Jim Broadbent

"This is amazing," said Jim Broadbent in January 2002 when he collected a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe for his performance in Iris. "I couldn't be more surprised. I've got nothing worked out [to say]. There's Jon Voight and James Coburn all my heroes," he continued. "I might pass out."

But just how amazing was the UK-born actor's win? Fine turns on screen have raised his profile and resulted in directors such as Woody Allen, Baz Luhrman, Martin Scorsese and Mike Leigh all queuing up to use his services.

Born in Lincolnshire on May 24, 1949, the youngest child and only surviving twin of furniture-maker Roy Broadbent and his sculptress wife, Jim was exposed to greasepaint and the roar of the crowd at a very early age. His mother ran an amateur dramatics society in the local church and, aged four, the budding thespian made his first stage entrance, in A Doll's House.

Sent to a Quaker boarding school in Reading, Jim earned himself a reputation as a rebel for his tendency to answer back to the teachers. Then, just before sitting his A Levels, he was expelled for drinking. Undaunted, the teenage Jim successfully applied for a place at art school. His heart lay in acting, however, and he transferred to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

Upon graduation in 1972, Jim went straight to the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park, where he was hired as stage manager. It took a few years for the acting work to start coming in and while he was waiting the actor enrolled in the Ugly modelling agency to supplement his income, although he never actually landed a job. "Perhaps I wasn't ugly enough," he later quipped.

His big break came in 1977, when he landed a part in the 12-part sci-fi TV programme Illuminatus, which required him to play multiple roles. Around the same time Jim began to collaborate with Mike Leigh in stage productions of the writer-director's plays Ecstasy and Goosepimples. Leigh later directed a short that Jim had written, a rare accolade from the independent film-maker.

As the work continued to come his way, Jim began to catch the attention of British film directors. His first foray into Hollywood came in 1987, when he starred in Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, alongside Christopher Reeve and Gene Hackman. By this time, he was a regular on the BBC, in projects ranging from the Rowan Atkinson comedy Blackadder to dramas such as Silas Marner. Woody Allen even called him up personally to offer him a role in Bullets Over Broadway.

Jim's profile continued to rise through the Nineties. One of the few actors as comfortable in a supporting role as that of principal player, by the end of the decade he was one of Britain's best-loved character actors. Roles in Little Voice, Smilla's Sense Of Snow and The Avengers all consolidated his position as one of the UK's premier entertainment exports.

But it was in the 21st century that the actor rose to the A list. He bagged parts in Mike Leigh's Topsy Turvy, and played Renee Zellweger's father in Bridget Jones's Diary. Meanwhile, his Moulin Rouge turn - a role he described as "totally over the top, probably the longest suicide note in history" - called for him to sing Madonna's hit Like A Virgin. Then, of course, came Iris, and the Scorsese epic Gangs Of New York.

Jim is married to costume designer-turned-artist Anastasia Lewis, whom he met in 1983. The couple married in 1987, and he is stepfather to her two grown-up sons, Tom and Paul. They split their time between their North London house and a cottage in Lincolnshire - close to the Methodist chapel that Jim's father Roy helped to turn into a theatre - and spend much of their free time on walking holidays.
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