Tom Courtenay Biography

Tom Courtenay photo

Born: February 25, 1947


Date of Birth: February 25, 1947

English actor Sir Tom Courtenay was born and raised near a fish dock in Hull, East Yorkshire to Anne Eliza and Thomas Courtenay, a boat painter.

He attended the former Kingston High School (now Sirius Academy West) in his hometown. After graduation, he left Hull to study drama at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London.

A renowned theater actor, Tom began his stage career in 1960 in the Old Vic Theatre Company's production of The Seagull. The following year he appeared in the title role in Billy Liar at the Cambridge Theatre. He would later play the same title role in the film version, directed by John Schlesinger. This role would go on to win him a BAFTA for Best Actor.

Tom made his film debut in 1962's Private Potter, thanks to director Caspar Wrede, who cast him after seeing him perform at RADA.

His breakout film role came as Colin Smith in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962). For this he earned the BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer.

The awards acclaim didn't stop there for the rising actor. In 1965, Tom earned his first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, for his role in Doctor Zhivago.

Despite growing success in film, theater remained a mainstay for Tom. He began a longstanding association with the city of Manchester after appearing The Playboy of the Western World for the Century Theatre (later Royal Exchange Theatre) at Manchester University. He would give many performances for the Royal Exchange, including playing Faulkland in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 1976 production of The Rivals. Tom would go onto appear in over 30 stage productions over the course of his career and receive two Tony nominations.

Over the next decade or so, Tom also appeared in many films, most notably in The Night of the Generals (1967) alongside Peter O'Toole, To Catch a Spy (1971) with Kirk Douglas and in 1983's The Dresser, for which he received another Oscar nomination and won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor.

Because of his myriad film and theater roles, Tom has only appeared in a handful of television roles. However, in 2007, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for his role in the British miniseries Little Dorrit.

Tom's more recent film appearances include Flood (2007), The Golden Compass (2007), Gambit (2011) alongside RADA alumnus Alan Rickman and Quartet (2012) directed by Dustin Hoffman.

Tom can be seen alongside Oscar-nominee Charlotte Rampling in the 2015 drama 45 Years, as well as on the British TV series Unforgotten. He also appears in the British war comedy Dad's Army.

Acting acclaim isn't the only recognition the actor has received over his 50 year career. In 1999, Tom received an honorary doctorate from Hull University and in 2001, he received a knighthood for his service to cinema and theater.

Tom is also an author, penning a critically acclaimed memoir as an homage to his late mother entitled Dear Tom: Letters From Home, detailing the letters his mother would write to him while he was away at RADA.

Tom was married to English actress Cheryl Kennedy from 1973 to 1982. He has been married to stage manager Isabel Crossley since 1988.


The Legend of Barney Thomson(2016)
Dad's Army (2016)
45 Years(2015)
Night Train to Lisbon(2013)
The Golden Compass(2007)
Flood (2002)
Nicholas Nickleby(2002)
Last Orders(2001)
Whatever Happened to Harold Smith?(1999)
A Rather English Marriage (1998)
The Boy from Mercury (1996)
Famous Fred (1996)
Let Him Have It (1991)
The Last Butterfly (1991)
Leonard Part 6 (1987)
Happy New Year(1987)
The Dresser (1983)
She Stoops to Conquer (1971)
To Catch A Spy (1971)
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1970)
Otley (1968)
A Dandy in Aspic (1968)
The Day the Fish Came Out (1967)
The Night of the Generals (1967)
Doctor Zhivago(1965)
King Rat(1965)
Operation Crossbow (1965)
King & Country (1964)
Billy Liar (1963)
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) Private Potter (1962)
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