Actor David Thewlis has pursued his creative passions all his life. As a true artist, Thewlis has delved deeply into forms of expression other than the one that has earned him a living. Born in Blackpool, England, Thewlis spent a happy childhood filling diaries with “words and sentences and poems”—his first foray into an artistic life. Thewlis then explored music by playing in a punk band called Door 66. When the time came to decide his future, Thewlis chose to attend the ‘Guildhall School of Music and Drama’, and graduated in 1985. It was while in school that Thewlis turned to acting.
A slave to twin passions of music and acting, Thewlis performed Simon and Garfunkel songs in clubs in order to earn his equity card. Meanwhile, Thewlis began appearing in commercials and on stage and snared a few small roles in film and on British television, including the movie-of-the-week The Singing Detective (PBS, 1988), Skulduggery (1989) and Life is Sweet (1990), directed by Mike Leigh. Though his role Life is Sweet was small, Thewlis impressed Leigh enough to be cast for the lead role in Naked (1993). His performance as a Johnny, a down-and-out, yet intelligent drifter in Manchester whose brutal treatment of women defies convention as he lives outside the social norm of late-20th century England, earned Thewlis several awards for best actor, including that of the ‘New York Critics’, ‘National Society of Film Critics’ and the ‘London Film Critics Circle’.
Thewlis went on to amass a resume of divergent roles, ranging from kid’s movies to dark independents to big budget Hollywood productions. His next role after Naked was opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Total Eclipse (1995), an indie drama about the turbulent relationship between French poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud. His next role became very special to the actor: as the voice of Earthworm in James and the Giant Peach (1996), Thewlis was subsequently asked on birthdays and other occasions to reprise his role for the children of friends and relatives. Next for Thewlis came a forgettable performance in an equally forgettable movie, The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996), John Frankenheimer’s weak attempt to put H.G. Wells’ novel on screen. Justifiably, the movie was universally panned.
Thewlis next starred in Dragonheart (1996), playing Einon, a medieval king whose despotic reign belies the near-death promise he made when he was a boy. Not particularly thrilled with the script, and without an opinion on the final product, Thewlis nonetheless enjoyed working on the project despite pressure from his agent to do a studio film. In April 1996, Thewlis directed a short film he wrote called Hello Hello Hello? (1998) and later received an honorable BAFTA Award nomination for his effort. Thewlis meanwhile continued acting, starting opposite Brad Pitt in Seven Years in Tibet (1997), or as the crew liked to call it, “Five Years on This Set”. His performance didn’t earn Thewlis any award nominations, but he was banned from ever visiting China.
After a small role in the Coen Brother’s The Big Lebowski (1998), Thewlis starred opposite Thandie Newton in Besieged (1999), directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. In this romantic drama, Thewlis played a shy English composer living in a palatial Rome estate with his African housekeeper (Newton), with whom he falls in love. In Gangster No. 1, Thewlis plays an old associate of Gangster 55 (Malcolm McDowell) who gets released from prison after a 30-year stint. And in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), Thewlis played Professor Remus Lupin in the third adaptation of the popular novels. Thewlis was expected to return for the sixth and seventh installments of the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010 and 2011). To top off a busy career, Thewlis directed his first feature length film, Cheeky (2003), a comedy that was shown at the ‘London Film Festival’ and ‘Toronto International Film Festival’.
Thewlis returned in front of the camera for Kingdom of Heaven (2005), playing a monk watching over the son (Orlando Bloom) of a knight (Liam Neeson) in this epic historical drama taking place in the relative calm between the 2nd and 3rd Crusades of the 12th century. He then had a supporting role in Terrance Malick’s The New World (2005), a lyrical, but ultimately meandering take on the settlement at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 and the ensuing love affair between Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell) and a young Native American girl, Pocahontas (Q’Orianka Kilcher). Thewlis then signed on to appear in the inexplicable sequel, Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction (lensed 2005), starring Sharon Stone as the vampy novelist Catherine Tramell who once again lures an unsuspecting man (David Morrissey) into a murderous trap.
Though a fun turn as the paranoid, bubblegum-chomping reporter hot on the trail of the young Antichrist in the 2006 remake of The Omen gave audiences much more to chew on and offered Thewlis the opportunity to have a bit of fun, to the delight of fans everywhere. The following year, Thewlis reprised his role as Remus Lupin in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and appeared as the title role in The Inner Life of Martin Frost. He could be recognized in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, a film adaptation of the John Boyne Holocaust novel, which focuses on the friendship that develops between the child of a Nazi commander at a concentration camp and a young Jewish prisoner. Many have claimed his role in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is his best performance to date since Naked. His latest project, Mr. Nice, the biopic flick about the life of elite drug smuggler Howard Marks, premiered recently at the “Edinburgh International Film Festival” (2010) and David received high praise for his role as Jim McCann. He was also presented with the “Move Award” for his ‘electrifying’ portrayal, to which David admitted that playing the character was “the best time he ever had making a film”.
David is the proud father of five-year-old daughter, Gracie Ellen Mary Friel (born in 2005), with actress Anna Friel. In 2007, David’s first novel, The Late Hector Kipling was published and received tremendous praise from the critics and media. David is currently filming several projects throughout Europe, his next roles include the highly anticipated Steven Spielberg film War Horse and Luc Beeson’s The Lady. David is developing his second novel and is currently starring as ‘Jordan’ in the film adaptation of Ken Bruen’s novel, London Boulevard.