Sir Simon Russell Beale CBE (born 12 January 1961) is an English actor. He has been described by The Independent as "the greatest stage actor of his generation".[1] He has received two BAFTA Awards, three Olivier Awards, and a Tony Award. For his services to drama, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2019.

Simon Russell Beale
Beale in 2011
Born (1961-01-12) 12 January 1961 (age 63)
EducationGonville and Caius College, Cambridge
Guildhall School of Music and Drama
  • Actor
  • author
  • historian
Years active1985–present

Beale started his acting career at the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre. He has received ten Laurence Olivier Award nominations, winning three awards for his performances in Volpone (1996), Candide (2000), and Uncle Vanya (2003). For his work on the Broadway stage he has received a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play nomination for his performance as George in the Tom Stoppard play Jumpers in 2004. For his role as Henry Lehman in The Lehman Trilogy, he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play and was nominated for an Olivier Award.

Beale made his film debut in Sally Potter's period drama Orlando (1992). He gained prominence for his roles in Persuasion (1995), Hamlet (1996), My Week with Marilyn (2011), The Deep Blue Sea (2011), Mary Queen of Scots (2018), Benediction (2021), and The Outfit (2022). In 2017, he portrayed Lavrentiy Beria in Armando Iannucci's The Death of Stalin, for which he received the British Independent Film Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Beale has also appeared in the television projects The Young Visiters (2003), Dunkirk (2004), and Vanity Fair (2018). He earned two British Academy Television Awards one for Best Actor for A Dance to the Music of Time (1998), and the other for Best Supporting Actor for Henry IV, Part I and Part II (2012). From 2014 to 2016, he was part of the main cast of Showtime's Penny Dreadful.

Early years


Beale was born on 12 January 1961, one of six children of Captain, later Lieutenant General, Sir Peter Beale and his wife Julia née Winter. He was born in Penang, Malaya, where his father was serving in the Army Medical Services. His father later, from 1991 to 1994, served as Surgeon-General of HM Armed Forces.[2] Several other members of Beale's family have pursued successful careers in medicine.

Beale was first drawn to performance when, at the age of eight, he became a chorister at St. Paul's Cathedral and a pupil at the adjoining St Paul's Cathedral School. His secondary education was undertaken at the independent Clifton College in Bristol.[citation needed]

His first stage performance was as Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night's Dream at primary school.[3] In the sixth form at Clifton he also performed in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, a play in which he would later star at the National Theatre.

After Clifton, he went to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and obtained a first in English, after which he was offered a place to undertake a PhD. He pursued further studies at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, graduating in 1983.[citation needed]



Early work


Beale first came to the attention of theatre-goers in the late 1980s with a series of lauded comic performances, which were on occasion extremely camp, in such plays as The Man of Mode by George Etherege and Restoration by Edward Bond at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). He broadened his range in the early 1990s with moving performances as Konstantin in Chekhov's The Seagull, as Oswald in Ibsen's Ghosts, Ferdinand in The Duchess of Malfi and as Edgar in King Lear. At the first annual Ian Charleson Awards in January 1991, he received a special commendation for his 1990 performances of Konstantin in The Seagull, Thersites in Troilus and Cressida and Edward II in Edward II, all at the RSC.[4]

It was at the RSC that he first worked with Sam Mendes, who directed him as Thersites in Troilus and Cressida, as Richard III and as Ariel in The Tempest, in the last of which he revealed a fine tenor voice. Mendes also directed him as Iago in Othello at the Royal National Theatre and in Mendes's farewell productions at the Donmar Warehouse in 2002, Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, in which Beale played the title role, and Twelfth Night, in which he played Malvolio. He won the 2003 Laurence Olivier Award for Uncle Vanya.[citation needed]

