James Nesbitt: Wikis


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James Nesbitt
A man with a receding hairline smiles. He wears a light blue shirt with an open collar and a charcoal grey jacket.
Nesbitt in July 2008
Born 15 January 1965 (1965-01-15) (age 45)
Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Occupation Actor
Years active 1981–present (filmography)
Spouse(s) Sonia Forbes-Adam

James Nesbitt (born 15 January 1965) is an actor from Northern Ireland. Born in Ballymena, County Antrim, Nesbitt grew up in the nearby village of Broughshane, before moving to Coleraine, County Londonderry. He wanted to become a teacher, like his father, so began a degree in French at the University of Ulster. He dropped out after a year when he decided to become an actor, and transferred to the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. After graduating in 1987, he spent seven years performing in plays that varied from the musical Up on the Roof (1987, 1989) to the political drama Paddywack (1994). He made his feature film debut playing talent agent Fintan O'Donnell in Hear My Song (1991).

Nesbitt got his breakthrough television role playing Adam Williams in the romantic comedy-drama Cold Feet (ITV, 1998–2003), which won him a British Comedy Award, a Television and Radio Industries Club Award, and a National Television Award. His first significant film role came when he appeared as pig farmer "Pig" Finn in Waking Ned (1998). With the rest of the starring cast, Nesbitt was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award. In Lucky Break (2001), he made his debut as a film lead playing prisoner Jimmy Hands. The next year, he played Ivan Cooper in the television film Bloody Sunday, about the 1972 shootings in Derry. A departure from his previous "cheeky chappie" roles, the film was a turning point in his career. He won a British Independent Film Award and was nominated for the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor.

Nesbitt has also starred in Murphy's Law (BBC One, 2003–2007) as undercover detective Tommy Murphy—a role that was created for him by writer Colin Bateman. The role twice gained Nesbitt Best Actor nominations at the Irish Film & Television Awards (IFTA). In 2004, he starred in the fact-based drama Wall of Silence as the father of a murdered boy, a role that gained him another IFTA nomination. In 2007, he starred in the dual role of Tom Jackman and Mr Hyde in Steven Moffat's Jekyll, which earned him a Golden Globe Award nomination in 2008. Nesbitt has since appeared in several more dramatic roles; he starred alongside Liam Neeson in Five Minutes of Heaven (2009), was one of three lead actors in the television miniseries Occupation (2009), and is due to star in his first horror film Outcast (2010).

Nesbitt is married to former actress Sonia Forbes-Adam, with whom he has two daughters, and he is a patron of numerous charities.


Early life and education

James Nesbitt was born on 15 January 1965 in Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.[1][2] His father, James "Jim" Nesbitt, was the headmaster of the primary school in Lisnamurrican, a hamlet near Broughshane, while his mother, May Nesbitt, was a civil servant.[3][4] Jim and May already had three daughters—Margaret, Kathryn and Andrea.[4] The family lived in the house adjoining the one-room school where Nesbitt was one of 32 pupils taught by Jim; the other pupils were all farmers' children. Nesbitt grew up "completely" around women, and spent a lot of time alone, "kicking a ball against a wall".[5] He had ambitions to play football for Manchester United, or to become a teacher like his father. The family was Ulster Presbyterian, and Lisnamurrican was in "Paisley country".[5] The Nesbitts spent Sunday evenings singing hymns around the piano. Jim marched in the Ballymena Young Conquerors flute band and Nesbitt joined him playing the flute. After the Drumcree conflicts, they stopped marching with the band.[5][6] The family's residence in the countryside left them largely unaffected by the Troubles, although Nesbitt, his father, and one of his sisters narrowly escaped a car bomb explosion outside of Ballymena County Hall in the early 1970s.[7][8]

