Highly praised for playing roles that successfully captured the emotional complexities of men who broke all rules and invoked fear into the hearts of those who crossed them, Stephen Graham was inarguably one of the baddest of the bad boys in both Hollywood and his native England. The British actor first came to prominence when he was cast as Tommy, the dim-witted, wannabe thug in Guy Ritchie's off-beat crime film, "Snatch" (2000), The talented actor also impressed critics with his hard-hitting performance in the Martin Scorsese-helmed film, "Gangs of New York" (2002) about the Irish immigrants who went to New York City in the mid-19th century and the gang wars that erupted between them and the American patriots. Graham's authentic tough-guy persona also landed him a career-defining role in the epic gangster film "Public Enemies" (2009), alongside Johnny Depp as the enigmatic bank robber John Dillinger. Graham's unhinged portrayal of the sociopathic Chicago mobster Baby Face Nelson in this unlikely summer hit earned him worldwide acclaim and launched the multi-dimensional actor as a bona fide movie star.
Stephen Graham was born on Aug. 3, 1973 in Kirkby, Liverpool, England to his parents, a pediatric nurse and a social worker. When he was 10 years of age, he starred in a school production of "Treasure Island." The positive response he received at such a young age - particularly from teenage girls - was all it took to convince the budding thespian to pursue an acting career. He made his acting debut in the British film, "Dancin' Thru the Dark" (1990), based on Willy Russell's play that captured the essence of traditional pre-wedding celebrations in England. In 1999, Graham appeared in several episodes of "Coronation Street" (ITV, 1960- ), the UK's longest-running TV show that focused on the daily lives of the working class in Manchester, England.
After small roles on British television and in independent films, Graham's career got fast-tracked when English filmmaker Guy Ritchie, director of the art-house hit "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels" (1998), handpicked him to play Tommy, the protagonist's sidekick, in the comedy caper film, "Snatch." Graham did not even have to audition for the role. While accompanying a friend who was auditioning, Ritchie reportedly took one look at the relatively unknown actor and asked Graham to report to work a few days later. Set in London's crime-ridden underbelly, "Snatch" centered on the interlocking stories involving illegal boxing, a stolen diamond, and bodies being fed to pigs. In an ensemble film also starring Brad Pitt and Benicio Del Toro, Graham was cast as the sidekick of Turkish (Jason Statham), an illegal fight promoter who gets entangled in the missing diamond heist. The role afforded him the chance to show off his uncanny ability to switch between accents; in this case, cockney, the distinctive dialect typically spoken by working class Londoners. Graham's pitch perfect portrayal of Tommy was so convincing that some moviegoers took his role a little bit too seriously. After the movie's release in the UK, he and his wife, Hannah, became victims of an unprovoked attack outside a pub in Kirby. The incident fed rumors that Graham vowed never to return to his hometown after the altercation.
Playing tough-guy Tommy made it easy for Graham to don heavy combat gear for his role as Sgt. Myron "Mike" Ranney in the critically acclaimed miniseries "Band of Brothers" (2001), directed by Tom Hanks and produced by Steven Spielberg. The epic series was based on Stephen Ambrose's best-selling non-fiction book about a World War II U.S. airborne unit known as "Easy Company." He next starred in the Shane Meadows film "This is England" (2006) which delved into the history of England's skinhead subculture of the early 1980s, with Graham cast as Combo, an ex-con and older psychotic skinhead who takes his followers - including12-year-old Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) - on a spree of knife-wielding terror, ethnic cleansing and murder. While promoting the film, Graham described in interviews how difficult it was to play the part of the racist Combo, since, with his grandfather being Jamaican, he was of mixed race himself. In spite of the film's violent and controversial themes, Graham delivered a fully realized performance that exposed Combo's painful backstory of being an unloved kid from a broken home.
Graham continued to make his presence known among Hollywood's elite, with legendary film director Scorsese taking notice of the perennial tough guy and casting him in his Oscar-nominated film, "Gangs of New York" (2002). An American historical film set in the mid-19th century in the Five Points District of New York City, "Gangs" was about the violent rise of gang wars in New York City, led by crime boss Bill "The Butcher" Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his mob's bloody confrontations with the protagonist, Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his immigrant allies. Graham's performance did not go unnoticed by his co-star DiCaprio, who recommended the talented British actor to "Public Enemies" (2009) director Michael Mann.
Armed with a solid recommendation from DiCaprio, Graham landed a career-making role as "Baby Face" Nelson in the critically acclaimed film "Public Enemies," a gangster drama that told the true story of John Dillinger (Depp), a bank robber from Chicago who became a folk hero during the Great Depression. Critics universally praised Graham as being perfectly cast as the maniacal, trigger-happy Nelson, who earned his moniker because of his youthful appearance and small stature. Amidst sequences peppered with deafening gunfire and bloody confrontations, Graham's convincing performance as the devil-may-care gangster showcased once again his range of dangerous emotions.
Seemingly without fear of typecasting, Graham did not veer from his villainous roots after "Public Enemies." He teamed up again with Scorsese who directed the miniseries "Boardwalk Empire" (HBO, 2009 -14), about the criminal underbelly so important in the rise and fall of Atlantic City. In the TV feature, Graham played the role of the young Al Capone, a notorious tax evader who worked as muscle for a Chicago gangster. He also starred as a detective in William Monahan's noir thriller, "London Boulevard" (2010), opposite Colin Farrell.
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Made acting debut in the British film "Dancin' Thru the Dark," based on Willy Russell's play that captured the essence of traditional pre-wedding celebrations in England
Appeared in the long-running British series "Coronation Street" (ITV)
Breakthrough film role as Turkish's (Jason Statham) sidekick Tommy in Guy Ritchie's "Snatch"
Cast as Sgt. Myron 'Mike' Ranney in the critically acclaimed HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers"
Appeared in Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York"
Starred in the British "dope opera" series "Top Buzzer"
Co-starred in the crime drama feature "This Is England"
Acted opposite Johnny Depp and Christian Bale in "Public Enemies" as 'Baby Face' Nelson
Portrayed Al Capone on acclaimed HBO drama "Boardwalk Empire"; series produced by Martin Scorsese
Cast in the crime drama feature "Texas Killing Fields"
Joined Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, and Tom Hardy in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"