Brian Blessed – Life, Career & Where He is Now

Brian Blessed is a much loved Yorkshire actor. His unmistakable presence on stage and screen have continuously captivated audiences throughout the world.

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Growing Up

Brian Blessed was born on the 9th of October 1936 in the mining community of Goldthorpe in Barnsley. As he was growing up, he managed to avoid the inevitability of working down the pit by displaying his acting talent in his local school productions.

His father William Blessed was a coal miner. While he was working, he was involved in an industrial accident which led Brian to leave school early and undertake a number of jobs to support his family. These included plastering and being an undertaker’s assistant.

Eventually, Brian was able to leave these jobs and pursue his acting dream at the Old Vic Theatre School in Bristol. It was here that he met another famous Yorkshire actor called Patrick Stewart. Since then, the two have remained good friends.

First Acting Roles

Brian’s talents were soon recognised. One of his first acting roles was in the hugely popular 1960’s TV series “Z Cars” as PC Fancy Smith. Other minor roles followed including The Avengers (1967-1969) and Randall and Hopkirk (1969). Brian also appeared on stage at London’s Phoenix Theatre in “Incident at Vichy.”

Becoming a Household Name

Brian Blessed as Blessed King Vaultan, a character he would act out on the playground with his friends in his childhood
Brian Blessed as Blessed King Vaultan, a character he would act out on the playground with his friends in his childhood. (Image source: flickr.com)

The 1970’s made Brian Blessed a household name with several appearances in key TV series throughout this decade. One of which was in “I Claudius” as Augstus alongside Derek Jacoboi and his old friend Patrick Stewart.

Brian’s large stage presence and unmistakable booming voice made him noticed. Blessed became 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 created memorable lines such as “Gordon’s Alive?” and “Who wants to live forever?” making it a career-defining role which led to many more imposing future castings.

The band Queen created a memorable soundtrack for this film. They used one of Brian Blessed’s lines “Who wants to live forever?” as a title for their 1986 hit.

It’s said that during his childhood, Brian was a big fan of the Flash Gordon comics. He and his friends acted out scenes from these stories in the playground where Brian would always play Prince Vultan, the very role he would undertake several years later.

Taking to the Stage

In 1981, Brian Blessed took to the stage where he joined the Andrew Lloyd Webber production “Cats” as two of the felines “Bustopher Jones” and “Old Deuteronomy”. During the same year, he was also nominated for “Best Actor” at the Olivier Awards for these roles.

Brian Blessed in Black adder, starring as fictitious King Richard IV, alongside Rowan Atkinson.
Brian Blessed in Black Adder(Image source: blackadder.wikia.com)

Comedy Roles

It’s well known that Brian has a larger than life character and booming voice. Both of these characteristics have aided him in his comedy acting. He starred as the fictitious King Richard IV in the first series of Blackadder, alongside Rowan Atkinson.

Famous Movies

Blessed went on to land his most famous movie roles after Flash Gordon. He went on to start in the blockbuster Robin Hood Prince of Thieves in 1991. In this film, he played Lord Locksley alongside Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, and Christian Slater.

Shakespearean Roles

Brian would once again prove his extensive range with Shakespearean acting. He starred in several bard adaptations throughout the 80’s and 90’s.

In 1989, Brian 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 Shakespearean 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.

Voice Acting & Cameo’s

As Brian Blessed has gotten older, he’s turned to voice acting and cameo roles much like many other actors of his generation. In the late 90’s and throughout the 00’s, he used his legendary voice in several productions.

These included “Star Wars, The Phantom Menace” (1999) as the voice of Rugor Noss and the BBC’s “The Tamworth Two” (2004), a story of runaway pigs from an abattoir in the Midlands town.

Between 2006 to 2010, Brian lent his vocal talents to animations in the shape of “Grampy Rabbit” in the children’s cartoon Peppa Pig. He also reprised his role as Prince Vultan during an episode of Family Guy. Brian has also voiced the aptly named Eduardo Enoromonster in Henry Hugglemonster.

His narration has also been used in several video games. This includes the Invizimals franchise and another called War of The Roses in 2012.

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Notable Achievements

Off stage, Brian Blessed has also made some other notable achievements in exploration. He’s attempted to climb Mount Everest three times and is currently the oldest man to have walked the magnetic North Pole. 

Brian has also appeared on the BBC series “Who Do You Think You Are.” During this programme, he was able to trace his family roots from London to the Lincolnshire town of Brigg.

Where is Brian Blessed Now?

In January 2015, Brian was playing a quintessential Blessed role of King Lear. During the performance, he collapsed on stage and 20 minutes later returned to complete the remainder of the play.

On the 30th of January of the same year, he was forced to withdraw from the production on his doctor’s orders. Brian however was undeterred by this and became a fully trained cosmonaut and visited the International Space Station. 

Currently, Brian Blessed is in the process of retiring from acting. He hasn’t fully given it up just yet and also has his own podcast called Bedtime Stories. These include children’s stories such as Hansel and Gretel and The Little Red Riding Hood.

Brian Blessed is a much loved Yorkshire actor. His large presence, booming voice, and wonderful cameo appearances have lit up many productions on stage and screen.