Sir Antony Sher, KBE (born 14 June 1949) is a British actor of South African origin, a two-time Laurence Olivier Award winner and four-time nominee, who joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1982 and toured in many roles, as well as appearing on film and TV, and working as a writer and theatre director. In 2001, he starred in his cousin Ronald Harwood's play Mahler's Conversion, and said that the story of a composer sacrificing his faith for his career echoed his own identity struggles.
|Alma mater||Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art|
|Occupation||Actor, writer and theatre director|
|Organization||Royal National Theatre|
Royal Shakespeare Company
|Parent(s)||Emmanuel and Margery Sher|
|Relatives||Ronald Harwood (cousin)|
|Awards||2 Laurence Olivier Awards|
1 Screen Actors Guild Award
1 Drama Desk Award
1 Evening Standard Award
1 Critics Circle Theatre Award
1 TMA Award
During his 2017 "Commonwealth Tour", Prince Charles referred to Sher as his favourite actor. Sher and his partner and collaborator Gregory Doran became one of the first gay couples to enter into a civil partnership in the UK.
Sher was born into a Lithuanian-Jewish family in Cape Town, South Africa, the son of Emmanuel and Margery Sher, who worked in business. He grew up in the suburb of Sea Point where he attended Sea Point High School, and is a cousin of playwright Ronald Harwood. Sher, however, has worked mainly in the United Kingdom and is now a British citizen.
In 1968, after completing his compulsory military service, he left for London to audition at the Central School of Speech and Drama and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), but was unsuccessful. He instead studied at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art from 1969 to 1971.
In the 1970s, Sher was part of a group of young actors and writers working at the Liverpool Everyman Theatre. Comprising figures such as writers Alan Bleasdale and Willy Russell and fellow actors Trevor Eve, Bernard Hill, Jonathan Pryce and Julie Walters, Sher has summed up the work of the company with the phrase "anarchy ruled". He also performed with the theatre group Gay Sweatshop, before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in 1982.
While a member of the RSC, Sher was cast in the title role in Molière's Tartuffe and played the Fool in King Lear. His major break came in 1984, when he performed the title role in Richard III and won the Laurence Olivier Award. Also for the RSC, Sher performed the lead in such productions as Tamburlaine, Cyrano de Bergerac, Stanley and Macbeth, and in 2014 played Falstaff in Henry IV Part 1 and Henry IV Part 2 in Stratford-upon-Avon and on national tour. He played the eponymous 'King Lear' from 2016 to 2018. He has also played Johnnie in Athol Fugard's Hello and Goodbye, Iago in Othello, Malvolio in Twelfth Night and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. Sher received his second Laurence Olivier Award in 1997 for his performance as the eponymous Stanley Spencer in Stanley.
In 2001, Sher played the role of the composer Gustav Mahler in Ronald Harwood's play Mahler's Conversion, about Mahler's decision to renounce his Jewish faith prior to his appointment as conductor and artistic director of the Vienna State Opera House in 1897. Speaking about the role to The Guardian's Rupert Smith, Sher revealed:
"When I came to England in 1968, at 19, I looked around me and I didn't see any Jewish leading men in the classical theatre, so I thought it best to conceal my Jewishness. Also, I quickly became conscious of apartheid when I arrived here, and I didn't want to be known as a white South African. I was brought up in a very apolitical family. We were happy to enjoy the benefits of apartheid without questioning the system behind it. Reading about apartheid when I came to England was a terrible shock. So I lost the accent almost immediately, and if anyone asked me where I was from I would lie. If they asked where I went to school, I'd say Hampstead, which got me into all sorts of trouble because of course everyone else went to school in Hampstead and they wanted to know which one. Then there was my sexuality. The theatre was full of gay people, but none of them were out, and there was that ugly story about Gielgud being arrested for cottaging, so I thought I'd better hide that as well. Each of these things went into the closet until my entire identity was in the closet. That's why this play appealed to me so much: it's about an artist changing his identity in order to get what he wants."
In 2015 he played Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman.
He also has several film credits to his name, including Yanks (1979), Superman II (1980), Shadey (1985) and Erik the Viking (1989). Sher starred as the Chief Weasel in the 1996 film adaptation of The Wind in the Willows and as Benjamin Disraeli in the 1997 film Mrs. Brown.
Sher's television appearances include the mini-series The History Man (1981) and The Jury (2002). In 2003, he played the central character in an adaptation of the J. G. Ballard short story, "The Enormous Space", filmed as Home and broadcast on BBC Four. In Hornblower (1999), he played the role of French royalist Colonel de Moncoutant, Marquis de Muzillac, in the episode "The Frogs and the Lobsters". More recent credits include a cameo in the British comedy film Three and Out (2008) and the role of Akiba in the television play God on Trial (2008).
