Fry in "Happy Birthday to GNU (2008)"
|Born||Stephen John Fry
24 August 1957
Hampstead, London, England
|Occupation||Actor, comedian, author, writer, television presenter and film director|
|Domestic partner(s)||Daniel Cohen (since 1995)|
Stephen John Fry (born 24 August 1957) is a British actor, writer, comedian, television presenter and film director. He first came to attention in the 1982 Cambridge Footlights Revue presentation, "The Cellar Tapes", which also included Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson and Tony Slattery. With Hugh Laurie, as the comedy double act Fry and Laurie, he co-wrote and co-starred in A Bit of Fry and Laurie, and the duo also played the title roles in Jeeves and Wooster.
As a solo actor, Fry played the lead in the film Wilde, was Melchett in the Blackadder television series and is the host of the erudite, but comedy-based quiz show, QI. He also presented a 2008 television series Stephen Fry in America, which saw him travelling across all 50 U.S. states in six episodes. Fry has become known to American audiences for his recurring guest role as Dr. Gordon Wyatt on the Fox crime series Bones.
Apart from his work in television, Fry has contributed columns and articles for newspapers and magazines, and has written four novels and an autobiography, Moab Is My Washpot. He also appears frequently on BBC Radio 4, starring in the comedy series Absolute Power, being a frequent guest on panel games such as Just a Minute, and acting as chairman for I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, where he was one of a trio of hosts who succeeded the late Humphrey Lyttelton.
Fry was born in Hampstead, London, the son of Marianne Eve Fry (née Newman) and Alan John Fry, who was an English physicist and inventor. His maternal grandparents, Martin and Rosa Neumann, were Jewish immigrants from Šurany, which is now in Slovakia, and his mother's aunt and cousins died in Auschwitz. Fry grew up in the village of Booton near Reepham, Norfolk, having moved from Chesham, Buckinghamshire at a young age.
Fry briefly attended Cawston Primary School, Cawston, Norfolk, described later in his 1997 book Moab Is My Washpot, before going on to Stouts Hill Preparatory School and then to Uppingham School, Rutland, where he joined Fircroft house. He was expelled from Uppingham when he was fifteen, and subsequently from Paston School.
At seventeen, after leaving Norfolk College of Arts and Technology, Fry absconded with a credit card stolen from a family friend, was arrested in Swindon, and as a result spent three months in Pucklechurch Prison on remand.
Following his release he resumed education at City College Norwich, promising administrators that he would study rigorously to sit the Cambridge entrance exams. He passed well enough to gain a scholarship to Queens' College, Cambridge. At Cambridge, Fry joined the Cambridge Footlights, appeared on University Challenge, and gained a degree in English literature. It was at the Footlights that Fry met his future comedy collaborator Hugh Laurie.
Fry's career in television began with the 1982 broadcasting of The Cellar Tapes, the 1981 Cambridge Footlights Revue which was written by Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson and Tony Slattery. The revue caught the attention of Granada Television, who, keen to replicate the success of the BBC's Not the Nine O'Clock News, hired Fry, Laurie and Thompson to star alongside Ben Elton in There's Nothing to Worry About!. A second series, re-titled Alfresco, was broadcast in 1983 and a third in 1984; it established Fry and Laurie's reputation as a comedy double act. In 1983, the BBC offered them their own show, which became The Crystal Cube, a mixture of science fiction and mock documentary that was axed after the first episode. Undeterred, Fry and Laurie appeared in an episode of The Young Ones in 1984, and Fry in Ben Elton's 1985 series, Happy Families. In 1986 and 1987 Fry and Laurie also performed sketches on the LWT/Channel 4 show Saturday Live.
Forgiving Fry and Laurie for The Crystal Cube, the BBC commissioned a sketch show in 1986 that was to become A Bit of Fry and Laurie. The programme ran for 26 episodes spanning four series between 1986 and 1995, and was very successful. During this time Fry starred in Blackadder II as Lord Melchett, made a guest appearance in Blackadder the Third as the Duke of Wellington, then returned to a starring role in Blackadder Goes Forth as General Melchett. In 1988, he became a regular contestant on the popular improvisational comedy radio show Whose Line Is It Anyway?. However, when it moved to television, he only appeared three times: twice in the first series and once in the ninth.
In 2003, he began hosting QI, a panel game that has become one of the most-watched entertainment programmes on British television. In 2006, he won the Rose d'Or award for "Best Game Show Host" for his work on the series.