Since 1995, he has been a regular at the National Theatre, where his roles have included Mosca in Ben Jonson's Volpone opposite Michael Gambon, George in Tom Stoppard's Jumpers and the lead in Humble Boy by Charlotte Jones, a part written specially for him. In 1997, he played the pivotal role of Kenneth Widmerpool in a television adaptation of Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time, for which he won the Best Actor award at the British Academy Television Awards in 1998. The following year, he was a key part of Trevor Nunn's ensemble, playing in Leonard Bernstein's Candide (Voltaire/Pangloss), Edward Bulwer-Lytton's Money and Maxim Gorky's Summerfolk at the National. In autumn 2006, he played Galileo in David Hare's adaption of Brecht's Life of Galileo and as Face in The Alchemist.[citation needed]



In 2000, he played Hamlet in a production directed by John Caird for the National Theatre, a role for which he was described by The Daily Telegraph as "portly [and] relatively long in the tooth".[5] In 2005, Beale was directed by Deborah Warner as Cassius in Julius Caesar alongside Ralph Fiennes as Antony. That same year, he played the title role in Macbeth at the Almeida Theatre. In 2007, he reprised his 2005 Broadway role as King Arthur in the Monty Python musical Spamalot at the Palace Theatre, London.

From December 2007 to March 2008, he played Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing directed by Nicholas Hytner at the National Theatre and from February to July 2008, he played Andrew Undershaft in Hytner's production of Shaw's Major Barbara; he then appeared in Harold Pinter's A Slight Ache and Landscape.[citation needed]

In 2008, he made his debut as a television presenter, fronting the BBC series Sacred Music with Harry Christophers and The Sixteen. Various specials and a second series have since been produced; the most recent episode (Monteverdi in Mantua: The Genius of the Vespers) was broadcast in 2015. In spring 2009, Beale and Sam Mendes collaborated on The Winter's Tale and The Cherry Orchard, in which Beale played Leontes and Lopakhin respectively, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, later transferring to the Old Vic Theatre.[6][7]

From 2009 to 2010, he played George Smiley in the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of all the John le Carré novels in which Smiley featured. These were broadcast in nineteen 90-minute or 60-minute full cast radio plays.[8] From March to June 2010, he played Sir Harcourt Courtly in London Assurance, again at the National. In August 2010, he appeared in the first West End revival of Deathtrap by Ira Levin. In March 2011, he made his debut with The Royal Ballet in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as the Duchess. In October 2011, he returned to the National to star as Joseph Stalin in the premiere of Collaborators, for which he won Best Actor at the 2012 Evening Standard Awards.



In 2010–11, Beale played the Coalition Home Secretary William Towers in the two final series of BBC One's spy drama, Spooks.[9] He played the title role in Timon of Athens at the National Theatre from July to October 2012. The production was broadcast to cinemas around the world (as was Collaborators earlier) on 1 November 2012 through the National Theatre Live programme.[10] He starred in a revival of Peter Nichols' Privates on Parade as part of Michael Grandage's new West End season at the Noël Coward Theatre from December 2012 to March 2013.[citation needed]

In 2013, he won the British Academy Television Award (BAFTA) for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Falstaff in the BBC's The Hollow Crown series of TV films about Shakespeare's historical dramas Richard II; Henry IV, Part 1; Henry IV, Part 2; and Henry V.[11] That same year he appeared in National Theatre Live: 50 Years On Stage (2013).

Beale appeared alongside John Simm in Harold Pinter's The Hothouse at the Trafalgar Studios from May to August 2013, directed by Jamie Lloyd.[12] From January 2014, he played the title role in King Lear at the National Theatre, directed once again by Sam Mendes.[13] Also from 2014 to 2016 he starred as a main cast member in Showtime's Penny Dreadful, in which he played an eccentric Egyptologist. In 2014, Beale was appointed the Cameron Mackintosh Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Oxford University, based at St Catherine's College.[14]

From May to July 2015, he starred in Temple, a new play at the Donmar Warehouse about the 2011 United Kingdom anti-austerity protests.[15] In September and October 2015, he played Samuel Foote in Mr Foote's Other Leg at the Hampstead Theatre.[16] It transferred to the Theatre Royal Haymarket from October 2015 to January 2016.

