Derek Jacobi

English actor (born 1938)

Sir Derek George Jacobi CBE (/ˈdʒækəbi/; born 22 October 1938) is an English actor of stage and screen.

Sir Derek Jacobi in 2022.

Early in his professional career, he was spotted by Laurence Olivier, and Jacobi became one of the founding members of the National Theatre Company (then based at The Old Vic) in 1963. He has appeared in many Shakespearean stage productions including Hamlet, Macbeth, The Tempest, and King Lear. Jacobi received a Laurence Olivier Award for the lead role in Cyrano de Bergerac in 1983 (then known as the Society of West End Theatre Awards) and Malvolio in Twelfth Night in 2009. He also gained the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his role as Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing in 1985.

Jacobi's television work include his role as the eponymous Roman Emperor in I, Claudius (BBC mini-series, 1976), for which he won the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor. Among his other TV appearances are major parts in the medieval drama series Cadfael (1994–1998) and in the BBC's Last Tango in Halifax (2012–2020). He portrayed Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor in the third season of The Crown in 2019.


  • My abiding memory ... is my mother’s reaction. [...] She and my father attended a big first night at the Vic, with all the glitterati there — Judy Garland and goodness knows who else. My poor parents were gobsmacked. Anyway, Sir Laurence comes up at the reception and asks my mother if she has seen the Othello film yet. "Oh yes, we thought it was very good, Sir Laurence," she replies, "but that was a bugger of a wig you made Derek wear." She was quite right. It was a bugger of a wig — but I just wanted the ground to swallow us up.
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