Brian Denis Cox, CBE (born 1 June 1946) is a Scottish actor. He is known for his work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he gained recognition for his portrayal of King Lear. He has also appeared in many Hollywood productions playing parts such as Dr. Guggenheim in Rushmore, Captain O'Hagan in Super Troopers, William Stryker in X2: X-Men United and Agamemnon in Troy. He was the first actor to portray Hannibal Lecter on film in the 1986 movie Manhunter.
Cox was born to a working class Roman Catholic family in Dundee, Scotland, the youngest of five children. He is a descendant of Irish immigrants to Scotland. His mother, Mary Ann Guillerline (nÃ©e McCann), was a spinner who worked in the jute mills and suffered several nervous breakdowns during Cox's childhood. His father, Charles McArdle Campbell Cox, was a butcher and later a shopkeeper, and died when Cox was eight years old. Cox was subsequently brought up by his four elder sisters. He joined the Dundee Repertory Theatre at the age of 14.
Cox was educated at St Mary's Forebank Primary School in Dundee, followed by St Michael's Junior Secondary School (also in Dundee), which he left at the age of 15. After working at Dundee Repertory Theatre for a couple of years, he went to drama school from the age of 17 to 19, at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
Cox left the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in 1965 when he joined the Lyceum company in Edinburgh, followed in 1966 by two years with the Birmingham Rep, where his parts included the title role in Peer Gynt (1967) and Orlando in As You Like It, in which he made his London dÃ©but in June 1967 at the Vaudeville Theatre.
He made his first television appearance in an episode of The Wednesday Play in 1965 and made one-off appearances in several other TV shows before taking a lead role in The Year of the Sex Olympics in 1968. A recurring rumour that Cox made uncredited appearances as an extra in several episodes of The Prisoner was disproved by the actor in an interview with Bullz-Eye.com, where he confirmed, "I wouldâve loved to have been in 'The Prisoner,' and I remember seeing it, and I watched it when it first came out. Iâm old enough to have seen it and watched it and, yes, to have been an extra in it. But I never was." In 1978, he played King Henry II of England in the acclaimed BBC2 drama serial The Devil's Crown, following which he starred in many other television dramas. His first film appearance was as Leon Trotsky in Nicholas and Alexandra in 1971.
Cox is an accomplished Shakespearean actor, spending seasons with both the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre in the 1980s and 1990s. His work with the RSC included a critically acclaimed performance as the title character in Titus Andronicus, as well as playing Petruchio in The Taming of The Shrew. Cox said later that his performance in Titus Andronicus was "the greatest stage performance I've ever given." Later Cox portrayed Burgundy opposite Laurence Olivier in the title role of King Lear (1983). He went on to play King Lear at the National Theatre.
In 1986, during the production of Manhunter, while Cox was playing Hannibal Lecktor, Anthony Hopkins was playing King Lear on stage at the National Theatre. Five years later, during the production of The Silence of the Lambs in which Hopkins took over as the correctly named Lecter, Cox was playing King Lear at the National Theatre. At the time, the two actors shared the same agent.
In 1991, he played the role of Owen Benjamin, the closeted father of a gay man, in the BBC "Screen 2" production of David Leavitt's novel, The Lost Language of Cranes, which is set in the 1980s. In 1993 he appeared as British spymaster Major Hogan in two episodes of the British television series Sharpe. In the same year, he was seen in an episode of Inspector Morse ("Deadly Slumber"), where he portrayed Michael Steppings, a retired bookmaker whose daughter is in a permanent coma.
His most famous appearances include Rob Roy, Braveheart (both in 1995), The Ring, X2, Troy and The Bourne Supremacy. He usually plays villains, such as William Stryker in X2, Agamemnon in Troy, Pariah Dark in the Danny Phantom television series episode Reign Storm, devious CIA official Ward Abbott in the first two Bourne films, and in Chain Reaction. He has on occasion played more sympathetic characters, such as Edward Norton's father in 25th Hour, a fatherly police superior in Super Troopers, and Rachel McAdams' father in Red Eye. He has also appeared in the sitcom Frasier as Daphne Moon's father. He was also the protagonist in the film The Escapist.
Cox was in 2001's L.I.E. He won an Emmy Award and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award that year for his portrayal of Hermann GÃ¶ring in the television mini-series Nuremberg. He also appeared in a supporting role as Jack Langrishe in the HBO series Deadwood.
In 2002, he appeared in Spike Jonze's Charlie Kaufman-scripted Adaptation as the real-life screenwriting teacher, Robert McKee, giving advice to Nicolas Cage in both his roles, as Charlie Kaufman and Charlie's fictional twin brother Donald. In 2004, Cox played an alternate, villainous version of King Agamemnon in Troy. He appeared on a 2006 episode of the British motoring programme Top Gear (as a "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car").
Cox has also been involved in the video game industry. Among his most prominent roles were Killzone (2004), Killzone 2 (2009), and Killzone 3 (2011), in which he played the ruthless emperor Scolar Visari. Cox also was the voice of Lionel Starkweather, the main antagonist in the Sony PlayStation 2 game Manhunt (2003).
