Page last updated at 00:34 GMT, Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Profile: Michael Sheen

Michael Sheen
Michael Sheen came to global attention playing Prime Minister Tony Blair

Rada-trained actor Michael Sheen, who has been made an OBE for services to drama, has a reputation for playing extreme characters.

"Whether something succeeds or fails doesn't matter at all - the point is that you strive, that you take risks, and that you challenge yourself.

"By doing so, inevitably some of those risks are going to pay off," the 39-year-old performer said in an interview earlier this year.

Indeed, Sheen's audacious role choices have served him well over the past few years.

From Mozart to Tony Blair, from Kenneth Williams to Brian Clough - Sheen has won critical acclaim for his range and versatility.

Born in Newport, Wales, Sheen moved to Port Talbot as a boy - a pedigree he shares with Welsh acting luminaries Richard Burton and Sir Anthony Hopkins.

'Consistently outstanding'

Sheen exhibited early talent as a footballer, but was dissuaded from pursuing a professional career by his father - a former Jack Nicholson impersonator - who thought he was too young to leave his home in Port Talbot for London, and Arsenal.

It was the teenager's later discovery of theatre critic Kenneth Tynan and actor Laurence Olivier that propelled him toward a career on stage.

"To this day I'm constantly nicking stuff I've read about Olivier," he told the Telegraph in 2005.

Michael Sheen as Kenneth Williams
Playing comedian and Carry On star Kenneth Williams in the BBC's Fantabulosa!

Appropriately in his second year at Rada, Sheen won the Laurence Olivier Bursary for consistently outstanding performances.

His early potential duly noted, he left drama school early to make his West End debut opposite Vanessa Redgrave in When She Danced in 1991.

Over the subsequent decade, Sheen went on to impress theatre audiences with leading roles in Look Back in Anger, Henry V and Amadeus, which transferred amid critical acclaim from the West End to Broadway in 1999.

Personal life

2003 proved a pivotal year for Sheen. Alongside his award-winning turn as Caligula at London's Donmar Warehouse came his first outing as Tony Blair in Channel Four's The Deal.

In the same year, Sheen also made a foray into the world of Hollywood blockbusters, appearing with his then-girlfriend Kate Beckinsale in Underworld.

Beckinsale, with whom Sheen has a daughter, ended up leaving Sheen for Underworld director Len Wiseman, but the pair have remained amicable, co-starring in two sequels - the second due out in 2009.

Sheen (r) with Frank Langella, as President Nixon, in Frost/Nixon

The Deal marked Sheen's first collaboration with screenwriter Peter Morgan.

But is was Morgan's 2006 film The Queen, in which Sheen reprised his role as Tony Blair, that won the actor global recognition.

The role earned him a Bafta nomination and a number of critics awards in the US.

Sheen and Morgan collaborated again the following year, with Sheen playing broadcaster David Frost in Frost/Nixon.

The production, which focuses on Frost's series of interviews with the disgraced President Nixon, transferred to Broadway, before being made into a film - now widely tipped for Oscar success.

With Sheen expected to combine his footballing talents and his acting skills as Brian Clough in the forthcoming Damned United, and another outing as Tony Blair in Peter Morgan's The Special Relationship, there is still plenty more scope for awards.

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