“It is a cliche that most cliches are true, but then like most cliches, that cliche is untrue”
Stephen John Fry was born on this day in Hampstead, London, England in 1957. He is 55 years old.
He grew up in Norfolk. He was expelled from several schools and got into trouble with the law as a teen. He served three months in Pucklechurch Prison after stealing a credit card from a family friend. But the stint in prison seemed enough to straighten him out. He went back to school, this time at City College of Norwith and promised to apply himself to his studies. He scored well enough in his Cambridge entrance exams to get a scholarship at Queens’ College in 1979. At Queens he joined the Cambridge Footlights Dramatic Club and met Emma Thompson and Hugh Laurie. He won a Fringe First Award for Latin! or Tobacco and Boys a play he wrote for Footlights.
He teamed up with Laurie to for the comedy act A Bit of Fry & Laurie. The Duo turned the act into a television sketch comedy series that premiered on December 26, 1987 with a 36 minute pilot. It ran for four seasons (1-3 on BBC2; season 4 on the more mainstream BBC1). The show’s combination of satire, wordplay and innuendo made it very popular. The complete series is available on DVD and selected sketches have been collected in book form.
In 1984 Fry adapted Noel Gay’s Me and My Gal. It had an eight year, 3,303 performance run at the Adelphi Theatre in London’s West End (with Robert Lindsay and Emma Thompson in the cast.) It hopped the pond and opened at Broadway’s Marquis Theatre in 1986 where it ran for 1,420 shows and was nominated for 13 Tony Awards. It also made him rich.
Fry considers himself a writer first and a comedian/ actor second. He has published four novels: Liar (1991), The Hippopotamus (1994), Making History: A Novel (1997) and The Stars’ Tennis Balls (200). His biography, Moab is My Washpot came out in 1997.
Other television work include Lord Melchett in Black-Adder II and Reginald Jeeves in Jeeves and Wooster. On the Radio he worked on Loose Ends, Delve Special, This is David Lander, Saturday Night Fry, Absolute Power and was the voice of Winnie the Pooh. He also presented The Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music, a 20 part review of music over the past millennium.
His film work goes back to 1985. He had was in the ensemble cast of Peter’s Friends (with Laurie and Thompson). He played Oscar Wilde in Wilde (1997). In Gosford Park he is the clueless Inspector Thompson. He’s the Cheshire Cat in Tim Burton’s 2010 Alice in Wonderland. You can catch him as the Master of Laketown in the upcoming The Hobbit: There and Back Again and as Sir Simon De Canterville in The Canterville Ghost. [The list of Fry’s television and film roles is quite long. See his IMBD site for a more comprehensive look at this side of his career.)
Fry also has lent his talents to audio books. He read the film tie-in version of Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (he also dubbed the voice of the Book and was the narrator for the movie ) in 2005. He’s recorded his own novels and works by A.A. Milne, Anthony Buckeridge and Roald Dahl. Most famously he is the voice for the English audio books for the Harry Potter novels by J.K.Rowling.
He embraces technology with both hands, and has said he’s never met a smart phone he didn’t buy. He is “deeply dippy for all things digital” and says he bought the third Macintosh computer sold in the UK (Douglas Adams beat him to the first two.) His Twitter account has passed the four million mark .
He is actively involved in a number of social issue (often promoting them with his Twitter account and on his website.)
[All images courtesy Last.fm where you can find lots more great photos of Stephen Fry.]