When Nesbitt was 11 years old, the family moved to Coleraine, County Londonderry, where May worked for the Housing Executive.[2] He completed his primary education at Blagh primary school, then moved on to Coleraine Academical Institution (CAI).[3] In 1978, when he was 13, his parents took him to auditions for the Riverside Theatre's Christmas production of Oliver!, and he made his acting debut playing the Artful Dodger. He continued to act and sing with the Riverside until he was 16, and appeared at festivals and as an extra in Play For Today: The Cry (Christopher Menaul, 1984).[5][9] He got his Equity card when the professional actor playing Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio broke his ankle two days before the performance, and Nesbitt stepped in to take his place.[2] Acting had not initially appealed to him, but he "felt a light go on" after he saw The Winslow Boy (Anthony Asquith, 1948).[10] When he was 15, he got his first paid job as a bingo caller at Barry's Amusements in Portrush. He was paid £1 per hour for the summer job and would also, on occasions, work as the brake man on the big dipper.[2][11]

He left CAI at the age of 18 and began a degree in French at the University of Ulster's Jordanstown campus.[2][3] He stayed at university for a year before dropping out. In a 1999 interview, Nesbitt said, "I had the necessary in my head, but I just couldn't be bothered. Being 18 is the worst age to expect people to learn things. There are other things to be bothered with, like girls and football."[4] He made the decision to quit when he was trying to write an overdue essay on existentialism in Les Mains Sales at 4 a.m. one day.[12] His father suggested that he should move to England if he wanted to continue acting, so Nesbitt enrolled at the Central School of Speech and Drama (CSSD) in London.[5][13] Nesbitt felt lost and misrepresented when he first arrived in London, on account of his Northern Irish background; "When I first came to drama school I was a Paddy the minute I walked in. And I remember going to drama school and them all saying to me, 'Aww, yeah, Brits out', and I was like 'It's a wee bit more complicated than that, you know.'"[7][13] He graduated in 1987, at the age of 22.[2]

Acting career

Theatre and Hear My Song

The day after leaving CSSD in 1987, Nesbitt got a bit part in Virtuoso, a BBC Two Screen Two television play about the life of John Ogdon.[2] He worked for two days on the play, earning £250 per day.[4] His first professional stage appearance came in the same year, when he played Keith in Up on the Roof. The musical ran at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, before transferring to the London West End. Nesbitt reprised the role when the production returned to Plymouth in early 1989.[14] He appeared in two other plays in 1989; in June, he played Dukes Frederick and Senior in Paul Jepson's As You Like It at the Rose Theatre Club,[15] and then appeared in Yuri Lyubimov's version of Hamlet. Hamlet had been translated back to English from Boris Pasternak's Russian translation. It ran at the Haymarket Theatre, Leicester from 19 September to 7 October before a move to the Bristol Old Vic and a nine-month world tour. Nesbitt played Guildenstern, Barnardo and the second gravedigger.[5][16][17] He recalled that the play received "shocking" reviews, but was exciting.[16]

In the early 1990s, he lived with fellow actor Jerome Flynn and earned money by signing fan mail for the successful star of Soldier Soldier.[13] In his debut feature film, Hear My Song (Peter Chelsom, 1991), Nesbitt played Fintan O'Donnell, a struggling theatrical agent and friend of Mickey O'Neill (Adrian Dunbar). A New York Times critic wrote, "the jaunty, bemused Mr. Nesbitt, manages to combine soulfulness with sly humor".[18] The praise he received made him self-assured and complacent; in 2001, he recalled, "When I did Hear My Song, I disappeared so far up my own arse afterwards. I thought, 'Oh, that's it, I've cracked it.' And I'm glad that happened, because you then find out how expendable actors are."[5] His attitude left him out of work for six months after the film was released.[13] Until 1994, he mixed his stage roles with supporting roles on television in episodes of Boon, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Covington Cross, Lovejoy, and Between the Lines. In 1993, he appeared in Love Lies Bleeding, an instalment of the BBC anthology series Screenplay and his first appearance in a production directed by Michael Winterbottom; he later appeared in Go Now (1995), Jude (1996) and Welcome to Sarajevo (1997). A Guardian journalist wrote that "he showed himself to be a generous supporting actor" in Jude and Sarajevo.[5]

