About James Hugh Calum Laurie
James Hugh Calum Laurie, OBE (born 11 June 1959), known as Hugh Laurie ( /ˌhjuː ˈlɒri/), is an English actor, voice artist, comedian, writer, musician, recording artist and director. He first became known as one half of the Fry and Laurie double act, along with his friend and comedy partner Stephen Fry, whom he joined in the cast of Blackadder and Jeeves and Wooster from 1987 to 1999.
From 2004 to 2012, he played Dr Gregory House, the protagonist of House, for which he received two Golden Globe awards, two Screen Actors Guild awards, and six Emmy nominations. He has been listed in the 2011 Guinness Book of World Records as the highest paid actor ever in a TV Drama, earning £250,000 per episode in House, and for being the most watched leading man on television.
Early life and education
Laurie was born in Oxford, Oxfordshire, England. The youngest of four children, Laurie has an older brother named Charles Alexander Lyon Mundell Laurie and two older sisters named Susan and Janet. He had a strained relationship with his mother, Patricia (née Laidlaw). He notes that his mother, "was Presbyterian by character, by mood" and that he was "a frustration to her... she didn't like me". His father, William George Ranald Mundell Laurie, was a doctor who also won an Olympic gold medal in the coxless pairs (rowing) at the 1948 London Games.
Laurie's parents, who were of Scottish descent, attended a Scottish Presbyterian church in Oxford. He notes that "belief in God didn't play a large role in my home, but a certain attitude to life and the living of it did." He followed this by stating, "pleasure was something that was treated with great suspicion, pleasure was something that... I was going to say it had to be earned but even the earning of it didn't really work. It was something to this day, I mean, I carry that with me. I find pleasure a difficult thing; I don't know what you do with it, I don't know where to put it." He has stated, "I don't believe in God, but I have this idea that if there were a God, or destiny of some kind looking down on us, that if he saw you taking anything for granted he'd take it away." He was brought up in Oxford and attended the Dragon School from ages 7 to 13 and notes that he "was, in truth, a horrible child. Not much given to things of a bookey nature, I spent a large part of my youth smoking Number Six and cheating in French vocabulary tests."
He went on to Eton, which he describes as, "the most private of private schools." He attributes his attending Selwyn College, Cambridge, as "a result of family tradition" as his "father went to Cambridge and I applied to the same college." Laurie notes his father had a successful bout as an oarsman at Cambridge and that he was, "trying to follow in his father's footsteps." He studied for a degree in Archaeology and Social Anthropology. Forced to abandon rowing during a bout of glandular fever (mononucleosis), he joined the Cambridge Footlights. While a member of Footlights, the university dramatic club that has produced many well-known actors and comedians, he was club president in 1981. He was also a member of the Hermes Club and the Hawks' Club.
Like his father, Laurie was an oarsman at school and university; in 1977, he was a member of the junior coxed pair that won the British national title before representing Britain's Youth Team at the 1977 Junior World Rowing Championships. In 1980, Laurie and his rowing partner, J.S. Palmer, were runners-up in the Silver Goblets coxless pairs for Eton Vikings rowing club. Later, he also achieved a Blue while taking part in the 1980 Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. Cambridge lost that year by 5 feet. During this time Laurie was training for up to 8 hours a day and was on course to become an Olympic standard rower. Laurie is a member of Leander Club, one of the oldest rowing clubs in the world.
Cambridge Footlights was where he met Emma Thompson, with whom he had a romantic relationship; the two remain good friends. She introduced him to his future comedy partner, Stephen Fry. Laurie, Fry and Thompson later parodied themselves as the University Challenge representatives of "Footlights College, Oxbridge" in "Bambi", an episode of The Young Ones, with the series' co-writer Ben Elton completing their team. In 1980–81, his final year at university, besides rowing, Laurie was also president of the Footlights, with Thompson as vice-president. They took their annual revue, The Cellar Tapes, to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and won the first Perrier Comedy Award. The revue was written principally by Laurie and Fry, and the cast also included Thompson, Tony Slattery, Paul Shearer and Penny Dwyer. He states that he did not graduate from Cambridge.
The Perrier Award led to a West End transfer for The Cellar Tapes and a television version of the revue, broadcast in May 1982. It resulted in Laurie, Fry and Thompson being selected, along with Ben Elton, Robbie Coltrane and Siobhan Redmond to write and appear in a new sketch comedy show for Granada Television, Alfresco, which ran for two series.
