Derek Jacobi
Derek Jacobi

Character Portrayed in Gladiator: Senator Gracchus

Born: October 22, 1938; Leytonstone, London, England

Derek Jacobi Bio
Derek Jacobi was born on October 22, 1938 in Leytonstone, East London, England. He went to the Leyton County High School where he was a member of the drama club, The Players of Leyton. His first male part was DeSoto in The Last of the Inca. His second male part was Hamlet, which gained him national attention after the troupe appeared at the Edinburgh Festival in 1957.

At the age of eighteen, Derek Jacobi went to Cambridge for three years on a scholarship, where younger classmates included Ian McKellan and Trevor Nunn. He studied history. While at Cambridge, he played many leading parts including another Hamlet. While touring in Switzerland, he met Richard Burton. As a result of his performance of Edward II, Jacobi was invited to become a member of the Birmingham Repertory Company immediately upon graduation.

Upon being seen by Sir Lawrence Olivier in a production of Henry VIII, Olivier invited Derek Jacobi to become the youngest of the eight founding members of the new National Theatre in London. In 1971, he left to pursue a larger variety of roles and mediums, including television. In 1972, he starred in the BBC miniseries Man of Straw and The Strauss Family. In 1976, another starring role in the miniseries I, Claudius garnered critical attention. Other television work included roles as Richard II and Hamlet in the BBC Shakespeare plays.

Derek Jacobi's theatre work in the 1970's was also vigorous as he consistently played leading roles, starting with a triumphant return to the Birmingham Repertory Company in a virtuosic double bill of "Oedipus Rex" and "The Critic". He also toured with the classical Prospect Theatre Company where he played a variety of roles including Ivanov, Pericles and Hamlet. In 1980, Derek Jacobi made his Broadway debut in "The Suicide." He joined the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1982-1985. In 1986, he made his commercial London West End debut in "Breaking the Code", which was then also taken to Broadway. Important TV and film work of the 80's included parts in Inside the Third Reich, as Hitler, Little Dorrit's Story and Kenneth Brannagh's adaptation of Henry V.

In the 1990's, Derek Jacobi continued his classical stage work with roles in "Kean.""Becket" and "Macbeth." In 1995 and 1996, Jacobi became artistic director of the Chichester Festival Theatres for two successful seasons. He also starred in four plays at Chichester, including his first "Uncle Vanya" in 1996. Television highlights included 13 episodes of the Cadfael mysteries and a televised version of Breaking the Code in 1996. Films highlights from the 1990's include roles in Dead Again, Hamlet as King Claudius and Love is the Devil as Sir Francis Bacon. More recently, Derek Jacobi has fielded roles in mainstream Hollywood films such as Ridley Scott's Gladiator, The Body with Antonio Banderas and Robert Altman's Gosford Park.

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