Back on stage, he appeared as Doalty in Translations (Gwenda Hughes, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, May–June 1991),[19] Aidan in Una Pooka (Mark Lambert and Nicholas Kent, Tricycle Theatre, July 1992),[20] Damien in Paddywack (Michael Latimer, Cockpit Theatre, March 1994),[21] and Jesus in Darwin's Flood (Simon Stokes, Bush Theatre, May 1994).[22] Paddywack, in which Nesbitt's character is suspected by others of being an IRA member, transferred to the United States for a run at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut in October 1994. A Variety critic called Damien "the play's only fully developed character" and commended Nesbitt for giving "the one strong, telling performance [of the cast]".[23] In 1996, Nesbitt appeared in an episode of the BBC Northern Ireland television drama Ballykissangel, playing Leo McGarvey, the ex-boyfriend of Assumpta Fitzgerald (Dervla Kirwan) and love rival of Peter Clifford (Stephen Tompkinson). He reprised the role for four episodes in 1998.[24]

Cold Feet and early films

In 1996, Nesbitt auditioned to play Adam Williams, the male lead in Cold Feet, an ITV Comedy Premiere about three couples in different stages of their romantic relationships. The audition came about through a mutual friend of Nesbitt's and the director, Declan Lowney.[25] The producer, Christine Langan, had also recalled his performances in Hear My Song and Go Now.[26] Adam had not been written with an Irishman in mind to play him—English writer Mike Bullen had written the character as a thinly-veiled portrayal of himself in his youth—but Nesbitt wanted to take the opportunity to appear in a contemporary drama as an ordinary man from Northern Ireland with no connection to the Troubles, especially after the Troubles-based plot of Love Lies Bleeding.[25][27] Cold Feet was a critical success; it won the 1997 Golden Rose of Montreux and the 1997 British Comedy Award for Best ITV Comedy and was thus commissioned for a full series.[28] Cold Feet's first series aired at the end of 1998 and was followed by the second series in 1999.[29] A storyline in that series featured Adam being diagnosed with testicular cancer, which inspired Nesbitt to become a patron of the charity Action Cancer.[30] By the time of the third series, Nesbitt and the other cast members were able to influence the show's production; an episode featuring Adam's stag weekend was due to be filmed on location in Dublin but Nesbitt suggested it be filmed in Belfast and Portrush instead. Several scenes were filmed at his old workplace Barry's Amusements, although they were cut from the broadcast episode.[31][32] At the end of the fourth series in 2001, Nesbitt decided to quit to move on to other projects. Executive producer Andy Harries persuaded him to stay for one more series by suggesting that Adam be killed off, so Nesbitt signed on for the fifth series. During pre-production of the fifth series, Mike Bullen decided to kill off Adam's wife Rachel (played by Helen Baxendale) instead.[33]

Cold Feet ran for five years from 1998 to 2003, and Nesbitt won the British Comedy Award for Best TV Comedy Actor in 2000,[34] the Television and Radio Industries Club Award for Drama TV Performer of the Year in 2002,[35] the National Television Award for Most Popular Comedy Performance in 2003,[36] and the TV Quick Award for Best Actor in 2003.[37] Nesbitt credits the role with raising his profile with the public.[2] Further television roles during these five years included women's football team coach John Dolan in the first two series of Kay Mellor's Playing the Field (appearing alongside his Cold Feet co-star John Thomson), investigative journalists Ryan and David Laney in Resurrection Man (Marc Evans, 1998) and Touching Evil II respectively, and womaniser Stanley in Women Talking Dirty (Coky Giedroyc, 1999).[13]