Fry and Laurie went on to work together on various projects throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Among them were the Blackadder series, written by Ben Elton and Richard Curtis, starring Rowan Atkinson, with Laurie in various roles, but most notably Prince George and Lieutenant George. Other projects followed, of which one was their BBC sketch comedy series A Bit of Fry & Laurie; another project was Jeeves and Wooster, an adaptation of P. G. Wodehouse’s stories, in which Laurie played Jeeves’s employer, the amiable twit Bertie Wooster. He and Fry worked together at various charity stage events, such as Hysteria! 1, 2 & 3 and Amnesty International’s The Secret Policeman’s Third Ball, Comic Relief TV shows and the variety show Fry and Laurie Host a Christmas Night with the Stars. They collaborated again on the film Peter's Friends and came together for a retrospective show in 2010 titled Fry and Laurie Reunited.
Laurie starred in the Thames Television film Letters from a Bomber Pilot (1985) directed by David Hodgson. This was a serious acting role, the film being dramatised from the letters home of Pilot Officer J.R.A. "Bob" Hodgson, a pilot in RAF Bomber Command, who was killed in action in 1943.
Laurie appeared in the music videos for the 1986 single "Experiment IV" by Kate Bush, and the 1992 single "Walking on Broken Glass" by Annie Lennox, in full Georgian-period costume, a toned-down version of his Prince George character from Blackadder the Third, opposite John Malkovich, similarly reprising his role of the Vicomte Valmont from Dangerous Liaisons.
Laurie’s later film appearances include Sense and Sensibility (1995), adapted by and starring Emma Thompson; the Disney live-action film 101 Dalmatians (1996), where he played Jasper, one of the bumbling criminals hired to kidnap the puppies; Elton’s adaptation of his novel Inconceivable, Maybe Baby (2000); Girl From Rio; the 2004 remake of The Flight of the Phoenix; and the three Stuart Little films.
In 1996, Laurie’s first novel, The Gun Seller, an intricate thriller laced with Wodehouseian humour, was published and became a best-seller. He has since been working on the screenplay for a movie version and on a second novel, The Paper Soldier. In 1998, Laurie had a brief guest-starring role on Friends in "The One with Ross's Wedding".
Since 2002, Laurie has appeared in a range of British television dramas, guest-starring that year in two episodes of the first season of the spy thriller series Spooks on BBC One. In 2003, he starred in and also directed ITV's comedy-drama series fortysomething (in one episode of which Stephen Fry appears). In 2001, he voiced the character of a bar patron in the Family Guy episode "One If by Clam, Two If by Sea". Laurie voiced the character of Mr. Wolf in the cartoon Preston Pig. He was a panellist on the first episode of QI, alongside Fry as host. In 2004, Laurie guest-starred as a professor in charge of a space probe called Beagle, on The Lenny Henry Show.
Laurie's fame expanded to the American public in 2004, when he first starred as the acerbic physician specialising in diagnostic medicine, Dr. Gregory House in the popular Fox medical drama House. For his portrayal, Laurie assumes an American accent. Laurie was in Namibia filming Flight of the Phoenix and recorded the audition tape for the show in the bathroom of the hotel, the only place he could get enough light. While working on Flight of the Phoenix, Jacob Vargas operated the camera to shoot Laurie's audition tape for House. Laurie's American accent was so convincing that executive producer Bryan Singer, who was unaware at the time that Laurie is British, pointed to him as an example of just the kind of compelling American actor he had been looking for. Laurie also adopts the accent between takes on the set of House, as well as during script read-throughs, although he used his native accent when directing the House episode "Lockdown".
Laurie was nominated for an Emmy Award for his role in House in 2005. Although he did not win, he did receive a Golden Globe in both 2006 and 2007 for his work on the series and the Screen Actors Guild award in 2007 and 2009. Laurie was also awarded a large increase in salary, from what was rumoured to be a mid-range five-figure sum to $350,000 per episode. Laurie was not nominated for the 2006 Emmys, apparently to the outrage of Fox executives, but he still appeared in a scripted, pre-taped intro, where he parodied his House character by rapidly diagnosing host Conan O'Brien and then proceeded to grope him as the latter asked him for help to get to the Emmys on time. He would later go on to speak in French while presenting an Emmy with Dame Helen Mirren, and has since been nominated in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Laurie was initially cast as Perry White, the editor of the Daily Planet, in Singer's film Superman Returns but had to bow out of the project because of his involvement in House. In July 2006, Laurie appeared on Bravo!'s Inside the Actors Studio, where he also performed one of his own comic songs, "Mystery", accompanying himself on the piano. He hosted NBC's Saturday Night Live, in which he appeared in drag in a sketch about a man (Kenan Thompson) with a broken leg who accuses his doctor of being dishonest. Laurie played the man’s wife.
