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Julian Glover – Oldie movie titan of the year. By William Cook

Blog | By William Cook | Nov 23, 2023

Julian Glover – Oldie movie titan of the year (Neil Spence photography)

As he accepted his award for Oldie movie titan of the year, Julian Glover said, 'I've read every issue since the first one in 1992, so it's a great honour to get this from the magazine.

'One of the few benefits of getting old is your fingertips go smooth. It meant I understood the line in King Lear, "Pray you undo this button." He meant he couldn't actually undo them. I know because this morning I needed my wife to do my own buttons up.'

By William Cook

Has there ever been a better baddy than Julian Glover?

From James Bond to Indiana Jones, he’s the villain we all love to hate, but there’s more to his career than playing monsters. One of his greatest achievements was adapting and performing the notoriously tricky Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, retaining the poem’s archaic power while making it accessible to a modern audience.

He was born in Hampstead in 1935, the son of two BBC journalists. At school, he was in the same class as his fellow actor Timothy West. It was while he was playing James Boswell to West’s Samuel Johnson in a touring production of Boswell’s Life of Johnson that he met his beloved wife, the actress Isla Blair. ‘I looked across the room and I saw this beautiful creature,’ he remembers. ‘I volunteered to Timothy and Isla that I would arrange our accommodation…’

They’ve been married for 55 years, and they clearly complement each other perfectly. ‘I’m inclined to lose my temper,’ he admits. ‘Isla is very calm and can see every single side of a problem.’

His long list of small-screen credits encompasses the very best in TV drama: The Saint, The Sweeney, The Avengers, Rumpole of the Bailey, Doctor Who, Blake’s Seven… His most memorable TV role was as the cruel, hard-hearted patriarch Paul Dombey in the BBC’s brilliant adaptation of Dickens’s Dombey and Son – a masterclass in sinister understatement. Lately, he’s attracted a new generation of fans playing Grand Maester Pycelle in Game of Thrones.

He’s featured in some of the world’s biggest movie franchises, from Star Wars to Harry Potter, but the stage remains his greatest love. ‘I’m absolutely besotted with Shakespeare,’ he says. He’s played King Lear at Shakespeare’s Globe, and Henry IV for the RSC, a role that won him an Olivier Award for best supporting actor in 1993 and was singled out by Michael Billington as one of his favourite Shakespearean performances.

In 1996, he directed Hamlet with son Jamie in the title role and Isla as Hamlet’s mother (modestly, Julian confined himself to a cameo as the ghost of Hamlet’s father). For over 60 years, he’s been a bastion of the acting profession – on stage, on TV, and in the movies. At 88, might he be tempted to tackle Lear one more time?

By William Cook