Nesbitt's performance in Hear My Song had also impressed first-time screenwriter and film director Kirk Jones, who cast him in his 1998 feature film Waking Ned.[13] Playing amiable pig farmer "Pig" Finn brought Nesbitt to international attention, particularly in the United States (where the film was released as Waking Ned Devine); the cast was nominated for the 1999 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Theatrical Motion Picture.[12][38] In 1999, he appeared as the paramilitary "Mad Dog" Billy Wilson in The Most Fertile Man in Ireland (Dudi Appleton). The following year, he appeared in Declan Lowney's feature debut, Wild About Harry. Lowney had personally asked him to appear in the supporting role of cross-dressing Unionist politician Walter Adair.[5] In 2001, he made his debut as a lead actor in a feature film in Peter Cattaneo's Lucky Break. He played Jimmy Hands, an incompetent bank robber who masterminds an escape from a prison by staging a musical as a distraction.[5] On preparing for the role, Nesbitt said, "Short of robbing a bank there wasn't much research I could have done but we did spend a day in Wandsworth Prison and that showed the nightmare monotony of prisoners' lives. I didn't interview any of the inmates because I thought it would be a little patronising as it was research for a comedy and also because we were going home every night in our fancy cars to sleep in our fancy hotels."[27] The film was a commercial failure, despite receiving good feedback from test audiences in the United States.[16]

Bloody Sunday

Nesbitt had been approached at a British Academy Television Awards ceremony by director Paul Greengrass, who wanted him to star in a television drama he was making about the 1972 "Bloody Sunday" shootings in Derry. Nesbitt was only seven years old when the shootings happened and was ignorant of its cause; he believed that there was "no smoke without fire" and that the Catholic marchers must have done something to provoke the British Army.[39] He was filming Cold Feet in Manchester when he received the script. He read it and found that had "an extraordinary effect" on him.[39] Nesbitt played Ivan Cooper in Bloody Sunday, the man who pressed for the march to go ahead. To prepare for the role, Nesbitt met with Cooper and spent many hours talking to him about his motives on that day.[40] He met with relatives of the victims and watched the televised Bloody Sunday Inquiry with them, and also read Don Mullan's Eyewitness Bloody Sunday and Peter Pringle and Philip Jacobson's Those Are Real Bullets, Aren't They?.[39] Greengrass compared Nesbitt's preparation to an athlete preparing for a race, and told The Observer, "For an Irish actor, doing the Troubles is like doing Lear."[39] Nesbitt had questioned whether he was a good enough actor to effectively portray Cooper and was worried what Derry Catholics would think of a Protestant playing the lead.[39]

Shortly before Bloody Sunday was broadcast, Nesbitt described it as "difficult but extraordinary" and "emotionally draining".[39] The broadcast on ITV in January 2002 and its promotion did not pass without incident; he was criticised by Unionists for saying that Protestants in Northern Ireland felt "a collective guilt" over the killings.[41] His parents' home was also vandalised and he received death threats.[42] During the awards season, Nesbitt won the British Independent Film Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a British Independent Film and was nominated for the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor.[43][44] The film was also screened at film festivals such as the Stockholm International Film Festival, where Nesbitt was presented with the Best Actor award.[45]

In an analysis of the film in the History & Memory journal, Aileen Blaney[46] opined that it is Nesbitt's real-life household name status that made his portrayal of Cooper such a success. She reasoned that Nesbitt's celebrity status mirrors that of Cooper's in the 1970s: "A household name across Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, Nesbitt's widespread popular appeal is emphatically not contingent upon his Protestant Ulster identity, and consequently the double-voicing of the character he plays does not alienate viewers of an alternative, or no, sectarian persuasion."[47] Guardian journalist Susie Steiner suggested that his appearance in Bloody Sunday was an attempt to resolve the expression of his "Irishness" on screen: "Where he has taken part in a sectarian theme, his intelligence as an actor has often been masked by an excessive, cartoon-style comedy. Yet in his more successful, high-profile roles, (notably in Cold Feet, and as Pig Finn in the gently pastoral film Waking Ned), Nesbitt's Irishness has been exploited for its romantic charm. It has been sugared and, in the process, de-politicised."[5] A critic identified Bloody Sunday as Nesbitt's "coming of age" film, and Nesbitt called it a turning point in his career.[16][39] He refers to his career since the film was released as "post-Bloody Sunday".[48]

