Michael Sheen

Michael Sheen

One of the United Kingdom's most acclaimed stage actors of the late 1990s and early 2000s, Michael Sheen, OBE, was also an accomplished film and television performer with a talent for playing figures drawn from real life, including multiple turns as Prime Minister Tony Blair, David Frost, H.G. Wells and numerous other historical personalities. Born Michael Christopher Sheen in the Welsh city of Newport, in Monmouthsire, he was raised in a family that participated in local theater and opera productions, but was initially more interested in football, and considered an offer to join the Arsenal club's youth team at the age of 12. But after completing his primary and A-level studies, Sheen decided to make acting his career of choice, and enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in 1988. His talents were made almost immediately evident: Sheen netted the Laurence Olivier Bursary - a financial award given to gifted students - in his second year at RADA, and landed his first professional role opposite Vanessa Redgrave in a 1991 production of When She Danced while still in his third and final year. After graduation, he received stellar reviews for his work in both classical and modern productions, including the world premiere of Harold Pinter's Moonlight in 1993. Sheen's screen career also launched that same year with a starring role as a suicidal man pressured into a kidnapping scheme in "Gallowglass" (BBC1, 1993). More stage roles followed, including a star turn in an ambitious multimedia production of Peer Gynt (1994), as did his feature film debut in Oliver Parker's adaptation of "Othello" (1995) with Laurence Fishburne and Kenneth Branagh. Two years later, Sheen graduated to supporting roles when he was cast as Robbie Ross, friend and lover to playwright Oscar Wilde, in 1997's "Wilde." A remarkable string of stage successes, including Olivier Award-nominated turns as Mozart in Amadeus and Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger, took up much of the tail end of the '90s, but by 2002, Sheen had devoted his energies to developing his film career. Unfortunately, much of his efforts during this period were unremarkable fare, including the supernatural action-thriller "Underworld" (2003), which starred his then significant other, Kate Beckinsale. He then returned to stage for another acclaimed run as the Roman emperor Caligula in a 2003 production of the eponymous Albert Camus play, but also found his breakout screen role that same year when he was cast as British prime minister Tony Blair in "The Deal" (Channel 4, 2003). The television feature, directed by Stephen Frears, earned considerable praise, as well as a BAFTA nomination for Sheen, who immersed himself in a tireless schedule of film and stage roles for the next three years, including a 2005 production of Nikolai Gogol's The Government Inspector and supporting turns as a egotistical rock star in the romantic comedy feature "Laws of Attraction" (2004) and a priest in Ridley Scott's historical epic "Kingdom of Heaven" (2005). He then reprised Blair, again to critical acclaim and a BAFTA nomination, in Frears' "The Queen" (2005), with Helen Mirren as a steely Queen Elizabeth II, which preceded a string of biographical projects for film television: he played British comic actor Kenneth Williams, who struggled with his sexuality and depression, in "Fantabulosa!" (2006) for BBC Four, then played H.G. Wells in BBC Two's "H.G. Wells: War with the World" (2006) and the Roman emperor Nero in the BBC One miniseries "Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire." His talent for finding the dramatic core of real-life personages continued on stage as well when he played television broadcaster David Frost opposite Frank Langella's Richard Nixon in Peter Morgan's Frost/Nixon throughout 2006 and 2007; both actors would reprise their roles in Ron Howard's film version in 2008, and Sheen would earn the Variety Award at the British Independent Film Awards that same year. After winning widespread praise from the English press for his turn as football manager Brian Clough in Tom Hooper's drama "The Damned United" (2009) and joining the Order of the British Empire that same year, Sheen settled into a string of flamboyant roles in American genre films: an Italian vampire in "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" (2009), a futuristic nightclub owner in "Tron: Legacy" (2010), the voice of the White Rabbit in "Alice in Wonderland" (2010), and a diabolical terrorist in "Unthinkable" (2010). He also found time to reprise Tony Blair for a third time in "The Special Relationship," a dramatization of the friendship between the prime minister and then-U.S. President Bill Clinton (played by Dennis Quaid). Sheen earned his first Emmy nomination for his performance, and capped 2010 with a recurring role as Tina Fey's love interest on several episodes of "30 Rock" (NBC, 2006-2013) and a BAFTA Britannia Award for British Artist of the Year. Sheen then resumed a slate of alternating film and stage awards: the latter included a BAFTA-nominated turn as star and creative director of the 72-hour play The Passion in 2011 and Hamlet at the Old Vic in 2011 and 2012, while former encompassed character turns in Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" (2012), the comedy "Admission" (2013), and the tragic Mr. Boldwood in Thomas Vinterberg's adaptation of "Far from the Madding Crowd" In 2015. He also found time to work steadily on television, most notably as researcher William H. Masters on the Showtime drama "Masters of Sex" (2013-16), for which he earned a Golden Globe Award nomination. The next few years were devoted largely to American feature films, including big-budget projects like the science fiction romance "Passengers" (2016) and "Alice Through the Looking Glass" (2016), and independent fare like Tom Ford's "Nocturnal Animals" (2016) and "Brad's Status" (2017) opposite Ben Stiller. After a run as an angel in a BBC/Amazon co-production of Terry Pratchett's "Good Omens" (2019), Sheen was cast as a serial killer who aided his son, an FBI agent, on the Fox drama "Prodigal Son" (2019). He later enjoyed a supporting turn as the antagonist to Robert Downey, Jr.'s Doctor Dolittle in "Dolittle" (2020) and played UK game show host Chris Tarrant in "Quiz" (2020), a limited series drama about a cheating scandal in England.


Guest Appearances