|Education||University of Bristol (BA)|
Central School of Speech and Drama (GrDip)
Jason Isaacs (born 6 June 1963) is an English actor. His film roles include Colonel William Tavington in The Patriot (2000), Michael D. Steele in Black Hawk Down (2001), Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter film series (2002–2011), Captain Hook in Peter Pan (2003), Marshal Georgy Zhukov in The Death of Stalin (2017), and Vasili in Hotel Mumbai (2018). His other films include Event Horizon (1997), Divorcing Jack (1998), The End of the Affair (1999), Sweet November (2001), The Tuxedo (2002), Battle of the Brave (2004), Nine Lives (2005), Friends with Money (2006), Good (2008), Green Zone (2010), Abduction (2011), Cars 2 (2011), A Single Shot (2013), Fury (2014), A Cure for Wellness (2016), London Fields (2018), Occupation: Rainfall (2020), Scoob! (2020), and Mass (2021).
His television roles include Det. Michael Britten in the NBC series Awake (2012), Dr. Hunter Aloysius "Hap" Percy in the Netflix supernatural mystery drama streaming series The OA (2016–2019) and Captain Gabriel Lorca in Star Trek: Discovery (2017–2018). His voice acting roles include Admiral Zhao in the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005) and the second season of The Legend of Korra (2013), the Grand Inquisitor / Sentinel in Star Wars Rebels (2014–2016), The Judge in Castlevania (2020), and Billy Butcher in The Boys Presents: Diabolical (2022). His other television roles include Capital City (1989–1990), Civvies (1992), Dangerous Lady (1995), The Fix (1997), Scars (2006), Rosemary's Baby (2014), Dig (2015), The Great (2021), and Good Sam (2022).
Isaacs has appeared on stage as Louis Ironson in Declan Donnellan's 1992 and 1993 Royal National Theatre premiere of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, and as hitman Ben in a 2007 revival of Harold Pinter's 1957 play The Dumb Waiter at Trafalgar Studios in the West End.
Isaacs was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film for The State Within (2006) and for the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Harry H. Corbett in The Curse of Steptoe (2008). He also was nominated for the International Emmy Award for Best Actor and won the Satellite Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film for Case Histories (2011–2013) and was nominated for the Satellite Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama for Brotherhood (2006–2008)
Jason Isaacs was born to Jewish parents in Liverpool on 6 June 1963. His father was a jeweller. He has two older brothers and one younger brother. He spent his earliest childhood years in the Liverpool suburb of Childwall, in an "insular and closely knit" Jewish community co-founded by his Eastern European Jewish great-grandparents. He has stated that being Jewish played a big role in his childhood, as he attended youth club in the local synagogue of King David High School in Liverpool's Childwall district, as well as a cheder twice a week as a young adult. When he was 11, he moved with his family to London and attended the Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School in nearby Elstree at the same time as David Baddiel, Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Kermode, and Matt Lucas. He describes the bullying and intolerance he observed during his childhood as "preparation" for portraying the "unattractive" villains he has most often played.
As a Jewish teenager in London, Isaacs endured antisemitism by the National Front, a far-right extremist organisation. His parents eventually immigrated to Israel. He later told an interviewer, "There were constantly people beating us up or smashing windows. If you were ever, say, on a Jewish holiday, identifiably Jewish, there was lots of violence around. But particularly when I was 16, in 1979, the National Front were really taking hold, there were leaflets at school, and Sieg Heiling and people goose-stepping down the road and coming after us." Following in the footsteps of his three brothers (one who became a doctor, one a lawyer, and one an accountant), he studied law at Bristol University from 1982 to 1985, becoming involved in the university's theatre club there; he eventually acted in over 30 plays and performed each summer at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, first with Bristol University and then twice with the National Student Theatre Company. After graduating, he went immediately to train at London's Central School of Speech and Drama from 1985 to 1988.
After training as an actor, Isaacs 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 (1989). He was initially known as a television actor, with starring roles in the ITV drama Capital City (1989) and the BBC drama Civvies (1992) and guest roles in series such as Taggart, Inspector Morse and Highlander: The Series (1993). He also played Michael Ryan in ITV'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?"
After appearing in Dragonheart (1996), Isaacs landed his first major Hollywood feature-film role alongside Laurence Fishburne in the horror film Event Horizon (1997) where he played the role of D.J., the doctor of Lewis and Clark. Subsequently, he appeared in the Bruce Willis blockbuster Armageddon (1998). 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 (1998), a comedy-thriller he was making with David Thewlis. Isaacs played the charismatic honourable priest opposite Kirstie Alley in the miniseries The Last Don (1997). Following that he portrayed a priest opposite Julianne Moore and Ralph Fiennes in Neil Jordan's acclaimed adaptation of Graham Greene's The End of the Affair (1999).
