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Samuel Alexander Joseph West

Immediate Family:

Son of Timothy West, CBE and Prunella Scales, CBE
Brother of <private> West

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Immediate Family

About Sam West

Samuel Alexander Joseph West, also known as Sam West (born 19 June 1966) is an English actor and director. He is perhaps best known for his role in the film Howards End and his work on stage (including the award-winning play ENRON).

Early life and education

West is the son of actors Prunella Scales and Timothy West, and the grandson of the late actor Lockwood West. He was educated at Alleyn's School, a co-educational independent school in Dulwich, London, and at Lady Margaret Hall at the University of Oxford, where he studied English Literature.


West works as an actor in a variety of dramatic media including theatre, film, television and radio. He has also made a career as a director on stage and radio. West has narrated many television documentaries, including the acclaimed series The Nazis: A Warning from History. He often appears as reciter with orchestras (see below) and performed at the Last Night of the Proms in 2002.


West made his London stage debut in February 1989 at the Orange Tree Theatre, playing Michael in Cocteau's Les Parents Terribles, of which critic John Thaxter wrote: "He invests the role with a warmth and validity that silences sniggers that could so easily greet a lesser performance of this difficult role, and he lets us share the tumbling emotions of a juvenile torn between romantic first love and filial duty." (Richmond & Twickenham Times, 10 February 1989). Since then, West has appeared frequently on stage and spent two seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company playing the title roles in Richard II and Hamlet, both directed by Steven Pimlott.

In 2002, West made his stage directorial debut with The Lady's Not for Burning at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester. He was appointed artistic director of Sheffield Theatres - succeeding Michael Grandage - in 2005. During his time as artistic director West revived the controversial The Romans in Britain and also directed As You Like It as part of the RSC's Complete Works Festival. West left Sheffield when the theatre closed for refurbishment in 2007 and made his West End directorial debut with the first major revival of Dealer's Choice following its transferral to the Trafalgar Studios. He also continued his acting career: in 2007 he appeared alongside Toby Stephens and Dervla Kirwan in Betrayal at the Donmar Warehouse, in November 2008 he played Harry in the Donmar revival of T. S. Eliot's The Family Reunion and in 2009 he starred as Jeffrey Skilling in ENRON by Lucy Prebble. His 2008 production of Waste at the Almeida Theatre was chosen by The Times as one of its "Productions of the Decade".


In 1991, West played the lower-middle-class clerk Leonard Bast in the Merchant Ivory film adaptation of E. M. Forster's novel Howards End (released 1992) opposite Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter and Anthony Hopkins. For this role, he was nominated for best supporting actor at the 1993 BAFTA Film Awards. Two years later he again appeared with Thompson in the film Carrington. His film career has continued with roles in a number of well known films, such as Zeffirelli's Jane Eyre, Notting Hill, Iris and Van Helsing. In 2004, he appeared in the year's highest rated mini-series on German television, "Die Nibelungen", which was released in the USA in 2006 as Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King.


He is a familiar face on television appearing in many long-running series: Midsomer Murders, Waking the Dead and Poirot as well as one-off dramas. He played Anthony Blunt in Cambridge Spies a BBC production about the four British spies, starring alongside Toby Stephens (Philby), Tom Hollander (Burgess) and Rupert Penry-Jones (Maclean). In 2006 he took the lead role in a BBC production of Random Quest adapted from the short story by John Wyndham and the next year played Ted Heath in Margaret Thatcher - The Long Walk to Finchley, also for the BBC. In 2010 he played Peter Scabius in the televised adaptation of William Boyd's novel Any Human Heart, while in 2011 he starred as Zak Gist in the ITV series Eternal Law.


West is regularly heard on radio as a reader or reciter and has performed in many radio dramas, including Otherkin by Laura Wade, Len Deighton's Bomber, Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman, Michael Frayn's Here and The Homecoming as Lenny to Harold Pinter's Max. In 2011 he made his radio directing debut with a production of Money by Edward Bulwer-Lytton on BBC Radio 3.

Personal life

While at university, West was a member of the Socialist Workers Party and later briefly the Socialist Alliance; West has been a left-wing activist for many years; he was a critic of Tony Blair's New Labour government.

As a choral singer, West participated in the May 2006 Choir of London tour to Jerusalem and the West Bank, where he also gave poetry readings as part of the concert programme. In April 2007, he again joined the Choir of London in their tour of Palestine, directing The Magic Flute. West became the patron of Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus in February 2008, having been the narrator for a concert of theirs in February 2002. He is also a patron of London children's charity Scene & Heard,[6] Eastside Educational Trust and Mousetrap Theatre projects.

Between 2007 and 2011, he lived with playwright Laura Wade.

West has appeared alongside his actor parents on several occasions; with his mother Prunella Scales in Howards End and Stiff Upper Lips, and with his father Timothy West on stage in A Number, Henry IV Part I and Part II. In two films - Iris (2001) and the 1996 television film Over Here, Sam and his father have played the same character at different ages. In 2002 all three family members performed in Stravinsky's The Soldiers Tale at the St Magnus Festival on Orkney and in 2006 they gave a rehearsed reading of the Harold Pinter play Family Voices as part of the Sheffield Theatres Pinter season.

He is an Associate Artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company, vice-chair of the National Campaign for the Arts and a member of the council of the British Actors' Union, Equity. He frequently speaks in public on arts funding issues.




Radio and Audiobooks and reciting

Awards and nominations

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Sam West's Timeline

June 19, 1966