A foray into documentary-making has seen Fry fronting the Emmy Award-winning The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive in 2006, and in 2007 a documentary on the subject of HIV and AIDS, HIV and Me. Also in 2006, he appeared in the genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are?, tracing his family tree to discover his Slovak Jewish ancestry. His six-part travel series Stephen Fry in America began on BBC One on 12 October 2008. A five-part companion series, More Fry in America, has been commissioned for BBC Four; it will feature in-depth essays that Fry could not include in the original programmes because of time constraints.
Fry has also been involved in nature documentaries, having narrated Spectacled Bears: Shadow of the Forest for the BBC Natural World series in 2008. He also embarked upon a series with zoologist Mark Carwardine in which the pair sought out endangered species, some of which were featured in Douglas Adams and Carwardine's 1990 book/radio series, Last Chance to See. The resulting programmes were broadcast in 2009.
From 2007 to 2009, Fry appeared in and was executive producer for the legal drama Kingdom, which ran for three series on ITV1. He has also taken up a recurring guest role as psychiatrist Dr. Gordon Wyatt in the popular American drama Bones.
Having made his film debut in the 1985 film The Good Father, Fry had a brief appearance in A Fish Called Wanda (in which he is knocked out by Kevin Kline, who is posing as an airport security man) and then appeared in the lead role for Kenneth Branagh's Peter's Friends in 1992. In the romantic comedy film I.Q. of 1994 he played the role of James Moreland. Portraying Oscar Wilde (a man of whom he had been a fan since the age of 13) in the 1997 film Wilde, he fulfilled to critical acclaim a role that he has said he was "born to play". In 2001, he played the detective in Robert Altman's period costume drama, Gosford Park. In the same year he also appeared in the Dutch film The Discovery of Heaven, directed by Jeroen Krabbé and based on the novel by Harry Mulisch.
In 2003, Fry made his directorial debut with Bright Young Things, adapted by himself from Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies. In 2001, he began hosting the BAFTA Film Awards, a role from which he stepped down in 2006. Later that same year, he wrote the English libretto and dialogue for Kenneth Branagh's film adaptation of The Magic Flute.
Fry continues to make regular film appearances, notably in treatments of literary cult classics. He served as narrator in the 2005 film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and in 2005 he appeared in both A Cock and Bull Story, based on Tristram Shandy, and in V for Vendetta. In 2006, he played the role of gadget-master Smithers in Stormbreaker, and in 2007 he appeared as himself hosting a quiz in St Trinian's. In 2007, Fry wrote a script for a remake of The Dam Busters for director Peter Jackson.
In 2008, he participated in a film celebrating the 25th anniversary of GNU, Happy Birthday to GNU. Fry was offered a role in Valkyrie but was unable to participate. Fry starred in the Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland, as The Cheshire Cat, alongside Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway.
Fry came to the attention of radio listeners with the 1986 creation of his supposed alter-ego, Donald Trefusis, whose "wireless essays" were broadcast on the BBC Radio 4 programme Loose Ends. In the 1980s he starred as David Lander in four series of the BBC Radio 4 show Delve Special, written by Tony Sarchet, which became a six part Channel 4 series This is David Lander in 1988. In 1988, Fry wrote and presented a six-part comedy series entitled Saturday Night Fry; frequent radio appearances have ensued (notably on panel games Just a Minute and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue). In 2000, he began starring as Charles Prentiss in the Radio 4 comedy Absolute Power, reprising the role for three further series on radio and two on television. In 2002, Fry voiced Winnie-the-Pooh and was one of the narrators in Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, both written by A.A Milne. He presented a weekly, 20 x 120-minute series, "The Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music", a 'witty guide' to the genre over the past 1,000 years, on Classic FM.
In 2007, he hosted Current Puns, an exploration of wordplay, and Radio 4: This Is Your Life, to celebrate the radio station's 40th anniversary. He also interviewed Tony Blair as part of a series of podcasts released by 10 Downing Street.
In February 2008, Fry began presenting podcasts entitled Stephen Fry's Podgrams, in which he recounts his life and recent experiences. In July 2008, Fry appeared as himself in I Love Stephen Fry, an Afternoon Play for Radio 4 written by former Fry and Laurie script editor Jon Canter.