Murphy's Law

In 2003, Nesbitt played undercover police detective Tommy Murphy in the first series of Murphy's Law, after starring in a successful pilot episode in 2001. The series was conceived when Nesbitt was working on Playing the Field; he and producer Greg Brenman approached author Colin Bateman about creating a television series for Nesbitt in a similar vein to Bateman's Dan Starkey novels.[49] Bateman and Nesbitt were already well acquainted; Nesbitt had been considered for a main role in Divorcing Jack (David Caffrey, 1998), based on Bateman's original novel.[50] A 90-minute pilot of Murphy's Law was commissioned by the BBC, initially as a "comedy action adventure".[49] Bateman created a complex backstory for Murphy, which was cut at the request of the producers.[5] After the broadcast of the pilot, Guardian critic Gareth McLean wrote, "the likeable James Nesbitt turned in a strong, extremely watchable central performance, though rarely did he look taxed by his efforts, and his chemistry with [Claudia] Harrison was promising and occasionally electric."[51] In 2003, Nesbitt won the Irish Film & Television Award (IFTA) for Best Actor in a TV Drama for the role.[52] The second series was broadcast in 2004.

By 2005, Nesbitt had become tired of the formula and threatened to quit unless the structure of the series was changed. He was made a creative consultant and suggested that Murphy keep one undercover role for a full series, instead of changing into a new guise every episode.[53] This new dramatic element to the series was intended to make it a closer representation of real-life undercover work.[49] Alongside his research with former undercover officer Peter Bleksley, Nesbitt hired a personal trainer and grew a handlebar moustache to change Murphy's physical characteristics and tone down the "cheeky chappie" persona that the audience had become accustomed to from his roles.[54] With his trainer, he worked out three times a week, boxing and doing circuits and weights.[55] After the first new episode was broadcast, Sarah Vine wrote in The Times, "In the past, when attempting a nasty stare or a hard face, Nesbitt has never managed much more than a faintly quizzical look, hilarity forever threatening to break out behind those twinkly Irish eyes. But here, it's different. He genuinely has the air of a man who means business."[56] The refreshed series marked another milestone in Nesbitt's career; he describes it as "a big moment" in his life.[54] Murphy's Law was not recommissioned for a sixth series, which Nesbitt attributed to the damage done to the fifth series ratings when it was scheduled opposite the popular ITV drama Doc Martin.[57]

Dramatic roles in 2004–2005

In 2004, Nesbitt appeared in Wall of Silence, a fact-based drama about the aftermath of the murder of schoolboy Jamie Robe. Nesbitt played Stuart Robe, the boy's father, who tries to break down the wall of silence in the local community to discover exactly what happened to his son. He had only just completed Bloody Sunday when he was offered the part and was unsure whether he wanted to take on such a demanding role so soon after playing Ivan Cooper. He decided to accept the part because he found it interesting. To prepare for the role, Nesbitt met with Robe and spent weeks talking to him in his South London flat, learning about Jamie, and of Robe's fight for his justice. Nesbitt spoke with his natural accent instead of affecting Robe's South London speech, as he did not want the audience to be distracted from the drama. The single-drama was filmed over four weeks and broadcast in January 2004.[58] The role gained Nesbitt an IFTA nomination for Best Actor in a TV Drama later that year.[59]

A man squints in sunlight.
Nesbitt at the 2009 BAFTA awards

In March 2004, he appeared in Tony Marchant's Passer By, playing Joe Keyes, a man who witnesses a woman being accosted by some men on a train and chooses not to help. Keyes later discovers that the woman was raped but cannot bring himself to admit in court that he did nothing to help her. Nesbitt described Keyes as "like a better man than me: a good father and husband. But, once he has made a wrong decision, he can't control everything in his life, as he thinks he is weak. He loses the respect of his wife, his son and at work, and has to reach the lowest possible point before finding redemption."[60] As a result of these serious roles, he was named the sixth most powerful figure in TV drama in a listing compiled by industry experts for the Radio Times.[61] In September 2004, he starred as Jack Parlabane in the ITV adaptation of Christopher Brookmyre's Quite Ugly One Morning. The producers originally wanted Scottish actor Douglas Henshall to play Glaswegian Parlabane but ITV executives overruled them and cast Nesbitt.[62] He was given coaching to perfect the accent but it was soon discarded on the advice of both the director and his co-star Daniela Nardini.[42][53] Also in 2004, he filmed the roles of Ronnie Cunningham in Millions (Danny Boyle, 2004), and Detective Banner in Match Point (Woody Allen, 2005). He was considering taking time off from acting and did not really want the role in Match Point. He sent in an audition tape and was accepted for the part. Nesbitt's character appears at the end of the film and he read only that part of the script, so did not know the full circumstances of the crime Banner investigates.[16] Despite his initial reluctance, Nesbitt enjoyed working with Allen, and complimented him on his directing style.[63]