His radio work includes playing the title character in the BBC Radio 4 series McLevy (1999â"present), based on the real life detective James McLevy. and his portrayal of the Dundonian comic character Bob Servant. Cox says he played Servant, the creation of Dundonian author Neil Forsyth, based on memories of his late brother Charlie.
Cox narrated an abridged audio book version of Sir Walter Scott's novel Ivanhoe, and an unabridged audio book of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion. He has also collaborated with HarperCollins on an audiobook of Tolkien's epic poem The Legend of Sigurd and GudrÃºn.
In 2008, Cox starred in Red, based on Jack Ketchum's novel. The film was directed by Lucky McKee and Trygve Allister Diesen and also starred Tom Sizemore, Amanda Plummer, and Kim Dickens. Cox also played an institutionalized convict in Rupert Wyatt's film, The Escapist, appearing alongside Joseph Fiennes, Dominic Cooper and Damian Lewis.
In December 2009, Cox appeared in The Day of the Triffids, written by Patrick Harbinson, whose credits include ER and Law & Order. The drama is based on John Wyndham's best-selling post-apocalyptic novel, The Day of the Triffids. The same year, Cox provided the voice for the Ood Elder in part one of the Doctor Who Christmas Special, The End of Time. Cox starred in the Ridley Scott produced Tell-Tale, a film based on the short story "The Tell Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe.
In February 2010, Cox was elected as Rector of the University of Dundee, polling almost two-thirds of the vote. Cox was set to portray Mr. Reisert in Scream 4, but it was later announced he will not join the cast. In February 2010, Cox Played Former House of commons speaker Michael Martin in the television film On Expenses. Cox plays Laura Linney's father in the Showtime series The Big C. In July 2010, he joined the cast of the 2011 science-fiction film Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
In 2011, Cox appeared on Broadway opposite Jason Patric, Chris Noth, Kiefer Sutherland and Jim Gaffigan in a revival of Jason Miller's That Championship Season, which opened in March.
In January 2012, Cox appeared alongside Billy Connolly in BBC radio 4's Saturday Play â" The Quest of Donal Q, which was specially written for the pair by David Ashton who also wrote the McLevy series. Cox appears in the Australian TV drama The Straits as the patriarch of the Montebello family crime syndicate, Harry Montebello. Shooting started on location at Cairns and the Torres Strait Islands in June 2011. The series premiered on Australian TV Channel ABC1 on 2 February 2012. His portrayal of Jack in The Weir at The Donmar Theatre in April 2013 is reprised at Wyndham's Theatre in January 2014.
In November 2013, he starred in the BBC television docudrama, An Adventure in Space and Time, about the creation of the iconic British science-fiction series Doctor Who. Cox portrayed Canadian television executive Sydney Newman, who was the driving force behind the creation of the programme.
He is divorced from his first wife Caroline Burt. The couple have two children: son Alan Cox, also an actor, best known for his roles in Young Sherlock Holmes, and playing the young John Mortimer in the television film of his play A Voyage Round My Father (1982) opposite Laurence Olivier; and daughter Margaret.
Brian married his second wife, actress Nicole Ansari, in 2002. The couple have two boys and live in New York City. Cox retains a home in Edinburgh.
Cox is a diabetic and has worked to promote a diabetes research facility in his home town of Dundee. The producers of Super Troopers discovered his affliction when a scene called for Cox to eat a white chocolate prop that resembled a bar of soap. Cox bit into it thinking they knew this, and promptly spat it out upon tasting it. Production was halted until a sugar-free substitute could be found. Cox, not wishing to waste more time, instead ate the soap on camera.
Cox is a patron for Scottish Youth Theatre, Scotland's National Theatre "for and by" young people. Scottish Youth Theatre's building in Glasgow, The Old Sheriff Court, named their theatre the Brian Cox Studio Theatre in his honour. He is also a patron of "THE SPACE", a training facility for actors and dancers in his native Dundee, and an "ambassador" for the Screen Academy Scotland.
In 2007, Cox campaigned for Labour in the run-up to that year's Scottish Parliamentary elections and he is a lifelong supporter of the party. Cox endorsed the Scottish National Party in the 2011 election, however, only because of their higher education policy.
On 11 February 2010, Cox was elected as the 12th Rector of the University of Dundee by students of the institution. He was re-elected in January 2013. He also holds an honorary doctorate from Napier University in Edinburgh, award in July 2008.
In April 2010, Cox, along with Ian McKellen and Eleanor Bron, appeared in a series of TV advertisements to support Age UK, the charity recently formed from the merger of Age Concern and Help the Aged. All three actors gave their time free of charge.
On 31 December 2002, Cox was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the New Year Honours List.
On 6 April 2011, Cox announced he had quit the Labour Party as he believed it had failed to live up to its basic principles and instead joined the Scottish National Party as he felt it was taking forward values of social justice and representing Scotland's best interests.
On 14 April 2012, Cox was the 10th Grand Marshal of the New York City Tartan Day Parade.
On 25 May 2012, Cox spoke for his support for Scottish Independence at the Yes Scotland campaign. Although a Labour Party supporter and saying he believed in democratic socialism, he felt that Independence was the best way forward for Scotland.
On 6 April 2014, Cox was honoured with a lifetime achievement award at the 20th Bradford International Film Festival.
Awards and nominations
- Brian Cox at the Internet Movie Database
- Brian Cox interview and film clips