Pryce at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival
1 June 1947
Jonathan Pryce (born John Price; 1 June 1947) is a Welsh character actor. After studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Pryce began his career as a stage actor in the early 1970s. His work in theatre, including an award-winning performance in the title role of the Royal Court Theatre's Hamlet, led to several supporting roles in film and television. His breakthrough screen performance was in Terry Gilliam's 1985 film Brazil. Critically lauded for his versatility, Pryce has appeared in big-budget films including Evita, Tomorrow Never Dies, and Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as independent films such as Glengarry Glen Ross, The Age of Innocence, Carrington, The New World and The Wife.
Pryce's career in theatre has also been prolific, and he has won two Tony Awards--the first in 1977 for his Broadway debut in Comedians, the second for his 1991 role as The Engineer in the musical Miss Saigon. He was a guest actor as the High Sparrow in the HBO series Game of Thrones in 2015, before becoming a main cast member in 2016. Since early 2017, he has starred as Sir Stuart Strange in the series Taboo. In 2019, Pryce earned his first Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Pope Francis in The Two Popes.
Pryce was born John Price on 1 June 1947 in Carmel, Flintshire, the son of Margaret Ellen (née Williams) and Isaac Price, a former coal miner who ran a small general grocery shop with his wife. He has two older sisters and was raised a Welsh Presbyterian. He was educated at Holywell Grammar School and, at the age of 16, went to art college before he started training to be a teacher at Edge Hill College (now Edge Hill University) in Ormskirk, Lancashire. While studying, he took part in a college theatre production. An impressed tutor suggested he should become an actor, and applied to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) for an application form on his behalf; Pryce was subsequently awarded a scholarship to RADA. When he joined Equity, he took "Jonathan Pryce" as his stage name because his birth name was too similar to that of a performer already represented by Equity. While at RADA, Pryce worked as a door-to-door salesman of velvet paintings.
Despite finding RADA "strait-laced" and being told by his tutor that he could never aspire to do more than playing villains on Z-Cars, Pryce joined the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool upon graduation and eventually became its Artistic Director, as well as performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Nottingham Playhouse. In order to gain his Equity card he made his first screen appearance in a minor role in "Fire & Brimstone", a 1972 episode of the science fiction drama series Doomwatch. He then starred in two television films, both directed by Stephen Frears: Daft as a Brush and Playthings. After the Everyman Pryce joined Sir Richard Eyre at the Nottingham Playhouse and starred in Trevor Griffiths' play Comedians, in a role specially written for him. The production then transferred to the Old Vic Theatre in London and he reprised the role on Broadway in 1976, this time directed by Mike Nichols, for which he won the 1977 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play. It was around this time that he appeared in his first film role, playing the character Joseph Manasse in the drama Voyage of the Damned, starring Faye Dunaway. He did not, however, abandon the stage, appearing from 1978 to 1979 in the Royal Shakespeare Company's productions of The Taming of the Shrew as Petruchio, and Antony and Cleopatra as Octavius Caesar.
In 1980, his performance in the title role of Hamlet at the Royal Court Theatre won him an Olivier Award, and was acclaimed by some critics as the definitive Hamlet of his generation. That year, Pryce had a small but pivotal role as Zarniwoop in the 12th episode of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series, one that he reprised for the Quintessential Phase which was broadcast in 2005. In his original role as Zarniwoop, Pryce's character questions the "ruler of the Universe", a solipsist who has been chosen to rule arguably because of either his inherent manipulability, or immunity therefrom, on his philosophical opinions. Around the same time, in 1980, he also appeared in the film Breaking Glass. In 1983, Pryce played the role of the sinister Mr. Dark in Something Wicked This Way Comes, based on the Ray Bradbury novel of the same title. After appearing mostly in films, such as the Ian McEwan-scripted The Ploughman's Lunch, and Martin Luther, Heretic (both also 1983), he achieved a breakthrough with his role as the subdued protagonist Sam Lowry in the Terry Gilliam film, Brazil (1985). After Brazil, Pryce appeared in the historical thriller The Doctor and the Devils (also 1985) and then in the Gene Wilder-directed film Haunted Honeymoon (1986). During this period of his life, Pryce continued to perform on stage, and gained particular notice as the successful but self-doubting writer Trigorin in a London production of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull in late 1985. From 1986 to 1987 Pryce played the lead part in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Macbeth, which also starred Sinéad Cusack as Lady Macbeth.
