Born in Stoke-on-Trent, England, he was the oldest of three children born to philosopher and educator Jonathan Dancy and his wife, publisher Sarah Dancy. According to various reports, he was introduced to acting as a form of punishment - his parents dispatched him to a local theater to atone for a misdeed. The profession soon captured his heart, and by his late teens, he was appearing with local theater groups in productions of classic works by Shakespeare. However, he resisted attending acting school, possibly as a safety measure, and undoubtedly out of respect for his father's standing in the academic community; choosing instead to pursue a degree in English at Oxford University. However, after graduation, he relocated to London, where he supported himself as a bartender and waiter while landing parts in various plays. His perseverance eventually paid off by landing his first agent, who helped him earn his first on-screen credit in the Lynda La Plante-penned teleplay "Trial and Retribution II" (1998). More small-screen work followed, which eventually blossomed to substantial roles in "Madame Bovary" (BBC, 2000) and "David Copperfield" (Hallmark/TNT, 2000), a US/UK co-production which saw Dancy play the adult David opposite such established stars as Sally Field and Michael Richards. He also continued to work in theater - most notably in Sam Mendes' "To the Green Fields Beyond."The year 2001 marked Dancy's debut in feature films as aspiring musketeer D'Artagnan in the UK-French action-drama, "Young Blades." That same year, he shifted gears to play a young Army Ranger medic in Ridley Scott's harrowing war epic "Black Hawk Down" (2001). He returned briefly to UK television to play the title role in a BBC adaptation of George Eliot's "Daniel Deronda" (2002), but was back to feature films shortly thereafter, beginning in 2003 with "The Sleeping Dictionary" (2003). The period piece, which saw him romancing Borneo maiden Jessica Alba, was viewed by few, but did help to lay the groundwork for Dancy's screen persona as a sensitive young lover. However, it was Dancy's next film which firmly established him as a movie heartthrob. Though not a box office smash, "Ella Enchanted" (2004) showcased Dancy, as the handsome prince who rescues Anne Hathaway's Cinderella, in enough swoon-worthy scenarios to establish him as a major crush in the eyes of teenage female moviegoers. He also remained in courtly gear for his next effort, "King Arthur" (2004), Antoine Fuqua's ambitious revision of the Knights of the Round Table as a "Gladiator" (1999)-style action adventure. Though also a disappointment in terms of ticket sales, both features were high-profile enough to put Dancy's face in major magazines, both as an interview subject and as the model for Burberry Brit for Men, which he held down from 2004 through 2005. Dancy survived the debacle that was "Basic Instinct 2" (2006) and returned to British television to play the youthful Earl of Essex, who wooed and won over the much older "Elizabeth I." The miniseries swept the award shows in both America and Britain, including Best Miniseries trophies from both the Emmys and Golden Globes. Dancy, himself, received Emmy and Satellite Award nods for Best Supporting Actor and Best Actor, respectively. He then returned to the movies to play a young artist who falls in love with a werewolf (Agnes Bruckner) in the flop horror-romance "Blood and Chocolate" (2007). "Savage Grace" (2007) cast him as the one-time lover of disturbed heiress Barbara Daly Baekeland, who reportedly indulged in an incestuous affair with her son, while "Evening" (2007) saw him driving a wedge between Claire Danes and Patrick Wilson by confessing his affections for the latter. Though not much by way of a success in ticket sales, the film helped to launch an off-screen romance between Dancy and Danes.That same year, Dancy showed an admirable knack for comedy as a young science fiction fan enlisted to join "The Jane Austen Book Club" (2007). Initially recruited as a possible romance for recent divorcee Amy Brenneman, he instead falls for the more uptight Maria Bello, who does not reciprocate the feelings. He also returned to theater for a revival of R.C. Sherriff's World War I drama "Journey's End," which earned critical acclaim and a Tony for Best Revival of a Play that same year. The year 2009 saw Dancy dividing his time between major Hollywood features and more independent-minded fare. "Adam" cast him as a young man struggling with Asperger's Syndrome, while the animated film "Poe" tapped him to provide the voice for its hero, the melancholy author Edgar Allan Poe. "Confessions of a Shopaholic" once again fermented his romantic idol status as the object of Isla Fisher's shopping fanatic in P.J. Hogan's adaptation of two popular novels by "chick lit" favorite Sophie Kinsella. Around this time, rumors swirled that the actor had been dating Claire Dane after meeting on the set of "Evening, which was confirmed when they announced their engagement in 2009 and were secretly married in France later that year. After starring on Broadway in a production of "The Pride" (2010), Dancy was cast opposite Elizabeth Olsen in the thriller "Martha Marcy May Marlene" (2011) and played Mortimer Granville - inventor of the vibrator - in the romantic comedy "Hysteria" (2012). On the small screen, he delivered a hailed performance as a fellow cancer patient to Cathy (Laura Linney) on "The Big C" (Showtime, 2010-13), who forms a close bond with her until he passes away, leaving her devastated. Dancy next appeared on the small screen playing FBI profiler Will Graham in "Hannibal" (NBC 2013-15), Bryan Fuller's prequel to Thomas Harris's books about urbane serial killer and cannibal Hannibal Lecter. After that cult favorite series ended, Dancy co-starred with Aaron Paul in the drama "The Path" (Hulu 2016-), concerning the early days of a fringe religion.
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