Broadbent, Jim

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Broadbent, Jim



B orn May 24, 1949, in Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England; son of Roy (an artist, furniture maker, and amateur actor) and Doreen (a sculptor and amateur actress; maiden name, Findlay) Broadbent; married Anastasia Lewis (an actress), 1987; children: Tom (stepson), Paul (stepson). Education: London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, 1972.

Addresses: Contact—Broadbent Theatre, Snarford Road, Wickenby, Lincolnshire, England LN3 5AW. Home—Lincolnshire and London, England. Management—Ms. George Lee, International Creative Management Ltd., Oxford House, 76 Oxford St., London, England W1D 1BS. Web site .


A ctor in films, including: The Life Story of Baal, 1978; The Shout, 1978; Breaking Glass, 1980; Dead on Time, 1983; The Hit, 1984; Brazil, 1985; The Good Father, 1985; Running Out of Luck, 1987; Superman IV: Quest for Peace, 1987; Vroom, 1988; Life is Sweet, 1991; Enchanted April, 1992; The Crying Game, 1992; Widows’ Peak, 1994; Princess Caraboo, 1994; Bullets Over Broadway, 1994; Richard III, 1995; The Secret Agent, 1996; The Borrowers, 1997; The Avengers, 1998; Little Voice, 1998; Topsy-Turvy, 1999; Big Day, 1999; Bridget Jones’s Diary, 2001; Moulin Rouge!, 2001; Iris, 2001; Gangs of New York, 2002; Nicholas Nickleby, 2002; Bright Young Things, 2003; Around the World in 80 Days, 2004; Vanity Fair, 2004; Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, 2004; Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, 2005; Art School Confidential, 2006; And When Did You Last See Your Father?, 2007; Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, 2008; Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, 2008. Television appearances include: Black Adder, 1983; Only Fools and Horses, 1983, 1985, 1991; Gone to Seed, 1992; The Peter Principle, 1997, 2000; Longford, 2006. Stage appearances include: A Doll’s House, c. 1953; Illuminatus, 1976; Ecstasy, 1979; Goose-Pimples, 1981; A Flea in Her Ear, Old Vic, London, 1989; also appeared in productions with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal National Theatre, and the National Theatre of Brent.

Awards: Volpi Cup for best actor, Venice Film Festival, for Topsy-Turvy, 1999; British Film Award for best actor, Evening Standard, for Topsy-Turvy, 2001; award for best supporting actor, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, for Moulin Rouge!, 2001; film award for British actor of the year, London Critics Circle, for Topsy-Turvy, 2001; film award for best performance by an actor in a supporting role, British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTA), for Moulin Rouge!, 2001; award for best supporting actor, National Board of Review, for Iris, 2001; Audience Award for best supporting actor, Chlotrudis Society for Independent Film, for Moulin Rouge!, 2002; Golden Satellite Award for best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a comedy or musical, International Press Academy, for Moulin Rouge!, 2002; award for best acting by an ensemble, National Board of Review, for Nicholas Nickleby, 2002; Academy Award for best supporting actor, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, for Iris, 2002; Golden Globe for best supporting actor in a motion picture, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, for Iris, 2002; television award for best actor, BAFTA, for Longford, 2007; award for best actor, Broadcasting Press Guild, for Longford, 2007; International Emmy Award for best performance by an actor (tie), International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, for The Street, 2007; Golden Globe for best performance by an actor in a mini-series or made-for-TV motion picture, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, for Longford, 2008.


W hile the name Jim Broadbent may not sound familiar, his face surely is. A versatile character actor, Broadbent has spent more than 35 years playing a steady stream of characters on stage, television, and film. The British actor has appeared in more than 100 film and television productions, receiving acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. Broad-bent won an Academy Award in 2002 for his supporting role in the biographical drama Iris, a story about a married couple’s bout with Alzheimer’s. He has also won two British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards. Known as a BAFTA, it is the British equivalent of an Academy Award.

Broadbent has transformed himself into countless characters over the years, but a few performances stand out. He is well-respected for his portrayal of the quirky, devilish, and flamboyant showman Harold Zidler in the 2001 theatrical romp Moulin Rouge! Zidler was the buffoonish, red-headed master of ceremonies at the famed Parisian Moulin Rouge theater, where most of the story took place. This standout performance, during which he danced to Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” earned him a BAFTA. He is also memorable as the title character’s silly and saccharine father in 2001’s Bridget Jones’s Diary, a role he reprised for the sequel, 2004’s Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.

