Simon Phillip Hugh Callow CBE (born 15 June 1949) is an English actor, musician, writer, and theatre director.
Callow was born in Streatham, London, the son of Yvonne Mary (née Guise), a secretary, and Neil Francis Callow, a businessman. His father was of English and French descent and his mother was of Danish and German ancestry. He was brought up Roman Catholic. Callow was educated at the London Oratory School and then went on to study at Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland where he was active in the Northern Ireland civil-rights movement, before giving up his degree course to go into acting at the Drama Centre London.
Callow's immersion in the theatre began after he wrote a fan letter to Sir Laurence Olivier, the Artistic Director of the National Theatre, and received a response suggesting he join their box office staff. It was while watching actors rehearse that he realised he wanted to act.
Callow made his stage debut in 1973, appearing in The Thrie Estates at the Assembly Rooms Theatre, Edinburgh. In the early 1970s, he joined the Gay Sweatshop theatre company and performed in Martin Sherman's critically acclaimed Passing By. In 1977, he took various parts in the Joint Stock Theatre Company's production of Epsom Downs and in 1979, he starred in Snoo Wilson's The Soul of the White Ant at the Soho Poly.
Callow appeared as Verlaine in Total Eclipse (1982), Lord Foppington in The Relapse (1983) and the title role in Faust (1988) at the Lyric Hammersmith, where he also directed The Infernal Machine (with Maggie Smith) in 1986. In 1985, he played Molina in The Kiss of the Spiderwoman at the Bush Theatre, London. He created the role of Mozart in the premiere of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus at the National Theatre (1979), also appearing in the 1983 BBC radio production with its original cast. He later wrote of having "discovered Mozart quite early: the operas, the symphonies, the concertos, the wind serenades were all very much part of my musical landscape when I was asked to play the part of the composer in Peter Shaffer's Amadeus; possibly this was one of the reasons I got the job." He also appeared at the National Theatre as Orlando in As You Like It (1979) and Fulganzio in Galileo (1980).
He made his first film appearance, as Schikaneder, in Amadeus in 1984 (having played Mozart in the original stage production). The following year, he appeared as the Reverend Mr. Beebe in A Room with a View, a role which was meant to be supporting but ended up driving much of the action in the film. His first television role was in Carry On Laughing episode "Orgy and Bess", in 1975, but it was apparently cut from the final print. He starred in several series of the Channel 4 situation comedy Chance in a Million, as Tom Chance, an eccentric individual to whom coincidences happened regularly. Roles like this and his part in Four Weddings and a Funeral brought him a wider audience than his many critically acclaimed stage appearances.
At the same time, Callow was successful both as a director and as a writer. His Being An Actor (1984) was a critique of 'director dominated' theatre, in addition to containing autobiographical sections relating to his early career as an actor. At a time when subsidised theatre in the United Kingdom was under severe pressure from the Thatcher government, the work's original appearance caused a minor controversy. In 1992, he directed the play Shades by Sharman MacDonald and the musical My Fair Lady featuring costumes designed by Jasper Conran. In 1995, he directed a stage version of the classic French film Les Enfants du Paradis for the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). The production was not a success.
Among opera productions directed by Callow are a Così fan tutte in Lucerne, Die Fledermaus for Scottish Opera in 1988, Il tritico for the Broomhill Trust, Kent in August 1995, Menotti's The Consul at Holland Park Opera, London in 1999 and Le roi malgré lui by Chabrier at Grange Park Opera in 2003. He also directed Carmen Jones at the Old Vic, London in 1991, with Wilhelmenia Fernandez in the title role.
One of Callow's best-known books is Love Is Where It Falls, an analysis of his eleven-year relationship with Peggy Ramsay (1980–91), a prominent British theatrical agent from the 1960s to the 1980s. He has also written extensively about Charles Dickens, whom he has played several times: in a one-man show, The Mystery of Charles Dickens by Peter Ackroyd; in the films Hans Christian Andersen: My Life as a Fairytale and Christmas Carol: The Movie; and on television several times including An Audience with Charles Dickens (BBC, 1996) and in "The Unquiet Dead", a 2005 episode of the BBC science-fiction series Doctor Who. He returned to Doctor Who for the 2011 season finale, again taking the role of Dickens.
Callow appeared with Saeed Jaffrey in 1994 British television series Little Napoleons. In 1996, Callow directed Cantabile in three musical pieces (Commuting, The Waiter's Revenge, Ricercare No. 4) composed by his friend Stephen Oliver. Ricercare No. 4 was commissioned by Callow especially for Cantabile. He voice-acted the sly and traitorous Wolfgang in Shoebox Zoo. In 2004, he appeared on a Comic Relief episode of Little Britain for charity causes. In 2006, he wrote a piece for the BBC1 programme This Week bemoaning the lack of characters in modern politics. He has starred as Count Fosco, the villain of Wilkie Collins's novel The Woman in White, in film (1997) and on stage (2005, in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical in the West End).