Fry wrote a play entitled Latin! (or Tobacco and Boys) for the 1980 Edinburgh Festival, where it won the "Fringe First" prize. It had a revival in 2009 at London's Cock Tavern Theatre, directed by Adam Spreadbury-Maher. The Cellar Tapes, the Footlights Revue of 1981, won the Perrier Comedy Award. In 1984, Fry adapted the hugely successful 1930s musical, Me and My Girl, for the West End, where it ran for eight years. He also famously starred in Simon Gray's 1995 play, Cell Mates, from which he left three days into the West End run, pleading stage fright. He later recalled the incident as a hypomanic episode in his documentary on bipolar disorder. In 2007, Fry wrote a Christmas pantomime, Cinderella, which ran at London's Old Vic Theatre. Fry is a long-time fan of the 1960s anarchic British musical comedy group, the Bonzo Dog Band and, particularly, of its eccentric front man, the late Vivian Stanshall. Fry helped to fund an ill-fated 1988 London re-staging of the Stanshall's acclaimed Stinkfoot, a Comic Opera, written by Vivian and Ki Longfellow-Stanshall for the Bristol-based Old Profanity Showboat. Fry performed several of Stanshall's numbers as part of the Bonzo's 26 January 2006 reunion concert at the London Astoria. He also appears as a shiny New Millennium Bonzo on their post-reunion album, Pour l'Amour des Chiens, including his reciting of a recipe for "Salmon Proust", playing a butler in "Hawkeye the Gnu", and voicing ads for the fictitious "Fiasco" stores.
Fry's voice has been featured in a number of video games, including an appearance as Reaver, a main character in the Xbox 360 game Fable II, and as the narrator in LittleBigPlanet on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable. He also served as narrator on the first four Harry Potter games (Philosopher's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban and the Goblet of Fire).
Fry has lent himself and his voice to many advertisements, for companies and products such as Marks and Spencer, Twinnings, Kenco, Vauxhall, Direct Line, Calpol, Heineken, Alliance & Leicester, After Eights and Orange Mobile.
Since the publication of his first novel, The Liar (1993), Fry has written three additional novels, several non-fiction works and an autobiography. Making History (1997) is partly set in an alternative universe where Adolf Hitler's father is made infertile and his replacement proves a rather more effective Führer. The book won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. The Hippopotamus (1994) centers around Edward (Ted/Tedward) Wallace and his stay at his old friend Lord Logan's country manor in Norfolk. The Stars' Tennis Balls (2000) is a modern retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo. Fry's book, The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within, is a guide to writing poetry.
In the United Kingdom, he is a well-known narrator of audiobooks, notably the Harry Potter series. He has recorded audio versions of works by Roald Dahl, Michael Bond, A. A. Milne, Anthony Buckeridge and Douglas Adams, as well as several of his own books.
When writing a book review for Tatler, Fry wrote under an alias, Williver Hendry, editor of A Most Peculiar Friendship: The Correspondence of Lord Alfred Douglas and Jack Dempsey, a field close to Fry's heart as an Oscar Wilde enthusiast. Once a columnist in The Listener and The Daily Telegraph, he now writes a weekly technology column in the Saturday edition of The Guardian. His blog attracted more than 300,000 visitors in its first two weeks of existence.
On 26 May 2009, Fry unveiled The Dongle of Donald Trefusis, an audiobook series following the character Donald Trefusis (a character from Fry's novel The Liar and from the BBC Radio 4 series Loose Ends), set over 12 episodes. After its release, it reached No. 1 on the UK Album Chart album chart list.
On 2 January 2010 it was announced that Fry was "switching off his connections with the outside world" in order to complete a second volume of his autobiography.
Fry wields a considerable amount of influence through his use of the social networking site Twitter. He is frequently asked to promote various charities and causes, often inadvertently causing the host website to crash due to the sheer volume of traffic generated by his large number of followers, as Fry notes on his website: "Four thousand hits a second all diving down the pipeline at the same time for minutes on end." Fry uses his influence to recommend underexposed musicians and authors (which often see large increases in web hits and sales) and to spread contemporary issues in the world of media and politics, notably the dropping of an injunction against The Guardian and the lambasting of Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir over her article on deceased Boyzone member Stephen Gately.
On 31 October 2009 Stephen Fry sparked debate amongst users again when he announced an intention to leave the social networking site after criticism from another user on Twitter. He retracted the intention the next day.
On 15 November 2009 Stephen's Twitter account reached 1,000,000 followers. He commemorated the million followers milestone with a humorous video blog in which a 'Step Hen Fry' clone speaks from the year 2034 where MySpace, Facebook and Twitter have combined to form 'Twit on MyFace'.
In 1995, Fry was presented with an honorary doctorate from the University of Dundee, which named their main Students' Association bar after his novel The Liar; Fry is a patron of its Lip Theatre Company. He also served two consecutive terms—1992 to 1995 and 1995 to 1998—as the student-elected Rector of the University of Dundee. Fry was also awarded an honorary degree from Anglia Ruskin University of Cambridge, England in 2005. and was also made honorary president of the Cambridge University Quiz Society and honorary fellow of Queens' College, Cambridge. He is a Patron of the Norwich Playhouse theatre and a Vice President of The Noël Coward Society. Fry was the last person to be named Pipe Smoker of the Year before the award was discontinued.