Sher was cast in the role of Thrain, father of Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, but appears only in the Extended Edition of the film.
In 2018, he played the title role in King Lear and is the only person to play both the Fool and King Lear at the Royal Shakespeare Company. He returned to Stratford-upon-Avon in 2019 to perform in Kunene and the King with John Kani.
Sher's books include the memoirs Year of the King (1985), Woza Shakespeare: Titus Andronicus in South Africa (with Gregory Doran, 1997), Beside Myself (an autobiography, 2002), Primo Time (2005), and Year of the Fat Knight (2015), a book of paintings and drawings, Characters (1990), and the novels Middlepost (1989), Cheap Lives (1995), The Indoor Boy (1996) and The Feast (1999). His 2018 book, Year of the Mad King, won the 2019 Theatre Book Prize, awarded by the Society for Theatre Research.
Sher has also written several plays, including I.D. (2003) and Primo (2004). The latter was adapted as a film in 2005. In 2008, The Giant, the first of his plays in which Sher did not feature, was performed at the Hampstead Theatre. The main characters are Michelangelo (at the time of his creation of David), Leonardo da Vinci and Vito, their mutual apprentice.
In 2005, Sher directed Breakfast With Mugabe at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. The production moved to the Soho Theatre in April 2006 and the Duchess Theatre one month later. In 2007, he made a crime documentary for Channel 4, titled Murder Most Foul, about his native South Africa. It examines the double murder of actor Brett Goldin and fashion designer Richard Bloom. In 2011, Sher appeared in the BBC TV series The Shadow Line in the role of Glickman.
- 1972–74: Various roles at the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool
- 1974: Ringo Starr in Willy Russell's John, Paul, George, Ringo ... and Bert at the Everyman Theatre, where it opened in May 1974. Transferred to the Lyric Theatre in August.
- 1975: Teeth 'n' Smiles at the Royal Court Theatre where it opened in September 1975, subsequently transferring to Wyndham's Theatre in May 1976
- 1979: Stephen Poliakoff's American Days at the ICA] , London.
- 1982: Mike Leigh's Goosepimples in the West End
- 1982: The Fool in King Lear at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Transferred to the Barbican Centre in 1983.
- 1984: Richard III with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Transferred to the Barbican Centre in 1985.
- 1985: Torch Song Trilogy at the Albery Theatre, London
- 1985: Red Noses at the Barbican Theatre, London
- 1987: Shylock in The Merchant of Venice with the RSC
- 1987: Henry Irving in Happy Birthday, Sir Larry at the Royal National Theatre, London (Laurence Olivier 80th birthday tribute)
- 1990: Singer with the RSC
- 1991: The Trial and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui at the National Theatre
- 1993: Henry Carr in Travesties at the Barbican Centre with the RSC
- 1994–95: Titus Andronicus at the Market Theatre, Johannesburg. Transferred to the National Theatre and for a UK tour.
- 1997: Stanley at the National Theatre (repeated on Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre)
- 1997: Cyrano de Bergerac at the Lyric Theatre
- 1998–99: The Winter's Tale at the Barbican Centre with the RSC
- 1999: Macbeth at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, with the RSC
- 2000–01: Macbeth and The Winter's Tale with the RSC
- 2002: RSC's Jacobean season transfers to the West End.
- 2003: I.D. at the Almeida Theatre, London
- 2004: Primo at the Cottesloe Theatre, Royal National Theatre, London (repeated on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre, July–August 2005)
- 2007: Kean in Kean at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford. Transferred to the Apollo Theatre, London in May.
- 2008: Prospero in The Tempest at the Baxter Theatre, Cape Town; Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon; and on tour in Richmond, Leeds, Bath, Nottingham and Sheffield
- 2010: Tomas Stockmann in An Enemy of the People at the Sheffield Crucible
- 2012: Leading Role in Travelling Light at the Royal National Theatre
- 2013: Wilhelm Voigt in The Captain of Köpenick at the Olivier Theatre, Royal National Theatre, London
- 2014: Falstaff in Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV Part 2 with the Royal Shakespeare Company
- 2015: Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller with the Royal Shakespeare Company
- 2016: The title role in King Lear with the Royal Shakespeare Company (reprised in 2018)
- 2018: Nicolas in One for the Road from Pinter One at the Harold Pinter Theatre with The Jamie Lloyd Company
- 2019-20: Jack Morris in Kunene and the King with the Royal Shakespeare Company
|1976||The Madness||Militia man/Young man in café|
|Play for Today||Nathan|
|One Fine Day||Mr Alpert|
|Yanks||G.I. at cinema|
|1980||Superman II||Bell Boy|
|1989||Erik the Viking||Loki|
|1992||The Comic Strip Presents...||Scum editor|
|1993||Screen Two||Genghis Cohn|
|1994||Shakespeare: The Animated Tales||Richard III|
|1995||The Young Poisoner's Handbook||Dr Ernest Zeigler|
|Look at the State We're In!||The Don|
|1996||The Wind in the Willows||Chief Weasel|
|1997||Mrs. Brown||Benjamin Disraeli|
|The Moonstone||Sergeant Cuff|
|1998||Shakespeare in Love||Dr Moth|
|1999||The Winter's Tale||Leontes, King of Sicilia|
|2000||The Miracle Maker||Ben Azra (voice)|
|2004||Murphy's Law||Frank Jeremy|
|Churchill: The Hollywood Years||Adolf Hitler|
|2005||A Higher Agency||Chef|
|Great Performances||Primo Levi|
|2008||Three and Out||Maurice|
|2010||The Wolfman||Dr Hoenneger|
|2013||The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug||Thráin (Extended Edition only)|
|1981||The History Man||Howard Kirk||Episodes: "Part 1: October 2nd 1972" |
"Part 2: October 3, 1972 (a.m.)"