In December 2004, he hosted the London Gay Men's Chorus Christmas Show, Make the Yuletide Gay at the Barbican Centre in London. He is currently one of the patrons of the Michael Chekhov Studio London. Callow narrated the audiobook of Robert Fagles' 2006 translation of Virgil's The Aeneid.
In July 2006, the London Oratory School Schola announced Callow as one of their new patrons. In November 2007, he threatened to resign the post over controversy surrounding the Terrence Higgins Trust (an AIDS charity of which Callow is also a patron). Other patrons of the Catholic choir are Princess Michael of Kent and the leading Scottish composer James MacMillan. He reprised his role as Wolfgang in Shoebox Zoo and voice-acted the wild and action-seeking Hunter as well.
In 2007, he portrayed the role of Pliny the Elder in CBBC's children's drama series, Roman Mysteries in the episodes The Secrets of Vesuvius.
From 11 July to 3 August 2008, Callow appeared at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada in There Reigns Love, a performance of the sonnets of William Shakespeare and also in 2008, he appeared at the Edinburgh Festival performing "Dr Marigold" and "Mr Chops" by Charles Dickens, adapted and directed by Patrick Garland; repeating them from December 2009 to January 2010 at the Riverside Studios and on tour in 2011.
In February 2008, he played the psychiatrist in Chichester Festival Theatre's production of Peter Shaffer's Equus.
Between March and August 2009, he starred as Pozzo in Sean Mathias's production of Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett opposite Sir Ian McKellen (Estragon), Sir Patrick Stewart (Vladimir) and also Ronald Pickup (Lucky). The tour opened in Malvern before travelling to Milton Keynes, Brighton, Bath, Norwich, Edinburgh and Newcastle; its run at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket was extended due to demand.
In November 2009, "Mini Stories", a recording by the Caput Ensemble of Haflidi Hallgrimsson's settings of the surreal poetry of Daniil Kharms, featuring Callow as the narrator was released by Hyperion records.
From June to November 2010, he appeared in a national tour of a new one-man play, Shakespeare: the Man from Stratford, written by Jonathan Bate, directed by Tom Cairns and produced by the Ambassador Theatre Group. The play was renamed Being Shakespeare for its West End debut at the Trafalgar Studios where it opened on 15 June 2011. It was revived at the same theatre in March 2012, prior to a run in New York City and Chicago. In March 2014, it returned to the West End, this time at the Harold Pinter Theatre.
In October 2014, Callow appeared in a comedy sketch made for Channel 4's The Feeling Nuts Comedy Night to raise awareness of testicular cancer. The same year he played the recurring role of the fictional Duke of Sandringham in the Starz period TV series, Outlander.
Callow has also written biographies of Oscar Wilde, Charles Laughton and Orson Welles. He is currently at work on the fourth volume of his life of Welles. He has also written an anthology of Shakespeare passages, Shakespeare on Love, and contributed to Cambridge's Actors on Shakespeare series. Callow was also the reader of The Twits and The Witches in the Puffin Roald Dahl Audio Books Collection (ISBN 978-0-140-92255-4) and has done audio versions of several abridged P.G. Wodehouse books that feature, among others, the fictional character Jeeves. They include Very Good, Jeeves and Aunts Aren't Gentlemen. A devotee of classical music, he has contributed articles to Gramophone magazine.
Callow starred in 3-part original Gold comedy The Rebel in 2016.
Callow was listed 28th in The Independent's 2007 listing of the most influential gay men and women in the UK. In 1999, he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to acting. He was one of the first actors to declare his homosexuality publicly, doing so in his 1984 book Being An Actor.
He married Sebastian Fox in June 2016.
In an interview, Callow stated:
I'm not really an activist, although I am aware that there are some political acts one can do that actually make a difference and I think my coming out as a gay man was probably one of the most valuable things I've done in my life. I don't think any actor had done so voluntarily and I think it helped to change the culture.
