Paul Bettany (Charles Darwin)
While the British-born Paul Bettany is a recognised star overseas with well-received performances in film, on the London stage and on British television, American audiences first discovered him in A Knight’s Tale, in which he played the comical role of Chaucer opposite Heath Ledger. For this performance he won the London Film Critics’ Award for Best Supporting Actor and he was named one of Daily Variety’s ‘Ten to Watch’ for 2001.
Classically trained at the Drama Centre in London, Bettany made his stage debut in a West End production of An Inspector Calls under the direction of Stephen Daldry (The Reader, The Hours, Billy Elliot). He then spent a season with the Royal Shakespeare Company, performing in productions of Richard III, Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar before landing his first feature film role in Bent.
Bettany returned to the stage to appear in Love and Understanding at London’s Bush Theatre. He later reprised that role at the Longwharf Theatre in Connecticut. The play led to more British television work, including Lynda La Plante’s Killer Net and Coming Home, in which he starred with Peter O’Toole. Bettany’s appearance in the Royal Court Theatre productions of One More Wasted Year and Stranger’s House preceded his second feature film role in David Leland’s Land Girls with Catherine McCormack and Rachel Weisz. He next appeared in the film After the Rain.
He then portrayed Steerforth in the TNT production of David Copperfield, directed by Peter Medak, opposite Sally Field and Michael Richards. More feature film roles followed, including Suicide Club with Jonathan Pryce and David Morrissey.
Bettany was nominated for a British Independent Film award and a London Film Critics’ Award for Best Newcomer in IFC’s Gangster No.1, directed by Paul McGuigan, and starring Malcolm McDowell, David Thewlis, and Saffron Burrows. He then re-teamed with Paul McGuigan for the Paramount Classics’ mystery-thriller The Reckoning, opposite Willem Dafoe. Bettany next starred as the imaginary roommate opposite Russell Crowe, Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly in the Academy Award-winning A Beautiful Mind for director Ron Howard. His performance in the film won him the London Film Critics’ Award for Best British Actor.
Bettany then starred in Thadeus O’Sullivan’s intense, independent feature, The Heart of Me, opposite Olivia Williams and Helena Bonham-Carter. Keen to test himself further he went on to star in Dogville, director Lars Von Trier’s dramatic thriller opposite Nicole Kidman and Stellan Skaarsgard, followed by the Working Title / Universal feature Wimbledon, in which he starred opposite Kirsten Dunst for director Richard Loncraine (The Gathering Storm, Richard III).
He starred opposite Crowe again in Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World for director Peter Weir. In this adaptation of Patrick O’Brien’s novel, Bettany plays the ship’s surgeon, Stephen Maturin, the first naturalist and best friend of Captain Jack Aubrey (Crowe). His performance won him the Evening Standard Award for Best British Actor, the London Film Critics’ Award for Best Supporting Actor for Master & Commander as well as The Heart of Me, and the Elle Style Award for Best Actor in Master & Commander and Dogville. His other nominations for Master & Commander include a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor and a Broadcast Film Critics Association nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
He went on to star as Silas in the most highly anticipated film of 2006, The Da Vinci Code based on Dan Brown’s novel and directed by Ron Howard, earlier helmsman of A Beautiful Mind. The film went on to huge box office success driven by its star powered cast, which included Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen and Alfred Molina.
In the last twelve months Bettany has starred in Fox Searchlight feature The Secret Life of Bees opposite Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson and Dakota Fanning, based on the best selling book, in Inkheart, a fantasy adventure for New Line Cinema/Warner Brothers based on the best-selling children’s books as Dustfinger, a fire-eating performer, opposite Brendan Fraser and Helen Mirren for director Iain Softley, and most recently in Graham King and Martin Scorsese’s The Young Victoria opposite Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend and Jim Broadbent.
His next project is the Screen Gems thriller Legion, in which he plays the lead role of Archangel Michael. Other cast members include Dennis Quaid, Kate Walsh, Kevin Durand and Lucas Black.