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Last Updated: Friday, 31 December, 2004, 00:37 GMT
Tom Wilkinson: British star
Tom Wilkinson
Tom Wilkinson has become a household name
British actor Tom Wilkinson has been made an OBE in the New Year Honours list.

Wilkinson has become instantly recognisable in recent years thanks to parts in successful movies like Shakespeare in Love, The Full Monty, The Patriot, Rush Hour and In the Bedroom.

Previously he featured mainly in theatre and television, enjoying roles in TV shows including Prime Suspect and Inspector Morse.

Now at the age of 55, the Oscar-nominated actor has added to his notable career with an OBE.

It hasn't always been so easy. When he was young, his father, who was finding it hard to make a living as a farmer in Yorkshire, moved the family to Canada.

But after five years and several unsuccessful attempts to buy a farm, the Wilkinsons returned to live in Cornwall, where they scraped by, managing a pub until his father died in the early 1960s.

Critical acclaim

Wilkinson became preoccupied with acting and directing while studying at Kent University and he eventually won a place at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Rada.

He then followed the well-worn path of the British jobbing actor - repertory theatre mixed with TV and film work. He refined his craft at the Oxford Playhouse, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre and London's West End.

By 1986, he was the acclaimed star of the TV series First Among Equals and garnered critical plaudits for his leading role in Ibsen's Ghosts at the Young Vic.

Though he had to endure the lot of most actors, "resting periods" (during which he became a proficient golfer), he has been unusually busy over a lengthy acting career.

His profile was helped enormously by what many critics regard as his most accomplished performance, as Seth Pecksniff in the BBC's 1994 adaptation of Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit.

The Full Monty
Wilkinson starred in The Full Monty
"Tom's career up to then had been as if he'd just been dipping his toe in the water. With Pecksniff he plunged in wholeheartedly. We all watched in amazement," recalls Chris Parr, producer of the series and now Head of Drama at Thames Television.

In 1997 alone, aside from The Full Monty, Wilkinson had important roles in the films Oscar and Lucinda, The Ghost and the Darkness, Wilde and Smilla's Sense of Snow.

More recently he has made In the Bedroom, Girl With A Pearl Earring, Stage Beauty and has just completed filming on Batman Begins.

Fame for Tom Wilkinson has meant a lot more time in the United States, away from his home in Muswell Hill, London, which he shares with his actress wife, Diana Hardcastle, and his two young children.

But he is still the lad from Yorkshire who famously met but failed to recognise both Madonna and Julia Roberts, and who first thought Jackie Chan was the female director on Rush Hour.

He has turned down many potentially lucrative roles, most notably in Titanic.

"He is a serious and thoughtful person," says Chris Parr. "He's completely lacking in conceit and he'll keep a sense of surprise and proportion."


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