"Part 3: October 3rd 1972 (p.m.)"
"Gross Moral Turpitude"
|1982||The Further Adventures of Lucky Jim||Maurice Victor||1 episode|
|1995||One Foot in the Grave: "Rearranging the Dust"||Mr Prothrow||Acted without dialogue|
|1999||Hornblower: "The Frogs and the Lobsters"||Colonel Moncoutant|
|2002||The Jury||Gerald Lewis QC|
|2007||The Company||Ezra ben Ezra, the Rabbi|
|2008||God on Trial||Akiba|
|2011||The Shadow Line||Peter Glickman||Episodes: "Episode #1.5" |
|2013||Agatha Christie's Marple: A Caribbean Mystery||Jason Rafiel|
Awards and nominationsEdit
BAFTA TV AwardsEdit
0 win, 1 nomination
|British Academy Television Awards|
|2008||Primo||British Academy Television Awards 2008 Best Actor||Nominated|
Laurence Olivier AwardsEdit
2 wins, 4 nominations
|Laurence Olivier Award|
|1983||King Lear||Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role||Nominated|
|1985||Richard III and Torch Song Trilogy||Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor||Won|
|2000||The Winter's Tale||Nominated|
Drama Desk AwardsEdit
1 win and 1 nomination
|Drama Desk Award|
|2006||Primo||Outstanding One-Person Show "Primo"||Won|
Evening Standard Theatre AwardsEdit
1 win and 1 nomination
|Evening Standard Theatre Awards|
|1985||Richard III||Best Actor||Won|
Evening Standard British Film AwardsEdit
1 win and 1 nomination
|Evening Standard British Film Awards|
|1997||Mrs Brown||Peter Sellers Award for Comedy||Won|
Screen Actors Guild AwardsEdit
1 win and 1 nomination
|Screen Actors Guild Award|
|1997||Shakespeare in Love||Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture||Won|
Theatre Awards UK (TMA)Edit
1 win and 1 nomination
|Theatre Awards UK|
|1997||Titus Andronicus||Best Actor in a Play ||Won|
0 win and 1 nomination
|1997||Stanley||Best Actor in a Play||Nominated|
In 2005, Sher and his partner – director Gregory Doran, with whom he frequently collaborates professionally – became one of the first gay couples to enter into a civil partnership in the UK. They married on 30 December 2015, a little over ten years after their civil partnership.
- 1998: Honorary Doctor of Letters (Hon. Litt.D.) from the University of Liverpool
- 2000: Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) for services to theatre
- 2007: Honorary Doctor of Letters (Hon. Litt.D.) from the University of Warwick
- 2010: Honorary Doctor of Letters (Hon. Litt.D.) from the University of Cape Town
- Furness, Hannah (9 November 2017). "When I'm king I'll build a fort, jovial Prince Charles tells Indian schoolchildren". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
- "Antony Sher Biography". Filmreference.com. 2008. Retrieved 22 January 2009.
- "Antony Sher: Why no one unites us like Shakespeare does". 10 January 2020 – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
- Smith, Rupert (20 September 2001). "The great pretender". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
- "Everyman Theatre". Everymanplayhouse.co.uk. Archived from the original on 11 March 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2010.
- "Kunene and the King".
- "Antony Sher wins theatre book prize". Royal Shakespeare Company. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
- "Murder Most Foul". Channel4.com. September 2007.
- "The Shadow Line, a New Drama for BBC Two". BBC Online. Retrieved 2 February 2011.
- Sher, Anthony. "TMA Previous Winners". 1995. Theatre Management Association. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
- BBC News, 21 December 2005.