Mostly Credited As: Derek Jacobi
Sometimes Credited As: Sir Derek Jacobi
Birth Name: Derek George Jacobi
Date Of Birth: October 22, 1938 (Age 76)
Country Of Birth: United Kingdom
Birth Place: Leytonstone, London, England
Height: 5' 10" (1.77 m)
Derek Jacobi began his acting career at an all-boys school in England playing the female roles until his voice changed. While attending Cambridge University, he often appeared on the stage with classmates (and future fellow luminaries) Ian McKellen and Trevor Nunn. A representative of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre saw him as Edward II and he was invited to join the troupe. After graduating Cambridge, Jacobi began performing with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Impressed with Jacobi's portrayal of Henry VIII, Laurence Olivier invited Jacobi to join a new project. At Olivier's request, Jacobi joined the famed actor in London and became a founding member of the National Theatre.
Although he remained primarily a stage actor, Jacobi made his screen debut in 1957 with a minor role in Douglas Sirk's Interlude. Later, he collaborated with his protege and acting student, Kenneth Branagh, on film adaptations of Shakespeare, including the role of Claudius in Branagh's version of Hamlet in 1996. In 1998, Branagh and Jacobi teamed up again for Branagh's triller Dead Again with Jacobi in the role of hypnotist Franklyn Madson.
He may be best known to most television audiences as the brilliant, disabled Claudius in I, Claudius, the adaptation of Robert Graves novels I, Claudius and Claudius the God about the unlikely Emperor of Rome or as Brother Cadfael in the adaptation of Ellis Peters' (Edith Pargeter) novels about a Crusader turned Monk whose worldy skills and knowledges of herbs helps him investigate and solve puzzling crimes which often puts him at odds with his superiors at the Abbey and the Medieval world around him.
Fans of Frasier will remember Jacobi as the deliciously awful Shakespearean actor Jackson Hedley in The Show Must Go Off in which Frasier Crane discovers his childhood acting hero signing autographs at a science-fiction convention.
Throughout his career, accolades seem to find Derek Jacobi.
Jacobi won four Best Actor awards for his stage work in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing during the 1980s: the London Critics Circle Theatre Award (U.K. 1983), London Evening Standard Theatre Award (U.K. 1983), the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award (U.K. 1984), and a Tony (U.S. 1985). Also in 1985, he was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II. She knighted him in 1994. Only two actors have ever been knighted by both Denmark and England in recognition of their talent: the legendary Laurence Olivier and Derek Jacobi.
More recently, he appeared with Russell Crowe and the late Oliver Reed in Ridley Scott's Gladiator (2000), as Col. Protheroe in Marple: The Murder at the Vicarage (television 2004) and as Mr. Wheen in Nanny McPhee (2005).