In August 2007, Laurie appeared on BBC Four's documentary Stephen Fry: 50 Not Out, filmed in celebration of Fry’s 50th birthday. In 2008, Laurie appeared as Captain James Biggs in Street Kings, opposite Keanu Reeves and Forest Whitaker, and then in 2009 as the eccentric Dr. Cockroach, PhD in DreamWorks' Monsters vs. Aliens. He also hosted Saturday Night Live for the second time on the Christmas show in which he sang a medley of three-second Christmas songs to close his monologue.
In 2009, Laurie returned to guest star in another Family Guy episode, "Business Guy", parodying Gregory House and himself assuming an American accent. In 2010, Laurie filmed an independent feature called The Oranges. In 2010, Laurie guest starred in The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror XXI" as Roger, a castaway who is planning a murder scheme on a ship during Homer and Marge's second honeymoon. On 8 February 2012, Fox announced that season 8 of House will be the last.
On 13 June 2012, it was announced that Laurie was in negotiations to play the villain in Robocop, a remake of the original Robocop film. These negotiations ultimately fell through and Laurie passed on the project.
From the age of six, Laurie took piano lessons with a Mrs. Hare. He plays the piano, guitar, drums, harmonica and saxophone. He has displayed his musical talents in episodes of several television series, most notably A Bit of Fry & Laurie, Jeeves and Wooster, House and when he hosted Saturday Night Live in October 2006. He is a vocalist and keyboard player for the Los Angeles charity rock group Band From TV. Additionally, following Meat Loaf's appearance in the House episode "Simple Explanation", Laurie played piano as a special guest on the song "If I Can't Have You" from Meat Loaf's 2010 album Hang Cool Teddy Bear.
On episodes of House he has played several classic rock 'n roll instruments including Gibson Flying V and Les Paul guitars. His character has a Hammond B-3 organ in his home and on one episode performed the introduction to Procol Harum's classic "Whiter Shade of Pale". Laurie appears as a scientist/doctor in the pop video to accompany Kate Bush's song Experiment IV. On 1 May 2011, Laurie and a jazz quintet closed the 2011 Cheltenham Jazz Festival to great acclaim.
On 15 May 2011 Laurie was the subject of the ITV series Perspectives, explaining his love for the music of New Orleans and playing music, from his album Let Them Talk, at studios and live venues in the city itself. He was the subject of PBS Great Performances Let them Talk, also about New Orleans jazz, first broadcast on 30 September 2011.
Laurie's mother, Patricia (née Laidlaw), died from motor neurone disease in Oxfordshire at the age of 73 in 1989, when Laurie was 30. According to Laurie, it took her two years to die, and she suffered "painful, plodding paralysis" while being cared for by Laurie's father, whom he called "the sweetest man in the whole world".
Laurie married theatre administrator Jo Green in June 1989 in Camden, London. They live in Belsize Park, London with sons Charlie and Bill and daughter Rebecca. They had planned to move the whole family to Los Angeles in 2008 due to the strain of being mostly separated for 9 months each year, but ultimately decided against it. Charlie had a cameo in A Bit of Fry & Laurie in the last sketch of the episode entitled Special Squad, as baby William (whom Stephen and Hugh begin to "interrogate" about "what he's done with the stuff", calling him a scumbag and telling him that he's been a very naughty boy) during his infancy, while Rebecca had a role in the film Wit as five-year-old Vivian Bearing.
Laurie's best friend is long time comedy partner Stephen Fry, who was best man at his wedding and is godfather to his children. Laurie continues his friendship with actress Emma Thompson.
On 23 May 2007 Laurie was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 2007 New Year Honours List, for his services to drama, by Queen Elizabeth II.
In a 2006 interview, Laurie discussed his struggle with severe clinical depression in 1996. He continues to receive regular treatment from a psychotherapist. He stated in an interview that he first concluded he had a problem while driving in a charity demolition derby, during which he realised that seeing two cars collide and explode in front of him caused him to be neither excited nor frightened but instead bored. "Boredom," he commented in an interview on Inside the Actors Studio, "is not an appropriate response to exploding cars."
Laurie admires the writings of P.G. Wodehouse, explaining in a 27 May 1999 article in The Daily Telegraph how reading Wodehouse novels had saved his life.
In a further interview in The Daily Telegraph Laurie confirms his atheism.
Laurie is an avid motorbike enthusiast. He has two motorbikes, one at his London home and one at his Los Angeles home. His bike in the United States is a Triumph Bonneville, his "feeble attempt to fly the British flag".
In March 2012 Laurie was made an honorary fellow of his alma mater Selwyn College.