Pryce worked once again with Gilliam in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), playing "The Right Ordinary Horatio Jackson". The film was a notorious financial fiasco, with production costing more than $40 million, when the original budget was $23.5 million. The following year Pryce appeared in three of the earliest episodes of the improvisation show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, alongside Paul Merton and John Sessions, and in Uncle Vanya, again a play by Chekhov, at the Vaudeville Theatre.
After a series of major dramatic roles on stage, including Vanya and Macbeth, Pryce decided he wanted to do musicals after seeing his friend Patti LuPone in the original London production of Les Misérables. He successfully returned to the stage originating the role of The Engineer, a Eurasian pimp, in the West End musical Miss Saigon. His performance was praised in England where he won the Olivier and Variety Club awards, but when the production transferred to Broadway the Actors' Equity Association (AEA) would not allow Pryce to portray The Engineer because, according to their executive secretary, "[t]he casting of a Caucasian actor made up to appear Asian is an affront to the Asian community."Cameron Mackintosh, the show's producer, decided to cancel the $10 million New York production because, he said, he would not let the freedom of artistic expression be attacked. Realizing that its decision would result in the loss of many jobs, and after Pryce received much support from the acting community (both Charlton Heston and John Malkovich threatened to leave the union if Pryce was not allowed to perform) the AEA decided to make a deal with Mackintosh, allowing Pryce to appear in the production. He then, in 1991, won a Tony Award for his performance. Made in the same period, Pryce starred in the ITV mini-series Selling Hitler (1991) as Gerd Heidemann. Pryce returned to the London stage the following year to star for one night only at the Royal Festival Hall for an AIDS charity alongside Elaine Paige and Lilliane Montivecchi in the 1992 revival of the Federico Fellini-inspired musical Nine.
Pryce featured, alongside Kathy Burke and Minnie Driver, in the BBC serial Mr. Wroe's Virgins (1993), directed by Danny Boyle. Pryce played Henry Kravis in the HBO produced made-for-TV movie Barbarians at the Gate (1993). He was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award and for a Golden Globe Award for his role. Also during 1993, Pryce starred alongside River Phoenix and Judy Davis in the unfinished film Dark Blood, but production had to be shut down when, 11 days short of completion, Phoenix died from a drug overdose. Director George Sluizer, who owns the rights to what has been filmed, has made available some of the raw material, which features Pryce and Phoenix on a field in Utah, on his personal website. Between 1993 and 1997, Pryce, on a multimillion-dollar contract became the spokesman for the Infiniti automobile marque in a series of American television commercials, in particular for the Infiniti J30 and Infiniti Q45. In one of these advertisements Pryce appeared alongside jazz singer Nancy Wilson in a Prague nightclub. In 1994, Pryce portrayed Fagin in a revival of the musical Oliver!, and starred alongside Emma Thompson in the film Carrington (1995), which centres on a platonic relationship between gay writer Lytton Strachey and painter Dora Carrington. For his portrayal of Strachey, Pryce received the Best Actor Award at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival.
During the early 2000s Pryce starred and participated in a variety of movies, such as The Affair of the Necklace (2001), Unconditional Love (2002), What a Girl Wants (2003), and Terry Gilliam's aborted project, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. While the success of some of these films was variable, the 2001 London stage production of My Fair Lady and his portrayal of Professor Henry Higgins was acclaimed by observers. This production turned out to be very stressful for Pryce because Martine McCutcheon, who portrayed Eliza Doolittle, was sick during much of the show's run. McCutcheon was replaced by her understudy Alexandra Jay, who would also fall sick hours before a performance, forcing her understudy, Kerry Ellis, to take the lead. Pryce was understandably upset and on her first night introduced Ellis to the audience before the show by saying "This will be your first Eliza, my second today and my third this week. Any member of the audience interested in playing Eliza can find applications at the door. Wednesday and Saturday matinee available." Pryce ended up dealing with four Elizas during the course of 14 months. Despite the difficulty, the show was nominated for four Laurence Olivier Awards on 2001: Best Actress in a Musical for Martine McCutcheon, Outstanding Musical Production, Best Theatre Choreographer and Best Actor in a Musical for Pryce. Pryce lost to Philip Quast, although ironically McCutcheon won in her category having played fewer performances than any of her understudies. Pryce did express interest in doing My Fair Lady in New York, but when asked if he would do it with McCutcheon he said that "there's as much chance of me getting a date with Julia Roberts as doing My Fair Lady in New York with Martine McCutcheon."