In December 2006 he was ranked sixth for the BBC's Top Living Icon Award, was featured on The Culture Show, and was voted most intelligent man on television by readers of Radio Times. The Independent on Sunday Pink List named Fry the second most influential gay person in Britain in May 2007. He had taken the twenty-third position on the list the previous year. Later the same month he was announced as the 2007 BT Mind Champion of the Year in recognition of the awareness raised about bipolar disorder by his documentary The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive. Fry was also nominated in "Best Entertainment Performance" for QI and "Best Factual Series" for Secret Life of the Manic Depressive at the 2007 British Academy Television Awards. That same year, Broadcast magazine listed Fry at number four in its "Hot 100" list of influential on-screen performers, describing him as a polymath and a "national treasure". He was also granted a lifetime achievement award at the British Comedy Awards on 5 December 2007 and the Special Recognition Award at the National Television Awards on 20 January 2010.
BBC Four dedicated two nights of programming to Fry on 17 and 18 August 2007, in celebration of his 50th birthday. The first night, comprising programs featuring Fry, began with a sixty-minute documentary entitled Stephen Fry: 50 Not Out. The second night was composed of programs selected by Fry, as well as a 60-minute interview with Mark Lawson and a half-hour special, Stephen Fry: Guilty Pleasures. Stephen Fry Weekend proved such a ratings hit for BBC Four that it was repeated on BBC Two on 16 and 17 of that September. However, there has also been criticism, one journalist describing him as a stupid person's idea of what an intelligent person looks like.
Fry struggled to keep his homosexuality secret during his teenage years at public school, and has claimed not to have engaged in sexual activity for sixteen years from 1979 until 1995. When asked when he first acknowledged his sexuality, Fry quipped: "I suppose it all began when I came out of the womb. I looked back up at my mother and thought to myself, 'That's the last time I'm going up one of those.'" Fry currently lives in London with his partner, Daniel Cohen, whom he met in 1995. He drives a black TX4 London cab. He also has a second home near King's Lynn, Norfolk.
Fry was an active supporter of the Labour Party for many years, and appeared in a party political broadcast on its behalf with Hugh Laurie and Michelle Collins in November 1993. Despite this, he did not vote in the 2005 General Election because of the stance of both the Labour and Conservative parties with regard to the Iraq War. Despite his praising of the current government for social reform, Fry has been critical of the Labour Party's "Third Way" concept. He is on cordial terms with Prince Charles (despite a mild parody Fry performed in his role of King Charles I in the comedy programme Blackadder: The Cavalier Years), through his work with the Prince's Trust. He attended the wedding of the Prince of Wales to Camilla Parker-Bowles in 2005.
Fry is a friend of British comedian and actor (and Blackadder co-star) Rowan Atkinson and was best man at Atkinson's wedding to Sunetra Sastry at the Russian Tea Room in New York City. He was also a friend of British actor John Mills. He was best man at the wedding of Hugh Laurie (whom he considers to be his best friend) and is godfather to all three of Laurie's children.
A fan of cricket, Fry has claimed to be related to former England cricketer C.B. Fry, and was recently interviewed for the Ashes Fever DVD, reporting on England's victory over Australia in the 2005 Ashes series. Regarding football, he is a supporter of Norwich City (as mentioned in Ashes Fever), and is a regular visitor to Carrow Road.
Fry has talked on occasion about his passion for whisky. He visited the Woodford Reserve whiskey distillery in Kentucky, US in his BBC series Stephen Fry in America. Stephen cites his favourite whisky as the Master of Malt 19 year old Tomatin.
He has been described as "deeply dippy for all things digital", claims to have owned the second Macintosh computer sold in the UK (the first going to Douglas Adams) and jokes that he has never encountered a smartphone that he has not bought. He counts Wikipedia among his favourite websites "because I like to find out that I died, and that I'm currently in a ballet in China, and all the other very accurate and important things that Wikipedia brings us all."
Fry has a long interest in Internet production, including his own website since 1997. His current site, The New Adventures of Mr Stephen Fry, has existed since 2002 and has attracted many visitors following his first blog in September 2007, which comprised a 6,500 word "blessay" on smartphones. In February 2008, Fry launched his private podcast series, Stephen Fry's Podgrams, and a forum, including discussions on depression and activities in which Fry is involved. The website content is created by Stephen Fry and produced by Andrew Sampson. Fry is also a supporter of GNU and the Free Software Foundation. For the 25th anniversary of the GNU operating system, Fry appeared in a video explaining some of the philosophy behind GNU by likening it to the sharing found in science. In October 2008, he began posting to his Twitter stream, which he regularly updates. On 16 May 2009, he celebrated the 500,000-follower mark: "Bless my soul 500k followers. And I love you all. Well, all except that silly one. And that's not you."