In 2000, Isaacs starred in the historical epic film The Patriot, starring opposite Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger and playing a sadistic British cavalry officer, Colonel William Tavington. His portrayal of Tavington was deemed "memorable" by critics". According to a Moviefone article, Isaacs' appearance in The Patriot was "his biggest international break to date". Although his performance in the film led to rumours that Isaacs would be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor at the 72nd Academy Awards, reaching beyond being typecast as an actor in historical films, Isaacs chose to play a drag queen in his next project, Sweet November (2001), a romantic comedy-drama.
Isaacs has appeared in many other films, most notably as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter series of films (2002–2011). 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" (from an interview in 2009 on ITV's The Justin Lee Collins Show).
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 (2007), Isaacs replied, "I hope so – you'll have to ask David (producer David Heyman). 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 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 ... [Isaacs joked], '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.' " Ultimately Isaacs did reprise the role of Malfoy as a cameo appearance in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), where he is seen in a moving portrait. Afterwards, Isaacs reprised the role again in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010) and Part 2 (2011).
Isaacs appeared in Black Hawk Down (2001), Jackie Chan's The Tuxedo (2002), as George Darling and Captain Hook in P. J. Hogan's adaptation of Peter Pan (2003), and as the voice of Admiral Zhao in the first season of the animated Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005). He played the leading role of Sir Mark Brydon, the British Ambassador to the United States, in the BBC Four miniseries The State Within (2006), 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 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 (Gus), 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 (2000).
Isaacs played Major Briggs, an American military officer, opposite Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear, in Paul Greengrass's thriller Green Zone (2010), 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 (2006), by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, for which production began in Morocco, in January 2008.
In 2007, he was originally 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, which was 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 autumn 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 (and Tony Award winner) Brían F. O'Byrne (as Gus), in a "rehearsed reading" of The Dumb Waiter. Their reading capped off the Harold Pinter Memorial Celebration being curated by Harry Burton (who had directed him and Evans at Trafalgar Studios). This tribute to Harold Pinter co-sponsored by the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center (MESTC), of The Graduate Center of The City University of New York (CUNY), 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.
He provided the voice of Ra's al Ghul in the DC animated film, Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010), and also the voice of Sinestro in the DC animated film Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (2011). In 2011, he starred as Jackson Brodie in a BBC adaptation of Kate Atkinson's Case Histories. For his portrayal of the detective, Isaacs won a Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television.
Isaacs starred as Detective Michael Britten in the NBC police procedural fantasy drama series Awake, which premiered on 1 March 2012, and ended in May 2012. After Britten gets into a terrible car wreck with his family, his dreams begin to take on two alternate realities, one in which his wife died in the crash and one in which his son died. Says Isaacs about the ambitious premise: "There's no question it's challenging. We've got a bunch of very experienced writers who have written things from HBO shows to The X-Files, to 24 and everything in between. And they are challenged. All of them have said that it's the hardest job that they've ever had. But sometimes that's a good thing. If it comes easily, that they could write in their sleep, I personally wouldn't want to act – and I think the audience wouldn't want to watch."
In 2015, Isaacs took the lead role in the USA Network action adventure drama series Dig. Isaacs plays an FBI agent (which was named Peter Connelly) stationed in Jerusalem who uncovers a 2,000-year-old conspiracy while investigating an archaeologist's murder. The ten-episode series premiered 5 March 2015. In February 2016, he starred in Medusa's Ankles, a film directed by Harry Potter co-star Bonnie Wright. In December 2016, he appeared in the Netflix series The OA as Dr. Hunter Aloysius "Hap" Percy.
It was announced in March 2017 that Isaacs would play the role of Captain Gabriel Lorca in the new CBS All Access (or Paramount+) series Star Trek: Discovery. The series premiered on 24 September 2017. Isaacs made his first appearance as Lorca on 1 October 2017 in the third episode, "Context Is for Kings". Lorca was exposed as his 'mirror universe' self in episode 13, "What's Past Is Prologue", in which the character was killed. In January 2019, showrunner Alex Kurtzman teased the possible return of Isaacs as 'Prime universe' Lorca at some point beyond season two. Isaacs also voices the character for the 2019 role-playing game Star Trek Online: Rise of Discovery.
In September 2017, Isaacs played Field Marshal Georgy Zhukov in The Death of Stalin, a political satire and dark comedy film directed by Armando Iannucci. The film depicts the internal social and political power struggle among the Council of Ministers following the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in 1953. Isaacs starred alongside Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jeffrey Tambor, Andrea Riseborough and Michael Palin. The film was a controversial yet critical success and Isaacs's performance earned him critical praise. For his performance he earned a Evening Standard British Film Awards nomination for Best Supporting Actor losing to his co-star Simon Russell Beale.