Fellow actor David Schneider says Broadbent has been successful in his career because he knows how to stay present. “Jim is instinctively in the moment,” Schneider told James Rampton of the London Independent. “You don’t feel he comes to rehearsals with a bag of ideas that he then hammers roughly onto the script. He tries things, and because his instinct is good, they normally work. He makes you laugh each time he does a line and that’s rare. On one hand, you’re impressed, on the other, you’re jealous.”

Broadbent was born on May 24, 1949, in Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England. A twin sister died at birth. He was raised alongside his older siblings Barney and Julie. His parents, Roy and Dee Findlay Broad-bent, made their living as artists and amateur actors. His father made furniture and his mother created sculptures. Roy Broadbent moved to the Lincoln area after the start of World War II. A conscientious objector, he opposed Britain’s involvement in the war and escaped to Lincolnshire, where he helped found a pacifist commune that attracted a number of bohemian artists and actors. In time, they formed an amateur theater company called the Lindsey Rural Players. The group converted an abandoned RoyalAir Force Nissen hut into a theater and staged productions. A Nissen hut is similar to a Quonset hut. It is a semi-circular-shaped structure made of corrugated steel.

Roy helped run the amateur-dramatics society and cast four-year-old Jim in a production of A Doll’s House, a thought-provoking drama by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. As a child, Broadbent spent a lot of time at the theater. He matured right along with the Lindsey Rural Players, who, by the late 1960s, had a new home in a renovated chapel in Wickenby. Today, their home theater is called the Broadbent Theatre, named in honor of Roy Broadbent.

Broadbent attended school at Leighton Park, a Quaker boarding school in Reading, England. He excelled at art and acting; however, a favorite pastime involved hanging out at the local pubs and he was eventually expelled from the school. “I was always clowning around at school because I didn’t like the academic stuff,” Broadbent told the Mirror’s Mel Hunter. The school allowed Broadbent to take his final exams early, then banned him from campus.

After leaving Leighton Park, Broadbent enrolled in art school but soon decided he lacked the skills necessary to make an impact in the art world. He decided to pursue acting and applied to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. The independent drama school proved to be a good fit. “As soon as I got there I felt at home,” Broadbent told the Daily Mail’s Sarah Chalmers.

After graduating in 1972, Broadbent worked as an assistant stage manager at London’s Open Air The-atre in Regent’s Park. He landed a few small roles at the outdoor theater, once playing a Sprite and Sailor in an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. There were times he lacked for money and supported himself washing dishes at the Bank of En gland cafeteria and working as a housecleaner. Over the next decade, Broadbent spent time on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre.

Broadbent first made waves in 1976 when Ken Campbell cast him in his epic fantasy Illuminatus, a production of the Science Fiction Theater of Liverpool. During the multi-hour production—Illu-minatus ran 12 hours—Broadbent played 12 different characters that showcased his impeccable bent for comedy.

Afterward, Broadbent began creeping onto the big screen. In 1978, he played bit roles in the British films The Life Story of Baal and The Shout. Broadbent continued his stage work as well. He worked with British writer/director Mike Leigh, appearing in productions of Ecstasy, 1979, and Goose-Pimples in 1981.

In the 1980s, Broadbent co-founded the National Theatre of Brent with his friend, Patrick Barlow. Together, the actors staged two-man shows of comedic classics such as The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Complete Guide to Sex, The Messiah, and Revolution. These productions gave Broadbent the opportunity to play a wide host of characters, including God, Robespi-erre, John the Baptist, and Marie Antoinette.

Over the next few years, Broadbent scored numerous roles on British television programs. He appeared on the BBC’s Only Fools and Horses as detective Roy Slater. This was a recurring role and he appeared sporadically on the show between 1983 and 1991. Around this same time, Broadbent made his leap across the Atlantic, making his first U.S. film debut in 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace starring Christopher Reeve.

Broadbent garnered more recognition after being reunited with Leigh who cast Broadbent in the lead of his 1991 flick Life is Sweet. Leigh wrote and directed the film. In this film, Broadbent played a dorky father whose dream is to run a lunch wagon. Broad-bent then switched gears, following with a role in 1992’s enormously successful psychological thriller The Crying Game. Though Broadbent played only a subsidiary role—as a bartender—his performance stood out and he began to receive offers to appear in U.S. studio films. In 1994, Woody Allen cast Broadbent in his big-screen production of Bullets Over Broadway. Broadbent played a very memorable Warner Purcell, a theater star with a serious eating disorder.

Broadbent next earned his first lead in a sitcom, playing inept bank manager Peter Duffley in The Peter Principle, which aired on the BBC from 1995 to 2000. Broadbent’s off-the-cuff performance and ability to create in the moment propelled the comedy to receive commendable ratings.

