John Hannah

John Hannah Headshot

Actor

Birth Date: April 23, 1962

Age: 62 years old

Birth Place: East Kilbride, Scotland, UK

Although he had planned to be an electrician, Scottish star John Hannah fell into acting after a friend recommended he give it a go. Following a few lean years, the unconventionally handsome Hannah impressed with his turn as a sensitive gay man in the international smash "Four Weddings and a Funeral" (1994). That comedy gained him much recognition, but Hannah also became a regular face on British dramatic television by appearing on programs like "Out of the Blue" (BBC, 1995-96) and "McCallum" (BBC, 1995-98), where he aided the fight against crime in various capacities.

Feature film roles across the pond began to come his way, including a romantic lead opposite Gwyneth Paltrow in the touching dramedy "Sliding Doors" (1998) and in the blockbuster "The Mummy" (1999) and its two sequels. He also branched out into occasional roles on American television, with his highest profile credit undoubtedly being "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" (Starz, 2010-2012), in which he portrayed the villainous slave school owner Quintus Lentulus Batiatus. Partnered with Lucy Lawless as his equally amoral wife, the pair were among the most talked about components of the sexy, violent miniseries and were invited back for the prequel, "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" (Starz, 2011). With his natural charisma and willingness to take risks as an actor, audiences were impressed by Hannah's aptitude in parts that ran the gamut from lighthearted comedy to grim procedural drama.

The youngest of three children, John David Hannah was born in East Kilbride, Scotland on April 23, 1962. The working class family resided in a council house and his father was employed as tool maker, while his mother was a cleaner at a Marks & Spencer outlet. Hannah attended Claremont High School, where he displayed enough aptitude in math and related subjects, that he left school at age 16 to pursue a career as an electrician. An arrangement with his employer allowed Hannah to also attend college on a part-time basis. However, after four years as an electrical apprentice - which involved much standing around on freezing cold work sites - Hannah decided that he needed a change. Based on a friend's recommendation, he auditioned for Glasgow's Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and, despite having no previous acting experience, was accepted. Upon graduating from that institution in 1985, Hannah landed guest parts on various British television shows and made his movie debut in the obscure Australian drama "Harbour Beat" (1990).

After being out of work for the better part of a year, Hannah accepted a role in what he perceived to be an unremarkable project. However, that job jumpstarted his career and was largely responsible for ensuring that he never experienced another such lull. One of the surprise sleeper hits of the 1990s, Mike Newell's "Four Weddings and a Funeral" (1994) featured a fine ensemble of British talent, which included Hannah and Simon Callow as a gay couple whose relationship is presented in an everyday, non-judgmental manner progressive for the time. The dramedy struck a chord with audiences around the globe and Hannah's reading of the WH Auden poem "Funeral Blues" at a pivotal moment was frequently cited as a highlight. Hannah followed his BAFTA-nominated turn in that film with another assignment as a gay man in the lesser known "Madagascar Skin" (1995), a romantic comedy of much darker character that left most viewers perplexed. He also received his first recurring series role as an epileptic cop on the acclaimed drama "Out of the Blue" (BBC, 1995-96) and essayed the title role on "McCallum" (BBC, 1995-98), which followed the adventures of an offbeat forensic pathologist and his associates. In 1997, Hannah branched out behind the scenes by creating the production company Clerkenwell Films, in association with producer Murray Ferguson.

A turn as the villain in Walt Disney's small screen remake of "The Love Bug" (1997) did nothing for Hannah's career, but his recognition factor from "Four Weddings and a Funeral" helped to greenlight the romantic comedy "Sliding Doors" (1998), which starred Gwyneth Paltrow in parallel storylines showing two possible destinies for her character's romantic life. Hannah appears as a lively and clever man who presents a welcome alternative to Paltrow's current boyfriend, a lazy, philandering sleaze. Although he was charming and displayed fine comic timing, the film received a less than enthusiastic critical and audience response. Far more people saw Hannah as a comic relief figure in the horror-fantasy blockbuster "The Mummy" (1999) and as one of the tutors educating Denzel Washington's disgraced boxer Rubin Carter in "The Hurricane" (1999). He also returned to British television in the title role of the detective show "Rebus" (ITV, 2000-04). Although the series was a Clerkenwell production, Hannah opted to depart after the first season and Ken Stott took over for the remaining episodes. The worldwide success of "The Mummy" prompted a built-in franchise and Hannah was invited back for "The Mummy Returns" (2001), which also proved to be highly successful at the box office.

With his profile increasing stateside, American television roles came his way with guest appearances in episodes of "Frasier" (NBC, 1993-2004) and "Alias" (ABC, 2001-06), and a regular role on "MDs" (ABC, 2002). On the latter, Hannah played a trauma surgeon whose specialties included railing against the system, but the program fared poorly and was gone before the end of the year. Back home, Hannah spent two seasons starring on the British legal drama "New Street Law" (BBC, 2006-07) as an idealistic barrister running a struggling law firm. Among the cast members was his wife, actress Joanna Roth, who co-starred as a judge. Hannah had one of his most unusual assignments as a malevolent spirit in "Ghost Son" (2007), an Italian/Spanish/British horror film, lensed in South Africa. Unfortunately, despite some atmospheric direction from genre specialist Lamberto Bava, the possession thriller mostly fell flat. The Camelot adventure "The Last Legion" (2007) also failed to generate much excitement and while "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" (2008) sold a healthy number of tickets, no one seemed particularly eager for there to be a fourth entry. Hannah likely had a more artistically rewarding experience that year under the direction of Philip Seymour Hoffman in the West End play "Riflemind," which told of an aging rock band on the verge of a comeback.

American viewers not already familiar with Hannah from the "Mummy" series likely encountered him as the villainous Quintus Lentulus Batiatus on "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" (2010-12), Starz's sexy and violent period miniseries which generated a lot of media buzz for a cable production. Cast in the role previously played by Peter Ustinov in Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus" (1960), Hannah - along with Lucy Lawless, as his equally venal wife, Lucretia - ranked among the program's most memorable performers and returned for "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" (Starz, 2011), a six-episode prequel. Hannah made a further impression via a stint on the Glenn Close drama "Damages" (FX/Direct TV, 2007-12) as a character patterned after Wikileaks' Julian Assange, and essayed a supporting role in the romantic drama "The Words" (2012), alongside Bradley Cooper and Olivia Wilde. He was also given the chance to send up some of the police show clichés from his dramatic television outings as star of the raucous police farce "A Touch of Cloth" (Sky 1, 2012 -14) and had a lucrative sideline as the advertisement voice for the UK-based Co-Operative Group. By John Charles

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News aboutJohn Hannah