Years active 1956–95
|Name Robert Stephens|
|Full Name Robert Graham Stephens|
Born 14 July 1931Bristol, Gloucestershire, England
Died November 12, 1995, London, United Kingdom
Spouse Patricia Quinn (m. 1995–1995)
Children Toby Stephens, Chris Larkin, Lucy Dilon, Michael Stephens
TV shows The Box of Delights, Fortunes of War, QB VII, Dandelion Dead, Lizzie's Pictures, Hell's Bells
Movies The Private Life of Sherlock, The Prime of Miss Jean Bro, Romeo and Juliet, The Duellists, The Asphyx
Similar People Maggie Smith, Toby Stephens, Chris Larkin, Beverley Cross, Colin Blakely
Sir Robert Stephens Tribute Video
Sir Robert Stephens Appreciation Society Video
Sir Robert Graham Stephens (14 July 1931 – 12 November 1995) was a leading English actor in the early years of Britain's Royal National Theatre. He was one of the most respected actors of his generation and was at one time regarded as the natural successor to Laurence Olivier.
- Sir Robert Stephens Tribute Video
- Sir Robert Stephens Appreciation Society Video
- Early life and career
- Personal life
Early life and career
Stephens was born in Shirehampton, Bristol, in 1931. At age 18 he won a scholarship to Esme Church's Bradford Civic Theatre School, Yorkshire, (where he met his first wife Nora, a fellow student). His first professional engagement was with the Caryl Jenner Mobile Theatre, which he followed in 1951 by a year of more challenging parts in repertory at the Royalty Theatre, Morecambe, followed by seasons of touring and at the Hippodrome, Preston. The London director Tony Richardson saw a performance at the Royalty and this led to an offer of a place in the "momentous" first season of English Stage Company at the Royal Court in 1956. His success was assured.
His early films included A Taste of Honey (1961), Cleopatra (1963) and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969) with his then wife Maggie Smith. There was also a minor role as Prince Escalus in Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet (1968), as well as a starring role in Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) and the science fiction film, The Asphyx (1973).
Stephens played Atahuallpa in the original 1964 National Theatre production of The Royal Hunt of the Sun. Stephens and Maggie Smith appeared together on stage and in film, notably in The Recruiting Officer at the Old Vic and the film version of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in 1969. However, following his departure from the National Theatre in 1970 and the breakup of their marriage in 1973 he suffered a career slump, not helped by heavy drinking and a breakdown.
Although he continued to work on stage (notably in the National Theatre's The Mysteries in 1986), film (The Fruit Machine in 1988, aka Wonderland in the USA and Kenneth Branagh's Henry V), and television (notably in the role of Abner Brown in the 1984 BBC TV dramatisation of the children's classic The Box of Delights and as the Master of an Oxford college in an episode of Inspector Morse), it was not until the 1990s that he re-established himself at the forefront of his profession, when the Royal Shakespeare Company invited him to play Falstaff in Henry IV for director Adrian Noble (opening April 1991), the title roles in Julius Caesar (director Stephen Pimlott) later in the year and then King Lear, again for Noble, in May 1993. He was awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 1993 for Best Actor, for his performance as Falstaff.
Stephens provided the voice of Aragorn in the 1981 BBC Radio serialisation of The Lord of the Rings. In 1985, he directed the British premiere production of "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea" by John Patrick Shanley at The Gate Theatre (London).
Stephens was married four times:
Following years of ill health, he died on 12 November 1995 at the age of 64 due to complications during surgery, eleven months after having been knighted.