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Last Updated: Friday, 20 January 2006, 18:39 GMT
Faces of the week

Our regular look at some of the faces which have made the news this week. Above are HUGH LAURIE (main picture), with RUTH KELLY, ABI TITMUSS, 50 CENT and ZIGGY THE PARROT.

HUGH LAURIE

It's a caterpillar to butterfly-type media metamorphosis. The man best known in his homeland for portraying bumbling, English upper-class twits has become a sex symbol in the US for his role as a brooding, brilliant, blue-eyed American doctor in the hit series House.

The Washington Times has described Hugh Laurie's performance as Dr Gregory House as "perilously close to perfection". This week, it won him a Golden Globe in the best TV actor category.

Yet, not even his estimated 240,000 per episode has made him entirely happy. Producers working on the show have remarked that he is seldom content and more often morose and despondent.

And it's not just because the intense filming schedule has meant him not being with his wife and three children at home in London.

Hugh Laurie with Stephen Fry
A Bit of Fry and Laurie
In 1996, Hugh Laurie first admitted he was clinically depressed. He diagnosed this himself when, during a charity stock car race, with cars flying and exploding around him, he felt bored.

Psychotherapy eventually confirmed his condition.

His insecurities stemmed, it would seem, from a mother who continually criticised him, having set goals for him that he could never attain. With typical British understatement, he has described her as "contemptuous of the goal of happiness".

Hugh Laurie was born in Oxford, in 1959, the youngest of four children. His father was a GP and Hugh was expected to follow him into the profession. He felt guilty that this didn't come about. The irony that he has achieved worldwide fame through being a doctor, albeit on TV, has not escaped him.

Laurie's friends

He went to Eton and then to Cambridge where he studied anthropology and archaeology, but made a bigger splash, so-to-speak, by rowing in the Boat Race. That Cambridge lost by a mere five feet still rankles.

But his career in showbiz was forged in the Cambridge Footlights, the theatre group that has been the springboard of success for such stars as Peter Cook, Alan Bennett, Sir David Frost and John Cleese.

Laurie's year had a particularly talented intake. His fellow Footlighters included Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson, Tony Slattery and Kenneth Branagh. Their student days were recalled in the movie, Peter's Friends.

Hugh Laurie accepts his Golden Globe for House
Accepting his Golden Globe for House
Laurie formed a double-act with Stephen Fry, first in theatre revue and later, on television. Fry once described his comedy partner as "phenomenally intelligent with a fantastic brain".

Though something of a foil for Fry, Hugh Laurie was establishing himself as a comic actor. Other talents were also evident, not least his accomplishment on the piano. And could there be a better impersonator of the trumpet?

The piano wasn't his only musical outlet. He played guitar in a rock band named Poor White Trash. He is also a keen pilot and skydiver.

More comic acting success continued with his portrayal as the chinless wonder Bertie Wooster in Jeeves and Wooster, again with Stephen Fry. Then there was more aristocratic fooling around in the role of the gormless Prince Regent in Blackadder.

But Laurie decided it was time to turn aside from the image of a buffoon. He worked so hard on his accent that the producers of House assumed he was American when he bowled them over at his LA audition for House.

The exaggerated mannerisms of his comic characters somehow lend themselves well to the quirkiness of Dr Gregory House. The accent, though, is so different it could almost be dubbed.

The show is currently one of the most popular on American television and is becoming a cult here. If ever there was vindication for Hugh Laurie's decision to go to Hollywood to escape type-casting in Britain, this is it.


RUTH KELLY

The Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly, has had another rollercoaster week. In a statement to MPs, she announced an overhaul of the vetting of school staff and revealed that 88 sex offenders had not been banned from working in schools. Later, she insisted "the vast majority" of Labour MPs support the government's education reforms after her plans came under attack from the former Labour leader, Lord Kinnock and one of Ms Kelly's predecessors, Estelle Morris.

ABI TITMUSS

Former nurse and all-round girl about town, Abi Titmuss, is set to make her West End debut. Abi, who found fame as the girlfriend of the TV presenter John Leslie, has signed-up to play a prostitute in the Arthur Miller play, Two-Way Mirror. "This is a dream come true for me and I feel humbled," she says. But any prospective theatre-goers waiting to see Titmuss strip-off will be disappointed; she remains clothed throughout.

50 CENT

Rapper 50 Cent has hit back at complaints over a controversial poster for his debut film, the autobiographical Get Rich Or Die Tryin'. The multi-millionaire singer, real name Curtis Jackson, was criticised for the poster, which showed him holding a gun and a baby. "Using guns or weapons to market a film is not unusual. You know what the logo for 007 is. You've seen Rambo and Terminator. It's part of entertainment," he said.

ZIGGY THE PARROT

An African grey parrot named Ziggy has revealed his owner's girlfriend was having an affair behind his back. As Chris Taylor sat with Suzy Collins in their Leeds flat, Ziggy squawked "I love you, Gary." When Mr Taylor saw Ms Collins's embarrassed reaction, he realised she had been playing away. Ms Collins admitted the fling and left the flat. Mr Taylor also parted with the bird, who continued to call out Gary's name and mimic his ex-girlfriend's voice.

Written by BBC News Profiles Unit's Bob Chaundy




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