Simon Callow was born in 1949 in London. He lived in Africa for three years, studied at the London Oratory School on his return and subsequently spent a year at Queen’s University Belfast, from which he ran away to become an actor. After three years training at the Drama Centre, he made his debut at the Edinburgh Festival in 1973, playing the front end of a horse in Büchner’s Woyzeck. In 1979, he created the part of Mozart in the first production of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus and played the title role in Goethe’s Faust, all seven hours of it. He has appeared extensively with the RSC, the National Theatre (most recently in Twelfth Night as Sir Toby Belch), at the Royal Court, in the West End and all over the country.
Over the years he has done a number of one-man plays including The Importance of Being Oscar, The Mystery of Charles Dickens,and most recently Being Shakespeare, Tuesday at Tesco’s in Edinburgh, and a tour of two Dickens one man plays, Dr Marigold and Mr Chops. His one-man version of A Christmas Carol last Christmas was hugely successful. His films include Amadeus, A Room with a View, Shakespeare in Love, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Phantom of the Opera, Chemical Wedding, 3 x 20 and Acts of Godfrey in which he plays God in rhyming couplets, released later this year. He has worked in television for over thirty years; in the early 1980s he played Tom Chance opposite Brenda Blethyn in the sitcom, Chance in a Million, which has become a bit of a cult. He has directed over thirty shows, including Carmen Jones and the West End and Broadway productions of Shirley Valentine and Single Spies at the National Theatre, as well many operas, most recently The Magic Flute at Holland Park. His only film as a director is The Ballad of the Sad Café, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Rod Steiger. He has written and presented two documentaries for television, Callow’s Laughton and Orson Welles Over Europe.
He has written 16 books, including a memoir, Love is Where It Falls, biographies of Charles Laughton and Orson Welles (two volumes so far, one to come), and a number of books about the theatre, starting with Being an Actor and continuing with his latest book, My Life in Pieces, which on the coveted Sheridan Morley Award. A biography of Charles Dickens, Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World appeared on February 7th 2012, Dickens’s 200th birthday.
He has been very closely involved in music, working with orchestras (LPO, LSO, LMP, Philharmonia, Glyndebourne) and with instrumentalists and singers (Carole Farley, Steven Isserlis, Steven Hough). He has recorded works by Schönberg, Rawsthorne, and Hallgrimsson, and been involved in the premieres of pieces by Jonathan Dove, Roxanna Panufnik and Per Norgaard. His dancing has been confined to a production of The Soldier’s Tale, in which he played the Devil; the violin was played by Pinchas Zuckerman.