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Jason Isaacs (1963)

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  Summary  

Jason Isaacs is an English actor born in Liverpool, who is best known for his performance as the villain Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films, the brutal Colonel William Tavington in The Patriot and as lifelong criminal Michael Caffee in the internationally broadcast American television series Brotherhood. Though most of his work has been in film and television, it also includes stage performances; most notably as Louis Ironson in Declan Donnellan's 1992 and 1993 Royal National Theatre London premières of Parts One and Two of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, and as Ben, one of two hitmen, playing opposite Lee Evans as Gus, in Harry Burton's 2007 critically acclaimed 50th-anniversary revival of Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter's 1957 two-hander The Dumb Waiter at Trafalgar Studios.

  Biography  

 early life and education
Jason Isaacs was born on 6 June 1963, in Liverpool, Merseyside, to Jewish parents. He spent his earliest childhood years in an "insular" and "closely-knit" Jewish community of Liverpudlians, of which his Eastern European great-grandparents were founder-members. The third of four sons, Isaacs attended a Jewish school and a cheder twice a week as a young adult. When he was 11, he moved with his family to Northwest London, attending the Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School, in Elstree, Hertsmere, Hertfordshire, where he was in the same year as film reviewer Mark Kermode. He describes his childhood as "preparation" for portraying the "unattractive", villainous characters whom he has most often played. National Front members frequently harassed Isaacs and his friends throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

Following his more traditionally inclined brothers, who became respectively a doctor, a lawyer, and an accountant, Isaacs studied law at Bristol University (1982–85), but he became more actively involved in the drama society, eventually performing in over 30 plays and performing each summer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, first with Bristol University and then, twice, with the National Student Drama Company. After graduating from Bristol he went immediately to train at London's Central School of Speech and Drama (1985–88).

Isaacs' parents eventually immigrated to Israel.

 career
After completing his training as an actor, Isaacs almost immediately began appearing on the stage and on television; his film debut was in a minor role as a doctor in Mel Smith's The Tall Guy . He was initially known as a TV actor in the UK, with starring roles in the ITV drama Capital City and the BBC drama Civvies and guest roles in series such as Taggart and Inspector Morse in 1992. He also played Michael Ryan in ITV1's adaptation of Martina Cole's novel Dangerous Lady, directed by Jack Woods and produced by Lavinia Warner, in 1995.

On stage he portrayed the "emotionally waffling" gay Jewish office temp Louis Ironson in Tony Kushner's Pulitzer-Prize-winning Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, at the Royal National Theatre, in its London première, performing the role in both parts, Part One: Millennium Approaches, in 1992, and Part Two: Perestroika, in 1993. When auditioning for that role, he told the producers, "Look, I play all these tough guys and thugs and strong, complex characters. In real life, I am a cringing, neurotic Jewish mess. Can't I for once play that on stage?"

His first Hollywood role was alongside Laurence Fishburne in the film Event Horizon in 1997, in which he played a crew member ultimately killed by the protagonist-turned-antagonist acted by Sam Neill. Subsequently, he appeared in the Bruce Willis blockbuster Armageddon . Initially called upon to take a fairly substantial role, Isaacs was eventually cast in a much smaller capacity as a planet-saving scientist so that he could accommodate his commitment to Divorcing Jack , a comedy thriller he was making with future fellow Harry Potter cast member David Thewlis.

After portraying a priest opposite Julianne Moore and Ralph Fiennes in Neil Jordan's acclaimed adaptation of Graham Greene's The End of the Affair , Isaacs played the charismatic honorable priest opposite Kirsty Alley in the mini series The Last Don. Their relationship, and subsequent breakup due to his commitment and loyalty to the cloth, was the last straw Kirsty Alley's character, Rosemary, was able to handle. He then shone as "memorable" villain, Colonel William Tavington, in Roland Emmerich's Revolutionary War fictional film epic The Patriot . Starring opposite Mel Gibson as the film's hero, and Heath Ledger as Gibson's screen son, Isaacs portrays a sadistic British army officer who kills Ledger's character, among many other soldiers. Although his work in the film earned him comparisons to Ralph Fiennes' portrayal of Nazi Amon Göth in Schindler's List and mention of a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, reaching beyond being typecast as an historical villain, Isaacs chose to play a drag queen in his next project, Sweet November , a romantic comedy-drama starring Charlize Theron and Keanu Reeves.

Isaacs has appeared in many other films, most notably as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter series of films (2002–present). Regarding the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling, Isaacs has said: "I went off and read the books after the audition and I read the first four books in one sitting – you know – didn't wash, didn't eat, drove around with them on the steering wheel like a lunatic. I suddenly understood why my friends, who I'd thought were slightly backward, had been so addicted to these children's books. They're like crack." In "The Naked and the Dead", an article published in the San Francisco Chronicle, on 26 November 2006, Neva Chonin names the character Lucius Malfoy one of the 12 "Sexiest Men Who Were Never Alive" and Isaacs one of the 13 "Sexiest Men Who Are Real and Alive".