In April 2003 Pryce returned to the non-musical stage with A Reckoning, written by American dramatist Wesley Moore. The play co-starred Flora Montgomery and after premiering at the Soho Theatre in London was described by The Daily Telegraph as "one of the most powerful and provocative new American plays to have opened since David Mamet's Oleanna." Pryce had a role in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), in which he portrayed a fictional Governor of Jamaica, Weatherby Swann, a film he has described as "one of those why-not movies." After Pirates, Pryce appeared in several large-scale motion pictures, such as De-Lovely (2004), his second musical film, a chronicle of the life of songwriter Cole Porter, for which Kevin Kline and Pryce covered a Porter song called "Blow, Gabriel, Blow". The Brothers Grimm (2005), Pryce's third completed film with Terry Gilliam, starred Matt Damon and Heath Ledger, and The New World (2005), in which he had a cameo role as King James I. In 2005, Pryce was nominated for another Olivier Award in the best actor category for his role in the 2004 London production of The Goat or Who is Sylvia?, where he played Martin, a goat-lover who has to face the recriminations of his cheated-on wife, played by his real-life wife Kate Fahy. Pryce's performance was highly praised, but he lost the Olivier to Richard Griffiths.
Pryce lent his voice to the French animated film, Renaissance (2006), which he stated he wanted to do because he had never "done anything quite like it before." He reprised the role of Governor Weatherby Swann for the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007). Both were filmed at the same time but released a year apart. Pryce returned to the Broadway stage replacing John Lithgow, from January to July 2006, as Lawrence Jameson in the musical version of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. During early 2007, the BBC serial Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars was first broadcast with Pryce in the lead. From September 2007 through June 2008, he returned to the theatre portraying Shelly Levene in a new West End production of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross at the Apollo Theatre, London.
In 2015 he joined the cast of the HBO series Game of Thrones in Season 5 as the High Sparrow. Pryce admitted that one of the main reasons he took on the role was because of how influential the character is plot-wise. While initially being quite sceptical about "sword and sorcery" shows, Pryce later had a change of heart after his positive experiences on the Thrones sets. In 2015 he also appeared at The Globe Theatre as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. His real life daughter Phoebe played Shylock's daughter Jessica. In 2015, he joined the cast of The Healer starring with Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Camilla Luddington, and Jorge Garcia. He played Pope Francis, opposite Anthony Hopkins playing Pope Benedict, in the acclaimed Netflix film The Two Popes, released in 2019. He received an Academy Award for Best Actor nomination for the film.
While working at the Everyman Theatre in 1972, Pryce met actress Kate Fahy; after a decades-long relationship, they married in 2015. They live in London and have three children together: a son named Patrick (born 1983) another named Gabriel (born 1986), and a daughter named Phoebe (born 1990). In 2006, Pryce was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Liverpool. He is a fellow of the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, and a Companion of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. Pryce was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2009 Birthday Honours.
