Jim Broadbent is one of Britain’s best loved actors who has achieved Hollywood success, winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 2002 alongside Dame Judi Dench in Iris. 

The award added to his impressive collection that included a 2002 Golden Globe where Jim beat off strong competition from fellow Brits Colin Firth (Bridget Jones’ Diary) and Robbie Coltrane (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) together with a BAFTA award in the same year, a world away from his humble beginnings in Lincolnshire.

jimJim was born on 24th May, 1949 to Roy and Dee. The couple were part of a small community of conscientious objectors working the land rather than going to war.

Jim’s father was a local artist and furniture maker and his mother was a keen amateur actress. They were also both founder members of the Lindsey Rural Players. It seems that acting was quite literally in Jim’s blood.

Jim was raised in Lincolnshire before going to school in Reading and then on to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts from where he graduated in 1972. Since then he has gone from strength to strength.

He has an enviable list of theatre, TV and film credits to his name. Jim began his career working in small-scale, regional theatre productions. His big break came in 1976 when he played more than a dozen different characters in Ken Campbell’s Illuminatus, a 12 hour science-fiction play.

His television appearances have included Wide Eyed and Legless, Blackadder and the lead role in The Peter Principle and more recently Game of Thrones series seven.

im playing John Bayley alongside Dame Judi Dench in Iris directed by Richard Eyre.
im playing John Bayley alongside Dame Judi Dench in Iris directed by Richard Eyre.

In the early 1980s he was approached to play Derek Trotter in Only Fools and Horses. When he wouldn’t commit, the role went to David Jason instead. “I like to say that it was my big contribution to British culture,” he says. “I would have done one series and it wouldn’t have been particularly successful. And even if it had been successful, I’d have wanted to do something else. And then the world would never have known Only Fools and Horses.” He later appeared in the show as bent copper Roy Slater.

Unlike many actors, Jim did not have to wait too long before getting involved in films. Small roles started coming as early as 1978 and gradually increased in size and quantity. He made particularly noteworthy appearances in The Crying Game and Little Voice. More recently he has been seen in Bridget Jones’s Diary (playing Bridget’s father) Moulin Rouge (as Harold Zidler) and as John Bayley in Iris.

Hollywood was never a great lure. “Occasionally I’ve been asked to do American roles, and once or twice I have, but I don’t understand Americans. I don’t have any real feeling for American culture. I do have it with British culture. I understand what makes us tick. To a degree.”

In the wake of his Oscar, he was offered an OBE. He decided to turn it down. “I didn’t think it would suit me. I’ve been fairly selfish with everything I’ve done and I get enough prizes elsewhere and I didn’t think I deserved it, really. And also my father died when I was 22 and he was quite an anarchic spirit, and he would have been proud of me to have turned it down. You know how it is, the usual line: ‘Oh, I accepted it for my parents.’ Whereas I turned it down for my parents. But I was lucky because the list was leaked, which meant I got the best of both worlds. They knew I’d been offered it and they knew I’d turned it down.”