On 30 April 2008, Fry signed an open letter, published in The Guardian newspaper by some well known Jewish personalities, stating their opposition to celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. Furthermore, he is a signatory member of the British Jews for Justice for Palestinians organisation, which actively campaigns for Palestinian rights.
A year later, The Guardian published a letter from Fry addressing his younger self, explaining how his future is soon to unfold, reflecting on the positive progression towards gay acceptance and openness around him, and yet not everywhere, while warning on how "the cruel, hypocritical and loveless hand of religion and absolutism has fallen on the world once more".
Fry was among over one hundred signatories to a statement published by Sense About Science on 4 June 2009, condemning British libel laws and their use to "severely curtail the right to free speech on a matter of public interest."
On 6 October 2009, Fry was interviewed by Jon Snow on Channel 4 News as a signatory of a letter to British Conservative Party leader David Cameron expressing concern about the party's relationship with Poland's opposition national conservative Law and Justice Party in the European Parliament. During the interview, he stated:
There has been a history, let's face it, in Poland of a right-wing catholicism which has been deeply disturbing for those of us who know a little history, and remember which side of the border Auschwitz was on and know the stories, and know much of the anti-semitic, and homophobic and nationalistic elements in countries like Poland.
The remark prompted a complaint from the Polish Embassy in London, an editorial in The Economist and criticism from British Jewish historian David Cesarani. Fry has since posted a six-page apology on his personal weblog, in which he stated:
I offer no excuse. I seemed to imply that the Polish people had been responsible for the most infamous of all the death factories of the Third Reich. I didn't even really at the time notice the import of what I had said, so gave myself no opportunity instantly to retract the statement. It was a rubbishy, cheap and offensive remark that I have been regretting ever since.
I take this opportunity to apologise now. I said a stupid, thoughtless and fatuous thing. It detracted from and devalued my argument, such as it was, and it outraged and offended a large group of people for no very good reason. I am sorry in all directions, and all the more sorry because it is no one's fault but my own, which always makes it so much worse.
Fry has been diagnosed with cyclothymia, a mild form of bipolar disorder. He suffered a nervous breakdown in 1995 while appearing in a West End play called Cell Mates and subsequently walked out of the production, prompting its early closure and incurring the displeasure of co-star Rik Mayall and playwright Simon Gray. Mayall's comedy partner, Adrian Edmondson, made light of the subject in his and Mayall's second Bottom live show. After walking out of the production, Fry went missing for several days while contemplating suicide. He abandoned the idea and left the United Kingdom by ferry, eventually resurfacing in Belgium. Fry has spoken publicly about his experience with bipolar disorder, which was also depicted in the documentary Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic-Depressive. In the programme, he interviewed other sufferers of the illness including celebrities Carrie Fisher, Richard Dreyfuss and Tony Slattery. Also featured were chef Rick Stein, whose father committed suicide, Robbie Williams, who talks of his experience with major depression, and comedienne/former mental health nurse Jo Brand.
In 2009, Fry lent his support to a campaign led by the human rights organisation Reprieve to prevent the execution of Akmal Shaikh, a British national who suffered from bipolar disorder, yet, despite calls for clemency, was executed in the People's Republic of China.
Fry has a deviated nasal septum because he fell and broke his nose when he was six. He is six feet five inches tall. (QI Season 4 ep. 11 of 13).
In January 2008, he broke his arm while filming Last Chance to See in Brazil. He later explained in a podcast how the accident happened: while climbing aboard a boat, he slipped between it and the dock, and, while stopping himself from falling into the water, his body weight caused his right humerus to snap. The damage was more severe than first thought: the resulting vulnerability to his radial nerve — he was at risk of losing the use of his arm — was not diagnosed until he saw a consultant in the UK.
Appearing on Top Gear in 2009, Fry had lost a significant amount of weight, prompting host Jeremy Clarkson to ask jokingly, "Where's the rest of you?" Fry explained that he had shed a total of 6 stone (84 lb; 38 kg).
In 2008, Fry formed SamFry Ltd, with long-term collaborator Andrew Sampson, to produce and fund new content, as well as manage his official website.
Paul Henderson Scott
|Rector of the University of Dundee
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