Samuel West

Samuel West Headshot

Actor

Birth Date: June 19, 1966

Age: 57 years old

Birth Place: Hammersmith, London, England, UK

A rising British actor who is the son of two prominent thespians, Samuel West first won attention as a pampered German aristocrat who finds his relationship with a Jewish friend from childhood threatened by the Nazi movement in "Reunion" (1989). While that film failed to garner much attention outside his native England, West stepped onto the international stage with a memorable supporting turn in the acclaimed costume drama, "Howards End" (1992). From there, he transitioned easily between film and television, appearing in substantial roles on a number of British TV series while also maintaining a steady presence in films like "Persuasion" (1995), "Jane Eyre" (1996), "Notting Hill" (1999) and "Iris" (2001). In the new millennium, West upped his profile with prominent roles in "Van Helsing" (2004) and "Hyde Park on the Hudson" (2012), making clear that the actor remained ever determined to make a name for himself on the other side of the pond.

Born on June 19, 1966 in London, England, West was raised by his actor parents, Timothy West, best known for his titular role on the British series "Edward the Seventh" (ITV, 1975), and Prunella Scales, who was John Cleese's wife, Sybil, on "Fawlty Towers" (BBC, 1975-79). Though he made his onscreen debut with a small role on the British series, "Nanny" (BBC, 1981-83), it would be years before he would become a professional actor. In the meantime, West was educated at the independent co-educational Alleyn's School, before studying English literature at Oxford University. Following his graduation in 1988, he made his film debut as a German aristocrat in the period drama "Reunion," starring Jason Robards, and went on to make his London stage debut at the Orange Tree Theatre in a production of Jean Cocteau's "Les Parents Terribles" (1989). Following more minor turns on stage and British TV, West earned critical acclaim as the poor, but intellectual clerk Leonard Bast in Merchant-Ivory's adaptation of E.M. Forster's novel of class conflict "Howards End" (1992), starring Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter and Anthony Hopkins.

Following that standout performance, West starred opposite Christopher Lee in the comedy "A Feast at Midnight" (1994) and played real-life film editor, Stephen Waldorff, who was mistaken for being a fleeing criminal and near-fatally shot by police in the made-for-British TV movie "Open Fire" (ITV, 1994). From there, he had a major supporting role as British writer Gerard Brenan in "Carrington" (1995), a period biopic about painter Dora Carrington (Emma Thompson), before making his American TV debut with a small role in "Danielle Steel's 'Zoya'" (NBC, 1995). After playing the disreputable heir to an upper class estate in "Persuasion" (1995), he played a cross-dresser in an episode of "Strangers" (HBO, 1996) and was St. John Rivers in Franco Zeffirelli's adaptation of "Jane Eyre" (1996), starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and William Hurt. Joining his father onscreen, West starred in productions of William Shakespeare's "Henry IV, Part 1" (1996) and "Henry IV, Part 2" (1996), and starred with his mother in the spoof on period movies, "Stiff Upper Lips" (1997).

Transitioning easily between film and television, West appeared in the World War II-set miniseries "Over Here" (BBC, 1996) and starred in the Canadian-made road movie, "Rupert's Land" (1998). He next played Prince Albert Victor Edward in "The Ripper" (Starz, 1997) and had a minor role as Julia Roberts' co-star in the romantic comedy "Notting Hill" (1999), starring fellow Brit Hugh Grant. Following feature roles in "Complicity" (2000), "Pandaemonium" (2000) and "Iris" (2001), West focused a great deal on the small screen with a 2002 episode of the British procedural "Waking the Dead" (BBC, 2000-2011), which he followed with a starring turn as real-life British art historian, Anthony Blunt, who was exposed as a Soviet spy in the four-part series, "Cambridge Spies" (BBC, 2003). After an episode of the long-running "Foyle's War" (ITV, 2002- ), he returned to Hollywood to play Dr. Frankenstein in "Van Helsing" (2004), starring Hugh Jackman. Back on British TV, he appeared in episodes of "The Inspector Lynley Mysteries" (BBC, 2001-08), "Midsomer Murders" (ITV, 1997- ), and "New Tricks" (BBC, 2003- ), before playing Dr. Constantine in "Agatha Christie's Poirot - Murder on the Orient Express" (2010). Following a 2011 episode of "Law & Order: UK" (ITV, 2009-13), West portrayed King George VI in "Hyde Park on the Hudson" (2012), a British-made comedic drama about President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Bill Murray) entertaining the king and FDR's eventual mistress, Margaret Suckley (Laura Linney).

By Shawn Dwyer

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