The Biography: Ben Whishaw

Happy many returns Q, Ben!!!!!

Whishaw was born in  Bedfordshire, and was brought up there and in Langford, the son of

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Ben and his twin

Linda, who works in cosmetics, and Jose Whishaw, who works in information technology. His father is of French, German and Russian descent, and his mother is of English background. He has a fraternal twin, James.

He was a member of the Bancroft Players Youth Theatre at Hitchin’s Queen Mother Theatre. He attended Henlow Middle School and then Samuel Whitbread Community College in Shefford where he first rose to prominence during collaborations with their offshoot theatre company, Big Spirit. He graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 2003.

Whishaw was involved in many productions with Big Spirit, perhaps most notably If This is a Man, a piece devised by the company based on the book of the same name by Primo Levi, a survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp. It was adapted into a physical theatre piece by the group and taken to the 1995 Edinburgh Festival, where it garnered five-star reviews and great critical acclaim.

As the lead in Trevor Nunn’s 2004 production of Hamlet at the Old Vic, Whishaw received highly favourable reviews and was nominated for the Olivier Award for Best Actor and the Ian Charleson Award. The role was shared with Al Weaver.

His film and television credits include Layer Cake (also with Daniel Craig)

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in Layer Cake

and Chris Morris’s 2005 sitcom Nathan Barley. He was named “Most Promising Newcomer” at the 2001 British Independent Film Awards for My Brother Tom, and in 2005 he was nominated as best actor in four award ceremonies for his portrayal of Hamlet. In the spring of 2005, Whishaw received lots of attention for his role as a drug dealer in Philip Ridley’s controversial stage play Mercury Fur.

In Perfume, Whishaw played Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a perfume maker whose craft turns deadly. The film was released in Germany in September 2006 and in US theaters in December 2006. In the same year, Whishaw worked on Pawel Pawlikowski’s abandoned The Restraint of Beasts.Whishaw appeared as one of the Bob Dylan reincarnations in I’m Not There in 2007, in the BBC’s Criminal Justice in 2008, in a new adaptation of Brideshead Revisited, and in a stage adaptation of The Idiot at the National Theatre.

At the end of 2009 he starred in Cock, a new play by Mike Bartlett at the Royal Court Theatre. In 2009 he also starred as the poet John Keats in the film Bright Star. In February 2010, Whishaw made a successful off-Broadway debut at MCC Theater in the American premiere of the awarding-winning play The Pride by Alexi Kaye Campbell. He played Ariel in Julie Taymor’s 2010 film adaptation of The Tempest, and was featured in The Hour, a BBC2 drama series.

In 2012 Whishaw appeared as Richard II in the television film Richard II, a part of the BBC2 series The Hollow Crown, for which he received the British Academy Television Award.

Whishaw appeared in the 23rd James Bond film, Skyfall, in the role of Q. He portrayed a younger Q than in previous films; Peter Burton and Desmond Llewelyn both received the role when they were in their forties, while Llewelyn and John Cleese played the role into their eighties and sixties, respectively. In addition, he was teamed a third time with Daniel Craig after they starred in the films The Trench and Layer Cake.

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Dench and Ben playing Peter and Alice

In spring 2013, Whishaw starred on stage alongside Judi Dench in the world premiere of Peter and Alice, a new play by John Logan inspired by the lives of Alice Liddell and Peter Llewelyn Davies. From October 2013 to February 2014 he again appeared on stage in the revival of Jez Butterworth’s Olivier-award-winning play Mojo. In the summer of 2015 he appeared as Dionysos in Euripides’ tragedy Bakkhai at the Almeida Theatre in London.

In 2015, Whishaw co-starred in The Lobster, a romantic science fiction drama from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos; appeared in Suffragette, a story of the early feminist movement. He reprised his role of Q in Spectre, the 24th James Bond film; and played author Herman Melville in Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea.

For several years Whishaw refused to answer questions about his personal life, saying: «For me, it’s important to keep a level of anonymity. As an actor, your job is to persuade people that you’re someone else. So if you’re constantly telling people about yourself, I think you’re shooting yourself in the foot». In 2011, he told Out magazine: «As an actor you have total rights to privacy and mystery, whatever your sexuality, whatever you do. I don’t see why that has to be something you discuss openly because you do something in the public eye. I have no understanding of why we turn actors into celebrities.»

Whishaw entered into a civil partnership with Australian composer Mark Bradshaw in August 2012. In 2014, he publicly discussed his coming out as a gay man, saying that it was a tense experience for him but  «everyone was surprisingly lovely».

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