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Hugh Bonneville then vs now: a look back at the star's impressive career

The Downton Abbey actor is a familiar face with TV and movie fans

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Francesca Shillcock
Francesca ShillcockSenior Features Writer
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Hugh Bonneville has been a recognisable face in many different TV shows and films in recent years. Lately, he's known and adored for his role as Robert Crawley in Downton Abbey and he's also starred as DCI Brian Boyce in the BBC's new crime drama The Gold. From his early work in theatre to his big break on TV and his major roles alongside Hollywood royalty, we're taking a look at Hugh's incredible decade-spanning career. Click the video below to watch him in his most recent role...

WATCH: Hugh Bonneville stars as DCI Brian Boyce in The Gold

Hugh Bonneville's early work

After studying at school, Hugh went on to study theology at Cambridge and then went on to study acting at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

Following his education, Hugh joined the National Youth Theatre in the late eighties and began landing roles in the theatre in productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company, including opposite Kenneth Branagh in Hamlet from 1992 until 1993.

MORE: Meet The Gold star Hugh Bonneville's wife and children

READ: Inside Downton Abbey stars' homes: Lily James, Joanne Froggatt, Elizabeth McGovern and more

hugh bonneville early tv role© Photo: Rex

The actor in one of his first TV roles

After working in the theatre, Hugh began working in TV and film. His screen debut came in the form of a small part in an episode of The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

Hugh's first movie role saw him once again work alongside Kenneth Branagh in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which also starred Robert De Niro.

In the late 1990s, he starred alongside Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in Richard Curtis' beloved rom-com, Notting Hill. In 2001, he was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor BAFTA for his role as John Bayley in Iris, opposite Kate Winslet.

hugh bonneville poirot© Photo: Rex

Hugh Bonneville in Poirot

Hugh Bonneville's recent work

Following his success on the big and small screen, Hugh continued to land multiple roles in TV and film and soon became a household name. The actor appeared in titles such as Agatha Christie's PoirotLove Again, in which he played famed poet Philip Larkin, The Vicar of Dibley, Lost in Austen and The Robinsons. In 2010, he first appeared as Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, in period drama Downton Abbey.

Away from Downton, Hugh's other recent work includes BBC comedies, Twenty Twelve, and its subsequent spin-off W1A, The Hollow Crown and the beloved Paddington movies. He was also praised for his portrayal of DCI Brian Boyce in The Gold, which was released in 2023. 

lord lady grantham© Photo: Rex

Hugh reprising his role as Lord Grantham in the Downton Abbey movie

Hugh Bonneville's time on Downton Abbey

Hugh has been a staple in Julian Fellowes' period drama since it began in 2010 and has also appeared in the two movies that followed. While appearing on The Graham Norton Show, the TV star revealed his eternal gratitude for Downton Abbey, as he reflected on the franchise's huge success. "It was very very peculiar and wonderful at the same time,” he said, “But it was a significant difference. Without Downton, I wouldn't have met the little bear, Paddington." 

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