Sir Derek George Jacobi, CBE (born October 22nd, 1938) is a British actor and director, knighted in 1994 for his services to the theatre.
Jacobi was born in Leytonstone in east London; he studied at the University of Cambridge before embarking on his stage career. He quickly came to the fore, and his talent was recognised by Laurence Olivier, who gave him the role of Cassio in his 1965 film of Othello.
Although Jacobi's name was becoming known and he was increasingly busy with stage and screen acting, his big breakthrough did not come for another ten years. It was the title role of the BBC's blockbuster series I, Claudius (1976) that finally cemented his popular reputation. His performance as the stammering, twitching Emperor Claudius won him many plaudits. It was a performance he would later come close to repeating in the role of Alan Turing in the stage play, Breaking the Code (of which a televised version was made in 1996).
Jacobi continued to play Shakespeare, notably in Kenneth Branagh's 1989 film of Henry V (as the Chorus) and in two notable productions of Hamlet (as Hamlet in the BBC Television Shakespeare production in 1980 and as Claudius in Kenneth Branagh's movie in 1996), but also attracted new audiences as the detective-monk Cadfael in TV's adaptation of the novels of Ellis Peters.
Jacobi has also done the narration for an audio book version of the Iliad, and also for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis.
He remains one of Britain's foremost actors. He was appointed the joint artistic director of the Chichester Festival Theatre, with the West End impresario Duncan Weldon in 1995 for a three year tenure.
In the early 2000s Jacobi toured internationally for a production of The Hollow Crown with Sir Donald Sinden, Ian Richardson and Dame Diana Rigg. Jacobi also played the role of Senator Gracchus in Gladiator, and starred in the 2002 miniseries The Jury.
In 2003 he was involved with Scream of the Shalka — a webcast based on the science fiction series Doctor Who. He played the voice of the Master alongside Richard E. Grant as the Doctor. In the same year he also appeared in Deadline, an audio drama also based on Doctor Who. In that he played Martin Bannister, an ageing writer who makes up stories about "the Doctor", a character who travels in time and space, the premise being that the series had never made it onto television.
Also in 2003 Jacobi won an Emmy for a guest appearance on Frasier playing a forgotten theatre star.
In 2004, Jacobi starred in Don Carlos at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, in an acclaimed production, which opened at the Gielgud Theatre in London in late January 2005. The London production of Don Carlos gathered rave reviews and led to the play moving to New York for a Broadway run in the autumn of 2005.
In 2006, he played the role of Alexander Corvinus in the movie Underworld: Evolution.