Brian Blessed is a much-loved actor, whose unmistakable presence on stage and screen have captivated audiences throughout the world.
Born in the mining community of Goldthorpe on 9th October 1936, he managed to avoid the inevitability of working down the pit through his acting talent displayed in local school productions.
His coal-miner father, William Blessed was involved in an industrial accident, which led Brian to leave school early and undertake a series of jobs to help support his family, including a plasterer and undertaker’s assistant. Eventually Blessed h managed to escape and pursue his acting dream at the Old Vic Theatre School in Bristol. Here he met another famous larger than life Yorkshire actor called Patrick Stewart.
Blessed’s talents were soon recognised and one of his first roles quickly came in the hugely popular 1960s TV series, “Z Cars,” as PC Fancy Smith. Other minor roles followed, including The Avengers (1967-9) and Randall and Hopkirk (deceased) (1969.) He also appeared on stage at London’s Phoenix Theatre in “Incident at Vichy.”
The 1970s were to make Brian Blessed a household name with several appearances in key TV series throughout this decade. One of which was in “I Claudius,” as Augustus, alongside his old friend, Patrick Stewart and Derek Jacoboi.
His large stage presence and unmistakable booming voice made Blessed the ideal actor to take on the role of both monarchs and villains. In 1980 he was cast in the role of Prince Vultan in the cult classic, “Flash Gordon,” an
adaptation of the comics designed by Alex Raymond. His exuberant performance and memorable lines, such as, “Gordon’s Alive?” and “Who wants to live forever?” made it a career-defining role and lead to many more imposing future castings. Queen, who did the memorable soundtrack to this film, used the latter phrase as a title for their 1986 hit. It is said that during his childhood, Blessed was a fan of the Flash Gordon comics. He and his friends acted out scenes from these stories in the playground and Blessed would always play Prince Vultan, the very role he would undertake several years later.
In 1981 Blessed took to the stage as he joined the Andrew Lloyd Webber production, “Cats,” as two of the felines, “Bustopher Jones and “Old Deuteronomy.” He was also nominated for “Best Actor” at the Olivier Awards of 1981 for these roles.
The persona of Brian Blessed as a larger than life character also lent itself well to comedy acting. He starred as the fictitious King Richard IV in the first series of Blackadder, alongside Rowan Atkinson.
One of Blessed’s most famous movie roles, after Flash, was in the blockbuster, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (1991). In this film he played Lord Locksley, alongside Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman and Christian Slater.
Another obvious vehicle for Blessed’s talents was Shakespearean acting. He starred in several bard adaptations throughout the 80s and 90s. In 1989 he played the Duke of Exeter in Henry V and followed this with roles in “Much ado About Nothing (1993), Hamlet (1996) and Macbeth (1997). One of his biggest Shakesperian roles was in the film adaptation of King Lear (1999) where his attributes more than satisfied the lead role of an angry and troubled monarch.
In Blessed’s advancing years he has turned, like many actors of his generation, into voice acting and cameo roles. The 2000s saw him provide his now legendary voice to several productions. This included “Star Wars, The Phantom Menace” (1999) as the voice of Rugor Noss and the BBC’s “The Tamworth Two (2004),” the story of runaway pigs from an abattoir in the Midlands town. He has also more recently lent his vocal talents to animation in the shape of “Grampy Rabbit,” in the children’s cartoon Peppa Pig, from 2006-10 and reignited his role as Prince Vultan during an episode of “Family Guy,” in 2008. His current vocation is on the children’s cartoon, “Henry Hugglemonster,” of which he voices the aptly named Eduardo Enoromonster.
His narration has also been used in several video games, including the Invizimals franchise and another called, “War of The Roses,” in 2012.
Off-stage Brian Blessed has also made some other notable achievements in exploration. He is currently the oldest man to have walked to the magnetic North Pole and has attempted to climb Mount Everest three times. More recently he appeared on
the BBC series, “Who Do You Think You Are,” which traced his family roots from London to the Lincolnshire town of Brigg.
In January 2015, while playing a quintessential Blessed role, King Lear, he collapsed on stage and was forced to withdraw from the production on doctor’s orders. Undeterred Blessed is a fully trained cosmonaut and has been to the International Space Station.
Brian Blessed is a much loved actor, whose large presence, booming voice and wonderful cameo appearances have lit up many a production on stage and screen.