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John Altman - Biography

John found fame as Nick Cotton in EastEnders

Former EastEnders actor John Altman poses at a photocall to promote the Bromley dates of regional touring production of "Kiss Me Kate" on November 2, 2004 in Bromley, England.
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John Altman found fame in the 1980s as Nick Cotton, also known as Nasty Nick, the son of beloved local Dot Cotton (played by June Brown). In real life,  John is also known for being the lead singer of Heavy Metal Kids, and his work in the Daz adverts.

Who is John Altman?

John Clarkson Stewart, professionally known as John Altman, is an English actor and singer most widely recognised as EastEnders villain 'Nasty' Nick Cotton. He was born in Reading on 2 March 1952 and has been an actor since 1979, with his debut appearance in neo-noir crime film The First Great Train Robbery.

"As a child I was painfully shy… but joining an amateur dramatics company as well as the local swimming club helped bring me out of my shell," he told The Express in 2016. He went on to reveal that acting has long been in his family. His grandfather, Johnnie Schofield Jr, appeared in old TV films including 1942's Went The Day Well.

As a teenager he hitchhiked across Europe, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, following the then-dubbed 'hippie trail'. After returning home he completed his A-level in art and went to art school, before finally taking up acting.

John Altman's TV career

Whilst most widely recognised for weaving in and out of the East End in BBC soap EastEnders over the years, John's TV career is as diverse as you can get. 

He's appeared in a staggering 51 TV productions between 1982 and 2017, ranging from children's favourite Balamory, via popular quiz shows The Weakest Link and Pointless Celebrities, to Celebrity Coach Trip and 2020's The Real Marigold Hotel.

John Altman's film career

His acting career hasn't been limited to the small screen however, with John getting his fill of the film world over the years too. 

The same year as his debut appearance in The First Great Train Robbery, he starred as George Harrison in Beatles biopic The Birth of the Beatles. From there he appeared in 1982's Remembrance as Steve (which was also Gary Oldman's first film) and, perhaps his biggest production, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi as a Rebel Pilot. 

His last film appearance was as the voice of Reverend William Willoughby in 2016 animated film I Am Khama, which explores the colonial past of Botswana.

John Altman's stage career

Whilst TV and film are certainly John's bread and butter, the talented actor has also taken to the stage over the years. 

He made his stage debut in an adult pantomime in 1994 with EastEnders co-stars Barbara Windsor and Mike Reid. His biggest stage appearance, however, was as Billy Flynn in the 2002 UK touring production of Chicago. A year later he appeared alongside fellow soap actor Nigel Pivaro (Coronation Street's Terry Duckworth) in Bouncers, a stage play by John Godber.

John Altman's music career

A man of many talents, John has also dabbled in music. In 2010 he joined reformed British glam rock band The Heavy Metal Kids as the lead singer, however left the following year to focus on other commitments.

John Altman's personal life

John's love life has been a quiet one. In 1986 he married Bridget Pouhan, however the couple divorced in 1997 after 11 years together. They share a daughter, Rosanna, and granddaughter Lily. 

In 2016 he was living in London with his actress partner Diana Marchment, however revealed on The Real Marigold Hotel in 2020 that he was open to finding love again, suggesting the couple were no longer together. 

In 2020 John opened up about his bad relationship with alcohol. Speaking on The Real Marigold Hotel, he revealed he had been sober for 22 years after a bout of "abnormal drinking".

He stated: "As an actor in my younger days, I was getting up late and going to the pub at lunchtime, so I stopped drinking 22 years ago. That wasn't easy. I thought I'd be really boring if I didn't have a drink, but that's not the case."

In 2016 he released his autobiography, In The Nick of Time.

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