Nesbitt returned to theatre acting in June 2005 when he appeared in David Nicholls' After Sun, a ten-minute-play performed as part of the Old Vic's 24-Hour Play season. Nesbitt and Catherine Tate starred as a married couple who meet a pair of newlyweds returning from their honeymoon.[64] Later that year, he appeared in his first full-length play in 11 years, in Owen McCafferty's Shoot the Crow. He enjoyed the stimulation of learning his lines and rehearsing with the cast and director.[16] The play opened at the Trafalgar Studios in September 2005 and his role as Socrates gained mixed reviews. In The Independent, Michael Coveney suggested the role did not fit the actor: "Nesbitt is cool. But I never felt that he was inside his role of a chap called Socrates [...] He grinned and shrugged through the evening which steadily became less about grouting on tiles and more about grating on nerves."[65] In The Daily Telegraph, Charles Spencer described Nesbitt's acting as "outstanding".[66]

Further dramatic acclaim

"You have to have someone like him—if it is a big, expensive show, you have to have a big name, otherwise you won't get the budget frankly [...] Over the months of filming, he turned in one of the most astonishing, inventive, heartfelt and daring performances I have seen."

Jekyll writer Steven Moffat on Nesbitt[67]

At the end of 2005, Nesbitt and his agent met with BBC Controller of Fiction Jane Tranter to discuss a new series of Murphy's Law. At the meeting's conclusion, Tranter offered Nesbitt the first episode script of Jekyll, a television series by Steven Moffat that updated Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Nesbitt spent three hours reading the script before accepting the role of Tom Jackman—and his alter-ego Mr Hyde. After signing on for the role, he met with Moffat and Hartswood Films executive producer Beryl Vertue to discuss the character, and had several make-up tests. His anticipation for the part was heightened because filming was not scheduled to begin until September 2006.[68] Nesbitt spent an hour each day being made up as Hyde; a wig altered his hairline and prosthetics were added to his chin, nose and ear lobes. He also wore black contact lenses to make Hyde "soulless", though CGI was used to show the transformation from Jackman in close-ups.[69] The series was broadcast on BBC One in June and July 2007. The role secured him a nomination from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, and a nomination for the Rose d'Or for Best Entertainer.[70][71]

In 2008, he starred as Pontius Pilate in The Passion, a BBC/HBO adaptation of the last week in the life of Jesus. He had originally rejected the script due to other filming commitments, but accepted the role after his agent told him to re-read it before making a final decision.[72][73] He was pleased to learn that the serial was being produced by Nigel Stafford-Clark, whose Bleak House adaptation he had enjoyed, and that he would be appearing with his Jekyll co-star Denis Lawson.[10] Contrary to previous portrayals of Pilate, Nesbitt played the biblical figure as "nice", and—as when playing Jack Parlabane—used his own accent. The serial was broadcast in the UK during Easter week 2008.[72] Shortly after filming The Passion, he filmed the part of journalist Max Raban in the Carnival Films thriller Midnight Man, which was shown on ITV in May 2008.[45] It won him a joint nomination (along with the 2007 series of Murphy's Law) for the ITV3 Crime Thriller Award for Best Actor.[74] The following year, Nesbitt co-starred with Liam Neeson in the fact-based television film Five Minutes of Heaven (Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2009). The first part of the film dramatises the real-life murder of Jim Griffin by Alistair Little in 1970s Lurgan; the second part features a fictional meeting between Little (Neeson) and Jim's brother Joe (Nesbitt) 33 years later. Nesbitt met with Griffin before filming began to learn about how his brother's murder affected him. The film was broadcast on BBC Two in April 2009.[75] He also starred as Colour Sgt. Mike Swift in the three-part BBC/Kudos television serial Occupation. In Occupation, set over six years, Nesbitt's character is one of three British soldiers who return to Basra, Iraq after their tours have concluded. He researched the role by speaking to Territorial Army soldiers in Belfast, and RAF officers in Morocco, where the serial was filmed.[76] Both performances were commended by Independent journalist Hugh Montgomery; in a review of 2009's television, Montgomery named Nesbitt "Face of the Year", writing, "Just as you had James Nesbitt written off as the gurning embodiment of everything mediocre about British TV drama, he produced two stonking performances, as the transfixingly harrowed sergeant in Occupation, and a nervily vengeful victim's relative in Irish-troubles piece Five Minutes of Heaven. Give the man a Bafta."[77]

