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Who is Derek Jacobi?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Sir Derek Jacobi is a celebrated film and theater actor who has worked with some of the best Shakespearean actors over the last 50 years. He has worked with Shakespeare greats like Sir John Gielgud, Sir Laurence Olivier, Dame Wendy Hiller, and Kenneth Branagh. Outside of the realm of Shakespeare’s plays, Jacobi has done impressive film, theater and television work, and is perhaps best known for his 1990s BBC character, Brother Cadfael, the 11th century monk who sidelines as a detective.

To the 1970s audience, Jacobi was already quite recognizable. His starring role in the BBC production I, Claudius showed the range of his talent. He received a British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award (BAFTA) for Best Actor for the role.

In between I, Claudius and Cadfael Jacobi boasted an impressive career. His work in Branagh’s Henry V is well known. Jacobi also acted in Branagh’s homage to Hitchcock Dead Again where he is suitably humorous and potentially villainous.

It can be fair to say that Jacobi has taken a turn in many of Shakespeare’s great male roles, both on stage and screen. He has been in numerous productions of Hamlet, Richard II Richard III, The Tempest, Much Ado about Nothing, Macbeth, and Othello.

Jacobi has at times been aligned with some of the best theater companies in England. He was part of the National Theater Company from 1963-1972. He also was part of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1982-1985. Jacobi worked closely with Kenneth Branagh as part of the now disbanded Renaissance Theater Company.

Although Jacobi frequently takes on period roles, he shows himself to be delightfully modern in a guest appearance on the sitcom Frasier in a 2000 episode The Show Must Go Off . In the role, he plays the worst Shakespearean actor in the world, with repeated practices of Hamlet’s death, which steadily worsen. The role garnered Jacobi an Emmy for best guest performance in 2001.

Jacobi’s recent works include parts in the films Nannie McPhee and Evolution: Underworld. He also recently starred in the docudrama produced by BBC2 Pinochet in Suburbia, and starred in the play A Voyage Round my Father that showed in Covent Garden in July and August of 2006. Jacobi has finished production on a film titled The Riddle playing Charles Dickens in a fictional mystery regarding his unfinished last novel. Riddle is slated for release in 2007.

Jacobi, along with Sir Laurence Olivier is one of only a handful of actors that have knighthood status in both Denmark and England. Since both have played the legendary Hamlet, with great praise, the Danish mark of distinction is well understood. Jacobi’s contributions to British theater, film and television are significant, and Queen Elizabeth II knighted him in 1994. As well as winning several Emmys and one BAFTA, Jacobi also received the Sir John Gielgud Award for Excellence in Dramatic Arts from the US National Press in 1997.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a PublicPeople contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon37060 — On Jul 16, 2009

Is derek jacobi still alive?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a PublicPeople contributor, Tricia...
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