Isaacs also played the role of Dan in the 2018 psychological thriller, Look Away, starring Mira Sorvino and India Eisley. He also played the roles of Vasili in the action thriller Hotel Mumbai and Mark Asprey in the mystery thriller London Fields respectively. Throughout 2018 and 2019, Isaacs also voiced various characters such as the Slenderman, Alliser Thorne, Slinky and Jack the Donkey in the stop motion sketch comedy TV series Robot Chicken. In 2019, Isaacs provided the voice of Skekso, the Emperor in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance and in 2020, voiced Dick Dastardly in the Scooby-Doo film Scoob!.
In March 2020, Isaacs played in the lead role of Dr. Rob "Griff" Griffith in the CBS drama pilot Good Sam, which was later picked up to series in 2021 for a mid-season premiere on 5 January 2022.
In 2021, Isaacs played Carl in Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets, Admiral John Henry Godfrey in Operation Mincemeat, Jay Perry in the drama film Mass, Ralph in the forthcoming biographical film Creation Stories and John in the short film Cera. He also voiced King Arthur Pendragon, Winston Pilkingstonshire and Thundarr the Barbarian in the Direct-to-DVD animated comedy film Scooby-Doo! The Sword and the Scoob. He also had a minor role in Series 3 of the British comedy-drama Sex Education and appeared in an episode of anthology series Inside No. 9.
Isaacs moved in with his girlfriend, BBC documentary filmmaker Emma Hewitt, in 1987. They began dating while studying at the Central School of Speech and Drama and were married in 2001. They have two daughters named Lily (born 2002) and Ruby (born 2005).
Isaacs has described himself as "profoundly Jewish but not in a religious way". He does not keep kosher and is an atheist. He has spoken of travelling unrecognised to film premieres on the London Underground, but said that "as soon as [he] get[s] on the red carpet they start screaming and screaming". He is involved with a number of charities and is a patron of the Scottish veterans charity Bravehound.
In British politics, Isaacs has long supported the Labour Party and has said that he will never support the Conservative Party. In 2011, he said that he endorsed Labour on its educational policies but opposed its involvement in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In 2019, he referred to U.S. President Donald Trump as a "vainglorious man" and described the British political scene as an "Etonian Lord of the Flies situation". He also called Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's handling of antisemitic allegations about the Labour Party "appalling". Ahead of the 2019 UK general election, he campaigned for former Labour member Luciana Berger in her unsuccessful bid to become the Liberal Democrats' MP for the Finchley & Golders Green constituency.
In August 2020, Isaacs revealed that he had achieved sobriety after struggling with a drug and alcohol addiction for over two decades. He traced his experience back to being 12 years old, when a bartender gave him and his friends a bottle of Southern Comfort, after which he "woke up with a splitting headache, stinking of puke with a huge scab and the memory of having utterly shamed [himself]". He subsequently "chased the sheer ecstatic joy [he] felt that night for another 20 years with increasingly dire consequences". He eventually realised he needed help, but asked fans on Twitter not to congratulate him on his sobriety as "pride is the worst part".
Awards and nominations
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I'm an English atheist
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Strictly limited run: Lee Evans and Jason Isaacs to star in major revival of Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter directed by Harry Burton ... To coincide with the play's 50th anniversary....
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Although he first became interested in acting in part because 'it was a great way to meet girls,' Isaacs soon found deeper meaning in the theatre (in one interview he was quoted as saying 'I could release myself into acting in a way that I was not released socially') and duly dropped out of Bristol to hone his skills at London's Central School of Speech and Drama.
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Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School ... [produced] quite a vintage crop in [Isaacs's] time: fellow pupils included Sacha Baron Cohen, David Baddiel and Matt Lucas. 'I've seen Baddiel a few times,' Isaacs says, and he sees the others occasionally at awards ceremonies.... Not all the Habs stars of the time were Jewish, though, and Isaacs has a lot of time for another alumnus, the BBC's film critic, Mark Kermode: 'He is always incredibly lovely and says hello on his Radio 5 podcasts, which I've listened to in Auschwitz and many other strange places. He's said I was too cool (at school), but he was at the epicentre of the in-crowd.'
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Order of the Phoenix open[ed] July 13, .
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We got married in the end, my wife and I, for insurance purposes.
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I'm an English atheist
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- @@jasonfolly (1 May 2019). "I never have and never will be a Tory. I'm a life-long Labour supporter who's sickened by our appalling leadership at a time when our country needs it most. At the immoral political games being played to gain power by a man who posed as above it and, yes, by genuine antisemitism. t.co/MYJb6jZZSb" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
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