Again joining forces with writer/director Leigh, Broadbent appeared in 1999’s Topsy-Turvy, where he gave a spectacular performance portraying real-life British lyricist W. S. Gilbert and his trials and tribu-lations working alongside the famed composer Sir Arthur. For this performance, Broadbent earned best actor accolades at the 1999 Venice Film Festival.

By the early 2000s, Broadbent had become well-known among U.S. filmmakers and he scored a number of supporting roles in films alongside big-name stars. In 2001, he appeared with Renee Zell-weger, portraying her father in Bridget Jones’s Diary. That same year, he created a buzz with his performance in Moulin Rouge!, starring alongside Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.

Broadbent’s breakout film success came with 2001’s Iris. In this film, Broadbent played John Bayley, husband to ailing Alzheimer’s patient Iris Murdoch, an English novelist and scholar. Judi Dench portrayed the failing Murdoch. The movie was based on a real-life story and adapted from two memoirs written by Bayley. To prepare for the role, Broadbent listened to a tape of Bayley being interviewed by a doctor for a British radio program called In the Psychiatrist’s Chair. “That provided a huge insight,” Broadbent told the Independent’s Richard Barber. “His character was revealed through his vocal man-nerisms: the light voice, the slight stutter, the hu-mour, the diffidence, the strength.” Broadbent listened to the interview over and over in an effort to copy Bayley’s distinct stammer. Bayley was startled by Broadbent’s dead-on portrayal—the two never met before filming. Broadbent’s own experience provided additional perspective for the role—his mother suffered from Alzheimer’s and he was able to tap into that helpless heartache he felt during her decline. The performance earned Broadbent a number of awards. He won a Golden Globe for best supporting actor, besting nominees Ben Kingsley, Jude Law, and Steve Buscemi. In addition, he won an Academy Award for best actor in a supporting role.

In 2002, Broadbent worked alongside Martin Scors-ese, appearing in the director’s nineteenth-century gangster flick Gangs of New York as the corrupt U.S. politician William “Boss” Tweed. In this film, Broad-bent got to work with Daniel Day Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Cameron Diaz. In 2004, he appeared as Lord Kelvin in Around the World in 80 Days, based on the novel by Jules Verne.

In 2006, Broadbent returned to the small screen, snagging the title role in the made-for-TV biopic Longford. Broadbent played the long-suffering British politician Lord Longford. For this role, Broad-bent was awarded a BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor.

By the mid to late2000s, Broadbent was in high demand in Hollywood. He grabbed a supporting role in 2008’s highly anticipated Indiana Jones sequel, Indiana Jones andthe Kingdom ofthe CrystalSkull, playing college dean Charles Stanforth. That same year, he appeared in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince as retired magic teacher Horace Slughorn. For 2009, Broadbent was set to appear in Inkheart, a movie based on the “Inkworld” trilogy by novelist Cornelia Funke. He was to play Fenoglio.

Despite his success and extensive work obligations in the United States, Broadbent has no desire to move to Hollywood. He enjoys a slow-paced life in England. During his free time, he likes to play golf and do some woodworking. He also enjoys spending time with his artist-turned-actress wife, Anastasia Lewis. The couple met in 1983. After marrying in 1987, Broadbent became a stepfather to her two sons, Tom and Paul. Speaking to the Birmingham Post’s Noreen Barr, Broadbent said he enjoys being home so he can take part in helping run the house. “When I’m working I can’t do anything domestic so when I’m not working I fill it with domesticity— cooking and doing my share of the shopping.”

As for the future, Broadbent intends to keep plodding along with no set goals in mind. Speaking to the London Independent, Broadbent said he sees no sense in plotting out a lot of career goals because following a predirected course might mean missing opportunities. He has let his career unfold at will and has been happy with the outcome. “Well, I never had an ambition, for example, to play the man who ran the Moulin Rouge in a big-screen musical . No, my only game plan is to keep the options open and seize the surprises when they present themselves.”



Birmingham Post, February 9, 2002, p. 53; October 1, 2007, p. 13.

Daily Mail (London, England), March 26, 2002, pp. 10-11.

Daily Telegraph (London, England), January 12, 2008, p. 13.

Independent (London, England), May 24, 1997, p. 6; December 23, 2003, pp. 4-5.

Los Angeles Times, December 22, 2001, p. F1.

Mirror, January 22, 2002, p. 6.


“Famous Yellowbelly—Jim Broadbent,” BBC, (May 7, 2008).

“A Jim Broadbent Biography,” Broadbent Theatre, (May 7, 2008).

“Jim Broadbent: The Heartbreak Kid,” Daily Telegraph’s Seven magazine, (May 7, 2008).

—Lisa Frick