Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Period Drama Actor - Hugh Bonneville

This post is in answer to a request from Catherine who counts Mr. Bonneville as one of her favorite actors. Thank you for the request Catherine, I really enjoyed putting this post together!

He was born Hugh Richard Bonneville Williams in London, England on November 10th, 1963. Was educated at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. His first acting role was first on stage in 1986 when he understudied actor Ralph Fiennes as Lysander in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He spent several seasons with the National Theatre and joined the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company in 1991. His first on-screen role were small parts in television shows in the early 1990's (often credited as "Richard Bonneville"), including the TV series The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes: The Dying Detective (1994) as Victor Savage. His first film role was in Kenneth Branagh's Frankenstein (1994) where he acted alongside greats like Helena Bonahm Carter and Robert De Niro.
Over the last twenty plus years he was received great acclaim as an actor on stage, TV and in films. Many of his roles have been decidedly "period" and he has played both villains and heroes.

Take a look at some of his period drama roles:

Mr. Rushworth
Mansfield Park (1999) as Mr. Rushworth
Although I really dislike this adaptation (or rather mutilation!) of Jane Austen's classic novel, Mr. Bonneville's portrayal of rich but boring Mr. Rushworth is actually quite brilliant! He makes the character very comical and at the same time empty headed and sad. I don't recommend this film for children but for the complete Jane Austen fan it is of interest. His co-stars are Johnny Lee Miller, Frances O'Connor, Justine Waddell and Victoria Hamilton.

Charles Bovary
Madame Bovary (TV 2000) as Charles Bovary
I have only seen the first few minutes of this TV miniseries, enough to know that the story of a wife in love with someone who is not her husband was not for me. But it is a well known period drama with a prestigious cast which includes Eileen Atkins, Frances O'Connor and Hugh Dancy.
I should also mention his role in Doctor Zhivago (TV 2002) as Andrey Zhivago, another well known period drama which I watched about half of. It stars Keira Knightley in the lead role but the subject matter again isn't the best.

Henleigh Grandcourt
Daniel Deronda (TV 2002) as Henleigh Grandcourt
Seeing this film on Masterpiece Theatre was the first time I saw Mr. Bonneville in a film role and it's a miniseries that I still enjoy (with a few scenes skipped). His role as the rich scoundrel is so well played that he is completely detestable, which shows Mr. Bonneville's brilliance as an actor. It's taken me a while and seeing him in kinder roles to truly appreciate his talent. This miniseries was written by Andrew Davies, his co-stars include Ramola Garai, Hugh Dancy, Edward Fox, David Bamber, Greta Scacchi, Jodhi May and the delightful Amanda Root.


Although he has a very small part in this film it is worth checking out because I quite enjoyed this film about the life of the famous author. You can read my review here.

Reverend Brook Bridges
Miss Austen Regrets (2008) as Rev. Brook Bridges
The second of Mr. Bonneville's roles in a Jane Austen film! 

His role as the kindly minister and "old flame" of Jane Austen (played by Olivia Williams) was the bright spot of this biopic. I actually quite like this film even though it doesn't represent Miss Austen quite faithfully. His brilliance still shines through.

Mr. Bennet (and Mrs. Bennet)
Lost in Austen (2008) as Mr. Bennet
The third of Mr. Bonneville's roles in a Jane Austen related film!

When I first watched this Jane Austen time travel miniseries I didn't expect to like it but each time I watch it I like it just a little bit more. Several of the characters were fairly well cast and I quite enjoyed Hugh Bonneville's portrayal Mr. Bennet. Christened "Claude Bennet" at the beginning of the series his character continues rather comical but chivalrous at the same time. I really enjoyed reading this interview with Mr. Bonneville on his role at

Captain Oldknow
From Time to Time (2009) as Captain Oldknow
This is another TV film I've been meaning to review, it's quite lovely and Hugh Bonneville is just one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much! 

His character is a Regency era naval Captain and country gentleman who takes in an African boy as a companion for his blind daughter. Although his wife and older son scheme to squander his money but he thwarts their plans and encourages his daughter's free spirit. He's such a fair and just character that's it's hard not to like him! His co-stars include Maggie Smith, Timothy Spall, Alex Etel, Dominic West and Eliza Bennet.

Inspector Hewitt
Marple: The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side (2010) as Inspector Hewitt
He played an entertaining and insightful police Inspector alongside Julia McKenzie's lovely Miss Jane Marple. A smallish role but always lovely to see him act!

Pontius Pilate
Ben Hur (TV series, 2010) as Pontius Pilate
I haven't seen this TV series yet but the cast is quite prestigious. Anyone seen this?

Edward Masterman
Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express (2010) as Edward Masterman
I adore the Poirot movies starring David Suchet and although this adaptation doesn't quite do the original story justice I still greatly enjoy this cast! Mr. Bonneville plays the loyal manservant traveling with his unscrupulous American employer. But as is the way with mysteries not everyone is what they seem!
His co-stars include: Eileen Atkins, Toby Jones, David Morrissey and Samuel West.

Earl of Grantham
Downton Abbey (2010-2011) as Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham
Most people these days will easily recognize Mr. Bonneville from his role in the popular series Downton Abbey. I really enjoy his character who is head of  his family surrounded by a wife, three daughters and a mother who are all very opinionated. He's a charming gentleman and kind master to the many downstairs servants. I really enjoyed the first series (with a few exceptions) and look forward to the second series. 

Mr. Bonneville has also voiced several radio dramas and narrated a few documentaries as well. His voice is quite recognizable!
He's been in other period dramas and many other films and TV shows (some of which I don't recommend so I haven't mentioned them here), you can learn more about his work at his website.

Hugh & his wife Lulu

Trivia About Hugh Bonneville: 
-He is 6 foot, 2 inches tall
-He speaks French.
-Studied Theology at Cambridge before going to acting school.
-Has been married to his wife Lulu Evans Williams since 1998.
-He lives with his wife and nine-year-old son Felix is West Sussex.
-BAFTA Best Supporting Actor nominated for his portrayal of the young John Bayley in the films Iris.
-Described his Iris co-star Kate Winslet as "a force of nature."

-Hugh Bonneville Online - His official website where I got most of the information for this post.
-My Secret Life - a delightful interview he did for newspaper The Independent in May 2011.

Interview for Downton Abbey, Series 2
The long and short of it - Mr. Hugh Bonneville is a prodigiously talented gentleman. His versatile portrayals of villains and heroes alike are very brilliant! I look forward to seeing him pop up in many other period dramas in the future! 

Which of Hugh Bonneville's roles have you seen?
Which roles are your favorites?


Melody said...

I've only seen him in Daniel Deronda (what I watched of it) and so now he's kind of creepy to me. haha ;-)

That's kind of sad, though, that he's only in the Jane Austen films I don't want to see! :-/

Miss Elizabeth Bennet said...

I first saw Hugh Bonneville in Daniel Deronda; my mom and I both mistook him for Colin Firth for the first part. I didn't like his role in Daniel Deronda. I've also seen him in Downton Abbey. I really like his character in Downton Abbey much better than his in Daniel Deronda.

Pallavi said...

Very nice post indeed! I am a 'fan in the making' of Hugh Bonneville mainly because of Downton Abbey but I like his other roles too.

Yesterday I was watching Glorious 39 and its a bad movie, I know that now but Hugh Bonneville's performance was good, as always.

catherine said...

Thank you so much for the wonderful post about Mr. Bonneville. You did an excellent job showcasing his career. Lovely pictures of him too, by the way!

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