Ben Whishaw

Ben Whishaw was born in 1980 in Clifton.   He has starred on television in “Criminal Justice” and “The Hours”.   On film he starred in the remake of “Brideshead Revisited” and as the new ‘Q’ in James Bond movie “Skyfall”.

TCM overview:

A veteran of the stage and former member of the esteemed Bancroft Players Youth Theatre, British actor Ben Whishaw quickly gained a reputation as one of England’s most talented young performers. Whishaw garnered considerable attention for his stage work with London’s Royal National Theatre and the Old Vic, prior to appearing in such U.K.-produced films as Matthew Vaughn’s “Layer Cake” (2004) and the Brian Jones rock-n-roll biopic “Stoned” (2005). Soon after, he made his belated entry into Hollywood as the star of the critically lauded period thriller “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” (2007). Considered one of the U.K.’s most promising new stars, Whishaw continued to win acclaim for leading roles in feature productions like “Brideshead Revisited” (2008) and “Bright Star” (2009). Although he remained a presence on such British TV projects as “The Hour” (BBC, 2011- ), the young actor was soon taking part in major feature blockbusters, including “Cloud Atlas” (2012) and the James Bond film “Skyfall” (2012), in which he played tech wizard Q opposite his “Layer Cake” co-star, Daniel Craig. Still at the dawn of his already impressive career, options for the immensely talented and astute Whishaw appeared limitless.

Born on Oct. 20, 1980 in Hitchen, Hertfordshire, England, Ben Whishaw trained at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, alma mater of such stage luminaries as Patrick Stewart and Peter O’Toole. Prior to attending RADA, however, Whishaw landed important supporting roles in two 1999 U.K. films. The first was “The Trench,” a modestly produced, but powerful character piece set on the horrific battlefields of World War I. Incidentally, the film also starred a young actor named Daniel Craig, who would go on to international fame as the sixth James Bond in 2006. Whishaw’s second 1999 film, the French drama “Mauvaise passé,” was another well-received character study about a gigolo/escort visiting London. Directed by Michel Blanc, “Mauvaise Passe” paired Whishaw with French actor Daniel Auteuil and became a solid hit with the arthouse crowds.

It was in the theater, however, where Whishaw truly made his name. In 2003, Whishaw made his West End debut at London’s Royal National Theatre in their two-part, six-hour stage adaptation of “His Dark Materials,” based on the works of famed British fantasy novelist, Phillip Pullman. A year later, the 23-year-old Whishaw won the most effusive praise of his young career by playing the title role of “Hamlet” at the legendary Old Vic Theatre. Under the aegis of legendary stage director Trevor Nunn, Whishaw electrified audiences in this “all-youth” production of the Shakespearean classic.

Soon after graduating from RADA, Whishaw landed a handful of semi-substantial roles, with his best known being Jamie Foreman’s nephew, Sidney, in director Matthew Vaughn’s British comedic crime caper “Layer Cake” (2004). Though Whishaw’s role was relatively small, it was the sort of eye-catching showcase performance many young actors killed for. Indeed (not to mention, ironically,) it was Sidney’s willingness to do precisely that, which puts him in conflict with the film’s lead character, XXXX, played by Whishaw’s “Trench” co-star, Daniel Craig. The success of “Layer Cake” won Whishaw a plum supporting role in the sublime British comedy series, “Nathan Barley.” An ITV-produced sitcom about a cynical, loathsome media maven named Nathan Barley (Nicholas Burns), the show skewered the rapid rise of the internet and digital media. Though the program lasted only one season, critics adored it and were especially amused by Whishaw’s turn as the odd Pingu, one of Nathan Barley’s close circle of friends.

On the movie front, the winter of 2007 saw Whishaw’s career take off as never before. That year, Wishaw was cast in his first lead role in the thriller, “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.” Based on the award-winning mystery by German author Patrick Süskind, “Perfume” was the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, an orphaned misfit turned serial killer. Set in 18th Century France, the monstrous Grenouille was a respected maker of perfumes by day; a killer of women by night. Born with an uncanny and rare sense of smell, Grenouille’s obsession to capture the aromas, scents, and olfactory “essences” of his victims, formed the backbone of this most unusual murder mystery. With physicality an important component to his role, Whishaw’s performance benefited greatly from his stage training. It also gave the young actor confidence to hold his own with his esteemed co-stars, Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman. Released in Europe in September 2006, the film was a tremendous success and was well on its way to earning $100 million even before its scheduled U.S. release in early January 2007.

Already touted as one of the most promising young actors in the U.K., Whishaw journeyed to the States to join Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale and the late Heath Ledger in their roles as various incarnations of Bob Dylan in Todd Hayne’s acclaimed biographical collage “I’m Not There” (2007). Returning to home, he earned kudos for his portrayal of the flamboyant Lord Sebastian Flyte in an interpretation of Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited” (2008), as he did for his turn as poet John Keats in writer-director Jane Campion’s period romance “Bright Star” (2009). In a smaller contribution, the young actor appeared briefly as the spirit Ariel in Julie Taymor’s stylistic interpretation of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” (2010), starring Helen Mirren as the sorceress Prospera. In a pair of television endeavors over the next two years, he played an ambitious television reporter embroiled in a conspiracy on the British Cold War era series “The Hour” (BBC2, 2011- ) then assumed the role of the titular monarch in an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Richard II” (BBC2, 2012).

As the year came to a close, Whishaw appeared in the two biggest film productions of his young career, beginning with a key role in the highly anticipated epic sci-fi drama “Cloud Atlas” (2012). An exploration of the interconnectivity of the human race spanning Earth’s past, present and future, “Cloud Atlas” boasted an all-star ensemble that included Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Susan Sarandon and the directorial team of Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer. A month later, Whishaw became the latest – and by far the youngest – science geek to provide hi-tech gadgetry to an unappreciative James Bond (Daniel Craig) in the 23rd 007 adventure “Skyfall” (2012).

 The above TCM overview can also be accessed online here.

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