In a departure from his previous character types, he plays the lead role of Cathal, a killer who can see into the future, in the Celtic horror film Outcast. The film was shot in March 2009[78] and is due for presentation at the South by Southwest Film Conference.[79] In May 2009, he began an eight-week shoot in Melbourne, Australia playing the leading role of Connor in a new Nadia Tass film called Matching Jack.[80] He has also filmed a role in Emilio Estevez's drama The Way,[81] and the Tiger Aspect television serial The Deep.[82] He is due to film roles in Jay Russell's comedy film Whole Lotta Sole[83] and Ralph Fiennes' adaptation of Coriolanus.[82]

Other projects

A man wearing a black suit and tie and a microphone headset has his arm on a man wearing glasses and a brown shirt, who holds a trophy.
Nesbitt presenting an award for Retailer of the Year, one of the many awards ceremonies he hosts

In 2002, Nesbitt made his documentary debut as the presenter of James Nesbitt's Blazing Saddles, a production for BBC Choice that saw him spend two weeks in Las Vegas at the National Finals Rodeo and the Miss Rodeo America pageant.[84] In 2007, he was the guest host of an episode of the late-night Channel 4 comedy The Friday Night Project.[85] As a film awards presenter, he hosted the IFTA Awards ceremony for three consecutive years between 2005 and 2007,[86] the British Independent Film Awards since 2005,[87] and the 2nd National Movie Awards in 2008.[88] In 2009, he hosted the Laurence Olivier Awards.[89] He also hosted the 2009 GQ Awards, where a joke he made about Kate Moss led the model to leave the ceremony abruptly. Afterwards, Nesbitt stated the joke had been "blown out of proportion" by tabloid newspapers.[90]

An amateur golfer since his teenage years, Nesbitt joined the European team for Sky One's All*Star Cup in 2005 and 2006.[91] He signed up to a series of high-profile television advertisements for the Yell Group in 2003, playing a hapless character called "James" for the company's Yellow Pages campaign until 2006.[92] Times writer Andrew Billen noted that the adverts "cost him some credibility" but Nesbitt was pleased with the money he made from them.[48][91] In 2004, he joined the supergroup Twisted X to produce "Born in England", an unofficial anthem for the England national football team's entry in the UEFA Euro 2004 tournament.[93] His vocals have also appeared in Lucky Break and an episode of Cold Feet. The song he performed in the latter—"(Love Is) The Tender Trap"—was released on one of the series' soundtrack albums.[94] He also contributed vocals to the Waking Ned soundtrack.[95] A fan of Irish band Ash, he made a cameo in their unreleased film Slashed.[96] In 2009, he starred in the music video for "The Day I Died", a single by English dance-pop artist Just Jack. Nesbitt was recommended to Just Jack by Elton John.[97]

Personal life

Two men in a black suits.
Nesbitt and his Five Minutes of Heaven co-star Liam Neeson at the closing of the Belfast Lyric in January 2008.