In August 2014, Callow was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.
|1984||Amadeus||Emanuel Schikaneder / Papageno|
|1985||The Good Father||Mark Varda|
|1985||A Room with a View||The Reverend Mr. Beebe||Nominated – BAFTA Film Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role|
|1990||Postcards from the Edge||Simon Asquith|
|1990||Mr. & Mrs. Bridge||Dr. Alex Sauer|
|1991||The Ballad of the Sad Cafe||Director|
Nominated – Golden Berlin Bear
|1991||Howards End||Music and Meaning Lecturer||Cameo|
|1992||Soft Top Hard Shoulder||Eddie Cherdowski|
|1994||Four Weddings and a Funeral||Gareth||Nominated – BAFTA Film Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role|
|1994||Street Fighter||A.N. Official|
|1995||England, My England||Charles II|
|1995||Jefferson in Paris||Richard Cosway|
|1995||Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls||Vincent Cadby|
|1996||James and the Giant Peach||Mr. Grasshopper||Voice|
|1998||The Scarlet Tunic||Captain Fairfax|
|1998||Bedrooms and Hallways||Keith|
|1998||Shakespeare in Love||Sir Edmund Tilney||Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture|
|1999||Around the World in 80 Days||Phileas Fogg||Voice|
|2001||No Man's Land||Colonel Soft|
|2001||Christmas Carol: The Movie||Ebenezer Scrooge|
|2002||Thunderpants||Sir John Osgood|
|2002||Merci Docteur Rey||Bob|
|2003||Bright Young Things||King of Anatolia|
|2004||George and the Dragon||King Edgar|
|2004||The Phantom of the Opera||Andre|
|2005||Rag Tale||Fat Boy Rourke|
|2005||The Civilization of Maxwell Bright||Mr. Wroth|
|2005||Bob the Butler||Mr. Butler|
|2007||Chemical Wedding||Professor Haddo / Aleister Crowley|
|2007||Arn - The Knight Templar||Father Henry|
|2011||No Ordinary Trifle||Guy Witherspoon|
|2012||Acts of Godfrey||Godfrey|
|2014||Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles||Himself|
|2016||Viceroy's House||Cyril Radcliffe|
|2017||Victoria & Abdul||Giacomo Puccini|
|2017||The Man Who Invented Christmas||John Leech|
|2018||Blue Iguana||Uncle Martin|
|1975||Get Some In!||Wally|
|1976||The Sweeney||Detective Sergeant|
|The Man of Destiny
|1984||Chance in a Million||Tom Chance|
|1986||Dead Head||Hugo Silver|
|1986||David Copperfield||Mr Micawber|
|1987||Inspector Morse||Theodore Kemp||Episode: "The Wolvercote Tongue"|
|1990||Old Flames||Nathaniel Quass|
|1993||Femme Fatale||Vicar Ronnie|
|1994||Little Napoleons||Edward Feathers|
|1996||An Audience With Charles Dickens||Charles Dickens|
|1995||El pasajero clandestino||Major Owens|
|1997||The Woman in White||Count Fosco|
|1998||Trial & Retribution II||Rupert Halliday|
|2000||The Mystery of Charles Dickens||Charles Dickens||Television film|
|2001||Don't Eat the Neighbours||Fox & Bear|
|2002||NOVA: Galileo's Battle for the Heavens||Galileo||Documentary|
|2003||Angels in America||Prior Walter ancestor 2||Miniseries|
|2004||Shoebox Zoo||Wolfgang the Wolf
Hunter the Horse
|2004||Agatha Christie's Marple||Colonel Terence Melchett||Episode: "The Body in the Library"|
|2005, 2011||Doctor Who||Charles Dickens||Episodes: "The Unquiet Dead", "The Wedding of River Song"|
|2006||Midsomer Murders||Dr. Richard Wellow||Episode: "Dead Letters"|
|2007||Roman Mysteries||Pliny the Elder||Episodes: "The Secrets of Vesuvius"|
|2007||How Gay Sex Changed the World||Himself|
|2007||Trick or Treat||Himself||1 episode|
|2008||The Mr. Men Show||Narrator|
|2009||Lewis||Vernon Oxe||Episode: "Counter Culture Blues"|
|2009||The Sarah Jane Adventures||Tree Blathereen||Voice|
Episode: "The Gift"
|2011||This is Jinsy||Threcker||Episode: "Nameworm"|
|2011||Popstar to Operastar||Himself|
|2011||Jamie's Dream School||Himself|
|2013||Agatha Christie's Poirot||Dr. Heinrich Lutz||Episode: "The Labours of Hercules"|
|2014–2016||Outlander||The Duke of Sandringham||5 episodes in seasons 1 and 2|
|2014||Plebs||Victor||Episode: "The Candidate"|
|2014||The Feeling Nuts Comedy Night||Himself|
|2015||Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway||Guest in The End of The Show Show||Season 12, episode 2|
|2016||Galavant||Edwin the Fortuneteller||Episode "World's Best Kiss"|
|2016||The Rebel||Henry Palmer||Lead character|
|2017||Midsomer Murders||Vernon De Harthog||Episode: "The Curse of the Ninth"|
|2018||Death in Paradise||Larry South||Series 7, episode 3|
|2018||A Christmas Carol||Narrator/Actor||BBC4|
|2018||The Dead Room||Aubrey Judd||BBC4|