In November 2016, Beale returned to the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, to play Prospero in The Tempest.[17] In June 2017, it transferred to the Barbican Centre in London. In July 2018, Beale returned to the National, starring opposite Ben Miles and Adam Godley in The Lehman Trilogy, again directed by Mendes.[18] It transferred to the Piccadilly Theatre in the West End in May 2019. Beale starred in the title role of Richard II at the Almeida Theatre from December 2018 to February 2019.[19]



During the COVID-19 pandemic, Beale contributed as a guest speaker to The Show Must Go Online's performance of Timon of Athens.[20]

In the summer of 2021, Beale played JS Bach in the world première of Nina Raine's Bach and Sons, directed by frequent collaborator Nicholas Hytner at his company's Bridge Theatre in London.[21]

During this time he re-rehearsed for the post-COVID return in late September of the Broadway transfer of the National Theatre production of The Lehman Trilogy whose run had been halted on 12 March 2020 by the pandemic. Beale reprised his role (along with Adam Godley) but, due to stage commitments in London for the RSC in the third part of the Wolf Hall trilogy, Ben Miles was replaced by Adrian Lester.[22] Beale won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his performance in The Lehman Trilogy.

In April 2023, it was announced that Beale had been cast as Ser Simon Strong in the second season of House of the Dragon.[23]

Personal life


Beale is a past president of the Anthony Powell Society,[24] a tribute to his portrayal of Kenneth Widmerpool.[25]

Beale is gay. In the Independent on Sunday 2006 Pink List – a list of the most influential gay men and women in the UK – he was placed at number 30.[26]

He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, at Buckingham Palace, on 9 October 2019.[27]

Acting credits



Year Title Role Notes
1992 Orlando Earl of Moray
1995 Persuasion Charles Musgrove
1996 Hamlet Second gravedigger
1999 Blackadder: Back & Forth Napoleon Short film
2002 The Gathering Luke Fraser
2011 The Deep Blue Sea William Collyer
My Week with Marilyn Mr. Cotes-Preedy
2014 Into the Woods Baker's Father
2016 Cunk on Shakespeare Himself
The Legend of Tarzan Mr. Frum
2017 My Cousin Rachel Couch
The Death of Stalin Lavrentiy Beria British Independent Film Award for Best Supporting Actor
2018 Museum Frank Graves
Operation Finale David Ben-Gurion
Mary Queen of Scots Robert Beale
2019 Radioactive Gabriel Lippmann
2020 A Christmas Carol Ebenezer Scrooge Voice
2021 Benediction Robbie Ross
Operation Mincemeat Winston Churchill
2022 The Outfit Roy Boyle
Thor: Love and Thunder Dionysus
2023 Firebrand Stephen Gardiner
2025 Untitled Downton Abbey: A New Era sequel


Year Title Role Notes
1988 A Very Peculiar Practice Mark Stibbs Episode: "Art and Illusion"
1992 Downtown Lagos Heron 3 episodes
1993 The Mushroom Picker Anthony 3 episodes
1997 A Dance to the Music of Time Kenneth Widmerpool 4 episodes
The Temptation of Franz Schubert Franz Schubert Television film
1999 Alice in Wonderland King of Hearts Television film
2003 The Young Visiters Prince of Wales Television film
2004 Dunkirk Winston Churchill BBC Movie
2006 American Experience John Adams Episode: "America's First Power Couple"
2010–11 Spooks Home Secretary 13 episodes
2012 The Hollow Crown Falstaff Episode: "Henry IV, Parts I & II"
2014–16 Penny Dreadful Ferdinand Lyle 14 episodes
2018 Vanity Fair John Sedley 6 episodes
2023 Mary & George Sir George Villiers Upcoming miniseries
2024 House of the Dragon Ser Simon Strong Season 2
2024 Douglas Is Cancelled



Selected credits:

Year Title Role Venue
1991 The Seagull Konstantin Royal Shakespeare Company
Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
1994 The Tempest Ariel Stratford, England
1995 The Duchess of Malfi Performer Greenwich and West End
1995 Volpone Mosca National Theatre, London
1996 Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Performer National Theatre, London
1997–98 Othello Iago National Theatre, London
1999 Money Alfred Evelyn National Theatre, London
1999–2000 Battle Royal Performer National Theatre, London
2001 Hamlet Hamlet Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York City
2001 Humble Boy Performer National Theatre, London
2002 Uncle Vanya Uncle Vanya Donmar Warehouse, London
Brooklyn Academy of Music
2002 Twelfth Night Malvolio Donmar Warehouse
2004 Jumpers George Brooks Atkinson Theatre, Broadway debut
2004 Macbeth Macbeth Almeida Theatre
2005 The Philanthropist Philip Donmar Warehouse
2005-07 Spamalot King Arthur (replacement) Shubert Theatre, Broadway
Palace Theatre, London
2008 Major Barbara Andrew Undershaft Royal National Theatre
2009 The Cherry Orchard
The Winter's Tale
Brooklyn Academy of Music
2010 London Assurance Sir Harcourt Courtly National Theatre, London
2011 Bluebeard Jimmy MacNeill Atlantic Theater Company
2011 Collaborators Joseph Stalin Royal National Theatre, London[28]
2012 Timon of Athens Timon of Athens National Theatre, London
2012–13 Privates on Parade Captain Terri Dennis Noël Coward Theatre
2014 King Lear King Lear National Theatre, London
2015 Temple Dean Donmar Warehouse
2015 Mr. Foote's Other Leg Samuel Foote Hampstead Theatre
2016-17 The Tempest Prospero Royal Shakespeare Company
Barbican Theatre
2018 The Lehman Trilogy Henry Lehman & Philip Lehman National Theatre, London
2019 The Tragedy of King Richard the Second King Richard II Almeida Theatre
2019-20 The Lehman Trilogy Henry Lehman & Philip Lehman Park Avenue Armory, Off-Broadway
Piccadilly Theatre, London
2020-21 A Christmas Carol Ebenezer Scrooge Bridge Theatre
2021 Bach & Sons Johann Sebastian Bach Bridge Theatre
2021-22 The Lehman Trilogy Henry Lehman & Philip Lehman Nederlander Theatre, Broadway
Ahmanson Theatre
2022 John Gabriel Borkman John Gabriel Borkman Bridge Theatre



Beale is a patron of the following organisations:

Awards and honours


Further reading

  • Trowbridge, Simon, The Company: A Biographical Dictionary of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Oxford: Editions Albert Creed, 2010. ISBN 978-0-9559830-2-3.


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  2. ^ "Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 22 January 2009.
  3. ^ Le Moignan, Mick (2015). "Generations in Harmony". Once a Caian... 15: 12–13.
  4. ^ "Timely tributes for a new generation of actors", Sunday Times, 13 January 1991.
  5. ^ Cavendish, Dominic (18 May 2016). "Telegraph – Hamlet". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022.
  6. ^ Bradley, Ben (23 February 2009). "Alas, Poor Leontes (That Good King Has Not Been Himself of Late)". New York Times. Retrieved 25 June 2009.
  7. ^ Spencer, Charles (10 June 2009). "The Winter's Tale, The Cherry Orchard at the Old Vic, review". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 22 July 2009. Retrieved 25 June 2009. Simon Russell Beale, for my money this country's greatest stage actor, stars in both shows
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  18. ^ Wood, Alex (18 January 2018). "Simon Russell Beale to star in National Theatre's The Lehman Trilogy alongside Ben Miles and Adam Godley". Whats On Stage. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  19. ^ Bowie-Sell, Daisy (20 September 2018). "Simon Russell Beale, Patsy Ferran and Anne Washburn return in Almeida's new season". Whats On Stage. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
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