|1976||Voyage of the Damned||Joseph Manasse|
|1982||Praying Mantis||Christian Magny|
|1983||Something Wicked this Way Comes||Mr. Dark|
|The Ploughman's Lunch||James Penfield|
|Martin Luther, Heretic||Martin Luther|
|The Doctor and the Devils||Robert Fallon|
|1986||Haunted Honeymoon||Charles Abbot|
|Jumpin' Jack Flash||Jack|
|1987||Man on Fire||Michael|
|1988||Consuming Passions||Mr Farris|
|The Adventures of Baron Munchausen||Right Ordinary Horatio Jackson|
|1989||The Rachel Papers||Norman|
|1992||Glengarry Glen Ross||James Lingk|
|Freddie as F.R.O.7||Trilby||Voice|
|The Age of Innocence||Rivière|
|1994||A Business Affair||Alec Bolton|
|A Troll in Central Park||Alan||Voice|
|Deadly Advice||Dr. Ted Philips|
|Great Moments in Aviation||Duncan Stewart|
|1996||Evita||Colonel Juan Perón|
|1997||Regeneration / Behind the Lines||Dr. William Rivers|
|Tomorrow Never Dies||Elliot Carver|
|2001||The Affair of the Necklace||Cardinal Louis de Rohan|
|Bride of the Wind||Gustav Mahler|
|Very Annie Mary||Jack Pugh|
|2002||Unconditional Love||Victor Fox|
|2003||Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl||Governor Weatherby Swann|
|What a Girl Wants||Alistair Payne|
|2005||The Brothers Grimm||General Vavarin Delatombe|
|The New World||King James|
|Brothers of the Head||Henry Couling|
|2006||Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest||Governor Weatherby Swann|
|Renaissance||Paul Dellenbac||Voice; English dub|
|2007||Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End||Governor Weatherby Swann|
|Bedtime Stories||Marty Bronson|
|G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra||President of the United States|
|2011||Hysteria||Dr. Robert Dalrymple|
|2013||G.I. Joe: Retaliation||President of the United States|
|2014||Listen Up Philip||Ike Zimmerman|
|The Salvation||Mayor Keane|
|2015||Woman in Gold||Chief Justice William Rehnquist|
|2016||The White King||Colonel Fitz|
|2017||The Ghost and the Whale||Whale|
|The Healer||Raymond Heacock|
|The Wife||Joe Castleman|
|The Man Who Invented Christmas||John Dickens|
|2018||The Man Who Killed Don Quixote||Don Quixote|
|2019||The Two Popes||Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio|
|1975||Daft As a Brush||Donald||TV movie|
|1975-1979||Play for Today||Gethin Price / Tommy||2 episodes|
|1976||BBC2 Playhouse||Playleader||Episode: "Play Things"|
|Bill Brand||Jamie Finn||Episode: "It Is the People Who Create"|
|1977||After the Boom Was Over||Mr. Ambrose||TV movie|
|Chalk and Cheese||Dave Finn||Episode: "Pilot"|
|1978||Daft As a Brush||Donald||TV movie|
|1980||The Day Christ Died||Herod Antipas||TV movie|
|Spine Chillers||Reader||5 episodes|
|1981||Timon of Athens||Timon||TV movie|
|Roger Doesn't Live Here Anymore||Roger Flower||6 episodes|
|Theatre Box||Drippens||Episode: "School for Clowns"|
|1982||Murder Is Easy||Mr. Ellsworthy||TV movie|
|1983||Praying Mantis||Christian Magny||TV movie|
|1988||Tickets for the Titanic||Rev Richard Hopkins||Episode: "Everyone a Winner"|
|The Storyteller||King||Episode: "The Three Ravens"|
|1988-1989||Whose Line Is It Anyway?||Himself||6 episodes|
|1990||Screen Two||William Wallace||Episode: "The Man from the Pru"|
|The Jim Henson Hour||King||Episode: "Food"|
|1991||Selling Hitler||Gerd Heidemann||5 episodes|
|1993||Mr. Wroe's Virgins||John Wroe||4 episodes|
|Barbarians at the Gate||Henry Kravis||TV movie|
|Thicker than Water||Sam||TV movie|
|1999||Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death||The Master||Television short|
|2001||Victoria & Albert||King Leopold I of Belgium||2 episodes|
|2002||The Wonderful World of Disney||Master Schoenmacker||1 Episode|
|2007||Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars||Sherlock Holmes||TV movie|
|2008||My Zinc Bed||Victor Quinn||TV movie|
|Clone||Dr. Victor Blenkinsop||6 episodes|
|2009||Return to Cranford||Mr. Buxton||2 episodes|
|2015||Under Milk Wood||Mr. Pugh||TV movie|
|Wolf Hall||Cardinal Wolsey||4 episodes|
|2015-2016||Game of Thrones||The High Sparrow||12 episodes|
|2016||To Walk Invisible||Patrick Brontë||TV movie|
|2017||Taboo||Sir Stuart Strange||8 episodes|
|2020||Tales from the Loop||Russ|