Derek Jacobi

Last updated on the 17 June 2024 by Maeve

Derek Jacobi

Mini Biography

Born: 22 October 1938, Leytonstone, Essex, England. 

Derek Jacobi’s early life was marked by the influence of his parents, Alfred George Jacobi, a tobacconist and sweet shop owner, and Daisy Gertrude Masters, a secretary. Jacobi’s unique heritage includes a patrilineal great-grandfather who emigrated from Germany to England during the 19th century, as well as distant Huguenot ancestry.

John Hurt and Derek Jacobi - I, Claudius
John Hurt and Derek Jacobi – I, Claudius

Derek Jacobi’s education began at Leyton Sixth Form College, where he first discovered his passion for acting. He then attended St John’s College, Cambridge, where he studied history and crossed paths with other future luminaries such as Ian McKellen and Trevor Nunn.

His professional acting career took off after joining the National Theatre, initially under the leadership of Laurence Olivier. Jacobi’s stage presence was undeniable, and he quickly became known for his Shakespearean roles, including Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, and Twelfth Night.

Derek Jacobi’s film and television career is equally illustrious. He gained widespread acclaim for his portrayal of Claudius in the BBC series “I, Claudius” in 1976, for which he won a BAFTA Award for Best Actor. His filmography includes notable films such as “Henry V,” “Gladiator,” “Nanny McPhee,” and “Murder on the Orient Express.” On television, he starred in the medieval drama series “Cadfael” and appeared in popular shows like “Vicious” and “Last Tango in Halifax.” His role as Edward VIII in “The Crown” showcased his versatility and depth as an actor.

Ian Mckellen, Derek Jacobi and Francis De la Tour - portrait from Vicious
Ian Mckellen, Derek Jacobi and Francis De la Tour – portrait from Vicious

Derek Jacobi’s personal life has been shared with his partner, Richard Clifford, since 1979. The couple’s long-standing relationship is a testament to their shared love of the arts and commitment to each other.

Throughout his career, Jacobi has been recognised with numerous awards, including two Olivier Awards, two Primetime Emmy Awards and a Tony Award. His contributions to theatre were honoured with a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in 1994.

Derek Jacobi’s legacy is not just in the roles he’s played but also in the authenticity and passion he brings to each performance. His journey from a young boy in Leytonstone to a knighted actor is a narrative of dedication, talent and the transformative power of the arts.


BAFTA award


WINNER | Television: Actor for I, Claudius (1977)



Suggested viewing


The Old Curiosity Shop (2007)

The Old Curiosity Shop poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 6.5

The story follows the life of Nell Trent, a virtuous young girl who lives with her grandfather in an antique shop in London. Despite being loved by her grandfather, Nell leads a lonely existence. Her only friend is Kit, a young boy who also resides in the shop. The story takes a dark turn as her grandfather turns to gambling in a desperate attempt to prevent Nell from dying in poverty.

Top cast: Sophie Vavasseur, Derek Jacobi, Toby Jones, Anna Madeley, Adam Godley, Gina McKee, Adrian Rawlins, Bryan Dick, Zoë Wanamaker, Martin Freeman, Steve Pemberton, George MacKay, Bradley Walsh, Charlene McKenna.

More Dickens

David Copperfield poster     Bleak House poster     Little Dorrit, Claire Foy


I, Claudius (1976)

I, Claudius poster

Bftv 9.5 / IMDb 8.8

In ancient Rome, the timid Claudius narrates his dramatic journey from an outcast in the imperial family to becoming Emperor. Amidst a treacherous web of power struggles and familial betrayals, Claudius must avoid deadly conspiracies while preserving his own life and legacy in this riveting tale of political intrigue and survival.

Top cast: Derek Jacobi, Siân Phillips, Brian Blessed, George Baker, Margaret Tyzack, John Hurt, Patricia Quinn, Patrick Stewart.

More from Rome

Rome poster


Mr Pye (1986)

Mr Pye (1986)

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 7.8

In the picturesque village of Sark, a quirky and enigmatic man named Mr. Pye arrives with an unusual mission to spread joy among the locals. However, his unconventional methods and eccentric personality stir up unexpected challenges and transformations, leading to both humorous and heartwarming encounters in this delightful tale of self-discovery and community.

Top cast: Derek Jacobi, Judy Parfitt, Richard O’Callaghan, Robin McCaffrey, Ralph Nossek, Amanda Reiss.


Cadfael (1994)


Bftv 9.0 / IMDb 8.1

“Cadfael” is a British television series based on a series of historical murder mystery novels by Ellis Peters. The series follows the adventures of Brother Cadfael, a Benedictine monk who uses his knowledge of herbs and his past as a soldier to solve crimes in medieval England. Each episode features a new mystery for Cadfael to solve, often involving political intrigue, forbidden love and religious conflict.

Top cast: Derek Jacobi, Michael Culver, Julian Firth, Terrence Hardiman, Mark Charnock, Albie Woodington, Sean Pertwee, Eoin McCarthy.

Another medieval “whodunnit”

Shardlake poster


Vicious (2013)


Bftv 9.0 / IMDb 8.1

In the TV series “Vicious,” Freddie and Stuart, a long-term gay couple, navigate their eccentric and stormy relationship with their equally idiosyncratic friends. Through witty banter and sharp humour, they tackle love, aging and the ups and downs of their enduring bond, all while embracing their wonderfully flawed and lovable selves.

Top cast: Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi, Frances de la Tour, Iwan Rheon, Marcia Warren, Philip Voss.


Derek Jacobi full filmography @ Wikipedia
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