Prior to the making of the film, when asked whether or not he would be in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix , Isaacs replied, "I hope so – you'll have to ask David . I can't bear the idea that somebody else would get to wear my Paris Hilton wig, but you never know." Isaacs also talked to J. K. Rowling on the inclusion of Lucius Malfoy in the then unpublished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, so that he would have a part in the seventh and final film: "The character does not appear in the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; but ... , 'I fell to my knees and begged ... It didn't do any good. I'm sure she doesn't need plot ideas from me. But I made my point. We'll see. Like everybody else, I'm holding my breath to July to see what's in there. I just want to bust out of prison, that's all. I don't want to stay in Azkaban most of my life.' " However, on 12 September 2008, AceShowBiz.com revealed that Isaacs is indeed reprising his role of Lucius Malfoy as a cameo appearance in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince , where he is seen in a moving portrait. Afterwards, Isaacs reprised the role again in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Part 2 .

He has appeared in Dragonheart , Event Horizon , Black Hawk Down , Jackie Chan's The Tuxedo , and as George Darling and Captain Hook in P. J. Hogan's adaptation of Peter Pan , and as the voice of Admiral Zhao in the animated Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender .

Isaacs played the leading role of Sir Mark Brydon, the British Ambassador to the US in the BBC Four miniseries The State Within , for which he was nominated for the Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television for the 65th Golden Globe Awards. On British television, he also portrayed actor Harry H. Corbett in The Curse of Steptoe, part of "a season of new one-off dramas for BBC Four revealing the stories behind some of Britain's best loved television entertainers, and their achievements," first broadcast in March 2008. On American television, Isaacs appeared in three episodes of The West Wing in 2004, prior to developing his most notable TV serial role, as Michael Caffee in Brotherhood (2006–08).

Between 2 February and 24 March 2007, Isaacs played Ben, opposite Lee Evans , in the critically acclaimed 50th-anniversary production of Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter, at Trafalgar Studios, in London, his first theatre performance since appearing in The Force of Change . He posed for photographs after his performance on 3 March 2007.

Isaacs played Major Briggs, an American military officer, opposite Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear, in Paul Greengrass's thriller Green Zone , a fictionalised drama set in Iraq after the defeat of Saddam Hussein based on the book Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Baghdad's Green Zone , by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, for which production began in Morocco, in January 2008.

In 2007, he was cast in Jan de Bont's then-still-upcoming film Stopping Power, to play its star John Cusack's "nemesis", but, on 31 August 2007, Variety reported that the film, also planned for release in 2009, had been cancelled after a financial backer pulled out. Isaacs appeared in one episode of the TV show Entourage in the fall of 2008 as Fredrick Line. In 2009, he was nominated at the British Academy Television Awards for Best Actor for his role as Harry H. Corbett in The Curse of Steptoe.

On the evening of 2 May 2009, Isaacs performed the role of Ben again, opposite his Brotherhood co-star Brian F. O'Byrne , in a "rehearsed reading" of The Dumb Waiter. Their reading capped off the Harold Pinter Memorial Celebration being curated by Harry Burton . This Tribute to Harold Pinter co-sponsored by the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center , of The Graduate Center of The City University of New York , was part of the Fifth Annual PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, held in New York City, from 27 April to 3 May 2009.

More recently, he provided the voice of Ra's al Ghul in the DC animated film, Batman: Under the Red Hood.

 personal life
Isaacs and his partner, BBC documentary filmmaker Emma Hewitt, whom he began dating at the Central School, have lived together since 1988 and have two daughters: Lily and Ruby . Although unmarried, he refers to Hewitt as his wife.

Despite Isaacs' screen celebrity as Lucius Malfoy, he maintains a relatively modest, "calm, sedate and suburban" life, which he prefers to the "hideously compromised lives" of the more rich and famous: "I imagine like most of us that I'd like obscene amounts of money but the people I met and worked with who have those obscene amounts of money and have obscene amounts of fame have awful lives. Really. I mean hideously compromised lives...." Described as an "invisible star" who can still travel by the London Underground to film premières unrecognised, he has observed: "They just think, who's that in black tie? As soon as I get on the red carpet they start screaming and screaming. ... It's laughable because when it's all over I go home on the Tube as well." "I can go anywhere. No one knows who I am. I can go on the tube and bus and wander through the streets." Despite this Isaacs has picked up something of a cult following due to the weekly "Hello to Jason Isaacs" reference on Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode's film review show on BBC Radio Five Live.

As a non-religious Jew, Isaacs has semi-jokingly called himself a "Jewish man who does almost nothing Jewish in his life".

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Jason Isaacs", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.