A classically trained English actor, Hugh Bonneville spent years honing his craft on stage, including a stint with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Starting in 1990, he became a fixture on the British small screen. International audiences were charmed by his supporting turns in "Notting Hill" (1999) and "Mansfield Park" (1999), but he most impressed critics for his unforgettable turn as the young John Bayley opposite Kate Winslet in the acclaimed "Iris" (2001), which earned him a Best Supporting Actor BAFTA nomination. While continuing his steady presence on British television, he earned more international attention for his supporting turns as a publisher in "Hans Christian Andersen: My Life as a Fairy Tale" (Hallmark Channel, 2003), famed diarist Samuel Pepys in "Stage Beauty" (2004), Mr. Bennet in "Lost in Austen" (ITV, 2008) and Pontius Pilate in "Ben Hur" (ABC, 2010). He once again struck critical and commercial gold with his starring role as Robert, Earl of Grantham, in the beloved "Downton Abbey" (ITV, 2010-16), which saw him playing husband to Elizabeth McGovern. Immensely charismatic and talented, Hugh Bonneville displayed an amazing range, able to dazzle in comedy and drama as well as period and contemporary pieces.
Born Nov. 10, 1963 in London, England, Hugh Richard Bonneville Williams was a classically trained actor who graduated from the National Youth Theatre, the University of Cambridge, and the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art. After beginning his professional stage career, he joined the National Theatre in 1987, then the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1991, where he played Laertes to Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet. Bonneville made his onscreen debut with a slew of television appearances, including roles in "Chancer" (ITV, 1990-91), "Dodgem" (BBC, 1991) and "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes" (PBS, 1994). After his film debut in 1994's "Frankenstein," he landed recurring roles on "The Vet" (BBC, 1995), "Married for Life" (ITV, 1996), "Get Well Soon" (BBC, 1997) and "Mosley" (Channel 4, 1998).
For his film roles, Bonneville was frequently cast as lovable bumbling characters, including crowd-pleasing turns in "Notting Hill" (1999), "Mansfield Park" (1999) and "Blow Dry" (2001). He starred in "The Cazalets" (PBS, 2001) but earned some of his most glowing reviews for playing the young John Bayley opposite Kate Winslet in the wrenching biopic of the writer Iris Murdoch in the internationally acclaimed "Iris" (2001). Bonneville earned a slew of plaudits, winning the Berlin International Film Festival's New Talent Award as well as nominations for a Best Supporting Actor BAFTA and European Film Award. He took darker roles in "Daniel Deronda" (BBC, 2002) and "The Commander" (ITV, 2003), playing murderer James Lampton, a role he reprised in two 2005 sequels.
The actor played a flurry of real-life men, including the poet Philip Larkin in "Love Again" (BBC, 2003), Sir Christopher Wren in "Wren: The Man Who Built Britain" (BBC, 2004), the publisher of the work of "Hans Christian Andersen: My Life as a Fairy Tale" (Hallmark Channel, 2003), and the famed diarist Samuel Pepys in the Claire Danes big screen drama "Stage Beauty" (2004). Bonneville continued to notch high-profile recurring television roles, including juicy parts on "The Robinsons" (BBC2, 2005), the Jenna Elfman sitcom "Courting Alex" (CBS, 2006), "Five Days" (BBC, 2007-2010) and "Bonekickers" (BBC, 2008). He delighted as the beloved Pride and Prejudice character Mr. Bennet in the internationally adored miniseries "Lost in Austen" (ITV, 2008).
Fluent in French as well as English, he lent his mellifluous voice to narrate "Ruth Watson's Hotel Rescue" (Channel 4, 2009) and "Country House Rescue" (Channel 4, 2008- ), as well as played Pontius Pilate in "Ben Hur" (ABC, 2010) and recurred on "The Silence" (BBC, 2010), "Twenty Twelve" (BBC4, 2011-12), "Doctor Who" (BBC, 1963-89; 2005- ) and "Rev." (BBC2, 2010-14). He notched another international success by playing Robert, Earl of Grantham, husband of Cora, Countess of Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern) in the universally popular period drama "Downton Abbey" (ITV, 2010-16). In a nice bit of serendipity, Bonneville and McGovern had played spouses once before, in "Freezing" (BBC, 2007-08). Showered with acclaim as well as honors for his work in the sprawling yet detailed drama, Bonneville was nominated for a Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Golden Globe, and soon followed up with an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.
By Jonathan Riggs
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made his professional debut at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and understudying Ralph Fiennes as Lysander
Made his television acting debut (billed as Richard Bonneville) on the ITV crime drama series "Chancer"
Joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, appearing in "Two Gentlemen of Verona," "The Alchemist," and "Amphibians"; also played Laertes to Kenneth Branagh's "Hamlet"
Made his feature film debut in "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," directed by Branagh
Was cast as good natured, bumbling characters in "Notting Hill" and "Mansfield Park"
Took a villainous turn in the BBC's "Take a Girl Like You"
Earned critical praise for playing the young John Bayley opposite Kate Winslet in "Iris"
Portrayed poet Philip Larkin in the BBC drama "Love Again"
Starred in a production of "Cloaca" at London's Old Vic Theatre
Won critical raves for his solo performance as Mr. Pooter, a middle aged city clerk, in "The Diary of a Nobody" (BBC)
Landed a featured role as detective Iain Barclay in the crime drama miniseries "Five Days" (BBC/HBO)
Reprised role of Iain Barclay in the two-part police drama "Hunter" (BBC)
Cast as Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham on the ensemble British period drama "Downton Abbey" (ITV/PBS)
Guest starred on the long running sci-fi series "Doctor Who" (BBC)
Starred as Ian Fletcher on "W1A"
Was the book narrator on "Sofia the First"
Starred in the well-received sequel "Paddington 2"