Nesbitt is married to Sonia Forbes-Adam. The two met during the Hamlet production in 1989 and soon began dating. They split up for a year after the release of Hear My Song but reunited and married in 1994.[13] They have since had two daughters, Peggy and Mary. Nesbitt's three sisters all became teachers and his sister-in-law is Victoria Forbes-Adam, the director of the Coalition Against Child Soldiers.[4][63] In 2002, a Sunday tabloid published an interview with a legal secretary who claimed to have had a two-month affair with Nesbitt. Shortly afterwards, another tabloid story revealed an affair with a prostitute, who claimed Nesbitt had boasted of liaisons with his Cold Feet co-star Kimberley Joseph, and Amanda Brunker, a former Miss Ireland.[8][48][98] Commenting on the publication of details about his personal life, Nesbitt has said he feared that he would lose his marriage, though the exposing of his "dual life" allowed him to "take a long and considered look" at himself.[8][98]

Nesbitt is a patron of Wave, a charity set up to support those traumatised by the Troubles. The charity faced closure due to funding problems before Nesbitt encouraged celebrities and artists to become involved.[8] Since 2005, he has been a UNICEF UK ambassador, working with HIV and AIDS sufferers, and former child soldiers in Africa. He describes the role as "a privilege".[63] Writing in The Independent about his visit to Zambia in 2006, Nesbitt concluded that the children he met were owed a social and moral responsibility.[99] The article was described in the Evening Standard as "moving and notably well-crafted".[98] Since 1999, he has been a patron of Action Cancer, a result of both his father's affliction with prostate cancer and a storyline in the second series of Cold Feet, where his character suffered testicular cancer.[30] He has been an honorary patron of Youth Lyric, one of Ireland's largest theatre schools, since 2007.[100] He is a fan of football teams Coleraine F.C. and Manchester United. In 2003, Nesbitt made a donation of "thousands of pounds" to Coleraine, after the team came close to bankruptcy. He has called the team "a heartbeat" of Coleraine and encouraged more people to watch Irish League football.[101] Nesbitt was a vocal opponent of Malcolm Glazer's 2005 takeover of Manchester United, though after he did television advertisements promoting executive boxes at Old Trafford to which he was criticised by fans. To counter the criticism, he pledged one half of his £10,000 fee to the Manchester United Supporters' Trust and the other half to UNICEF.[91]

Filmography and awards

Year Award Category Nominated work(s) Result
1999 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Waking Ned Devine Nominated[38]
British Comedy Award Best TV Comedy Actor Cold Feet Nominated[102]
2000 British Comedy Award Best TV Comedy Actor Cold Feet Won[34]
2001 British Comedy Award Best TV Comedy Actor Cold Feet Nominated[103]
2002 Television and Radio Industries Club Award Drama TV Performer of the Year Cold Feet Won[35]
British Independent Film Award Best Performance by an Actor in a British Independent Film Bloody Sunday Won[43]
Stockholm International Film Festival Award Best Actor Bloody Sunday Won[45]
British Academy Television Award Best Actor Bloody Sunday Nominated[44]
2003 Irish Film & Television Award Best Actor in a TV Drama Murphy's Law Won[52]
TV Quick Awards Best Actor Cold Feet Won[37]
National Television Award Most Popular Comedy Performance Cold Feet Won[36]
2004 National Television Award Most Popular Actor The Canterbury Tales Nominated[104]
Irish Film & Television Award Best Actor in a TV Drama Wall of Silence Nominated[59]
2005 Irish Film & Television Award Best Actor in Television Murphy's Law Nominated[105]
2007 Irish Film & Television Award Best Actor in a Lead Role in Television Murphy's Law Nominated[106]
2008 Golden Globe Award Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television Jekyll Nominated[70]
Rose d'Or Best Entertainer Jekyll Nominated[71]
ITV3 Crime Thriller Award Best Actor Murphy's Law and Midnight Man Nominated[74]
2010 Broadcasting Press Guild Awards Best Actor Occupation and Five Minutes of Heaven Nominated[107]

Academic honours


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External links

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