 2 July 1988.
  11. ^ My Mozart : Simon Callow. Opera, January 2006, Vol. 57, No.1, pg. 35.
  12. ^ Guide, British Comedy. "The Rebel – Gold Sitcom – British Comedy Guide". British Comedy Guide.
  13. ^ "Anything Goes announces further casting for tour and London run". Retrieved 15 April 2022.
  14. ^ "Stratford Shakespeare Festival – There Reigns Love". Stratford Festival. Archived from the original on 25 January 2008. Retrieved 5 February 2008.
  15. ^ "Being Shakespeare Official Website". Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  16. ^ "Scots-based Outlander TV show casts Simon Callow". The Scotsman. 7 December 2013. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  17. ^ Rees, Jasper (22 December 2022). "Inside No 9, review: there was an unexpected ghost at this macabre Christmas feast". The Telegraph. Retrieved 30 April 2023.
  18. ^ "Inside No. 9: The Bones of St Nicholas". BBC. Retrieved 30 April 2023.
  19. ^ "Simon Callow Biography (1949-) Career to 2003". filmreference.com. Retrieved 13 June 2022.
  20. ^ Bondi, Gabrielle (24 November 2021). "Who killed [SPOILERS] in 'Hawkeye' Episode 1? Marvel's Swordsman, explained". Inverse.
  21. ^ "My Fair Lady – Performing Arts". Jasper Conran. Archived from the original on 20 March 2013.
  22. ^ Monelle, Raymond. Review of Die Fledermaus at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow. Opera, December 1988, Vol.39 No.12, p1491-92.
  23. ^ Allison, John. II trittico and The Reluctant Highwayman, The Broomhill Trust. Opera, October 1995, Vol.46 No.10, p1233-35.
  24. ^ Maddocks, Fiona. "Le roi malgré lui: Grange Park Opera". Opera, September 2003, pp. 1130-31. For this production the dialogue was prepared by Callow from the original Ancelot play.
  25. ^ Milnes, Rodney. Review of Carmen Jones at the Old Vic. Opera, June 1991, Vol.42, No.6, p727-728.
  26. ^ "Doctor Who: Series 6 – 13. The Wedding of River Song". Radio Times.
  27. ^ Michelangelo, God's Architect.
  28. ^ ."Hallgrímsson: Mini Stories". Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  29. ^ Saturday-Night Theatre: A Bullet in the Ballet, Sat 3rd Jan 1987, 19:00 on BBC Radio 4 FM (from Radio Times issue 3293, 3rd January 1987) accessed 1 September 2023.
  30. ^ "Gay Power: The pink list". The Independent. 2 July 2006.
  31. ^ "Simon Callow: 'Marriage is a remarkable thing to happen to someone at the age of 67'". The Times (Interview). Interviewed by Nick Curtis. 31 December 2016.
  32. ^ "Simon Callow on love and loss". Radio Times (Interview). Interviewed by Michael Hodges. 20 July 2016.
  33. ^ Byrnes, Sholto (26 April 2004). "Simon Callow: Laughter in the dark". The Independent. Archived from the original on 4 February 2010.
  34. ^ "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories". The Guardian. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  35. ^ "Queen's Birthday Honours: The Full List". The Independent. 12 June 1999. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  36. ^ "Simon Callow's Classical Destinations: Part 1 – Salzburg". Sky Arts. Archived from the original on 7 August 2011.
  37. ^ "Inside No. 9 Christmas special 2022". Radio Times. Retrieved 14 December 2022.
  38. ^ "BAFTA-winning hit BBC family comedy, Dodger, returns for Christmas special". bbc.co.uk/mediacentre. Retrieved 24 December 2023.

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