Bell was born 1 November 1940 in Newcastle, New South Wales, and at age 9 or 10 moved with his family to the town of Maitland, New South Wales where he was educated at the Marist Brothers.While at High School, he developed and performed one-man shows.
Old Tote Theatre Company
He spent five years with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Great Britain
1970s – Taught at National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA)
He directed the first production of The Legend of King O'Malley (a musical play based on the life of King O'Malley by Bob Ellis and Michael Boddy ) in 1970. The production featured Robyn Nevin and Kate Fitzpatrick.Major state theatre companies as actor and/or director
Co-founder of the Nimrod Theatre Company in Sydney
Producer/presenter for David Williamson's Travelling North, The Club, The Removalists and Peter Kenna's A Hard God
In 2009 Bell directed the opera Madama Butterfly for Oz Opera; this production toured throughout Australia.
In 1990, Bell founded the theatre company Bell Shakespeare and has produced, among others, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, Richard III, Pericles, Henry IV, Henry V, Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, The Comedy of Errors, The Merchant of Venice, The Tempest, King Lear, and Goldoni's Servant of Two Masters.
His roles for the company include Shylock, Richard III, Macbeth, Malvolio, Coriolanus, Leontes, Prospero, King Lear and Ulysses.
In 2011, Bell published the book On Shakespeare, his thoughts and reminiscences of playing Shakespeare for more than 50 years.
Bell attended the University of Sydney with Clive James and Germaine Greer. He is a contemporary and friend of Bruce Beresford (film director, with whom he shared a house and for whom he did some film acting), Ken Horler, Mungo McCallum, Bob Ellis, Richard Wherrett, John Gaden, Laurie Oakes (journalist), and Les Murray (poet). His brother is the artist Michael Bell. Bell is married to actress Anna Volska and has two daughters, Grass Roots actress Lucy Bell and playwright Hilary Bell.
In the New Year's Honours of 1978 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). In the Queen's Birthday Honours of 1987, he was named a Member of the Order of Australia (AM). In the Australia Day Honours of 2009, he was named an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).
His achievements in theatre have been acknowledged by the Universities of Newcastle (1994), Sydney (1996) and New South Wales, all of whom have awarded him honorary Doctor of Letters degrees.
In 2001 a painting of Bell by artist Nicholas Harding won the Archibald Prize.
In 2002, Bell's performance of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, in Richard III earned him a Helpmann Award for Best Male Actor in a Play.
In 2003 the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, presented Bell with the Cultural Leader of the Year Award.
In 2009 he received the JC Williamson Award for his life's work in the live performance industry.
In 2016 he was name by the Council of Australian Humanist Societies, as Humanist Of The Year.
He has been named an Australian Living Treasure.The Taming of the Shrew (1973) – filmed adaptation of his Old Tote performance
Hamlet (1974) – filmed adaptation of his Sydney Theatre Company performance
Far East (1982)