Hugh Laurie Biography (1959-)

hugh_laurie, . Born James Hugh Calum Laurie on June 11, 1959 in Oxford, England. Laurie’s father, William “Ran” Laurie, was a medical doctor and Olympic Gold Medalist in rowing. His mother, Patricia Laurie, was a writer whose occasional essays were published by the London Times. The youngest of the family, Laurie has two older sisters and an older brother.

Laurie’s family observed the Scottish Presbyterian religion and frequented church, but the self-purported atheist says a belief in God didn’t play a large role in his raising. “My mother… was Presbyterian by character, by mood,” he said in an interview with James Lipton. “Pleasure was something that was treated with great suspicion.” This idea, and what Laurie felt was an inability to meet his mother’s impossibly high expectations, caused frequent clashes between the two family members. “I was a frustration to her,” Laurie says. “There were big chunks of time where I think she didn’t like me.” His relationship with his father was quite different; Laurie describes him as “the sweetest man in the world,” and “a solid citizen who wore tweed suits and was overflowing with good sense and kindness.” The two grew very close during the actor’s childhood.

As Laurie reached his early teens, he entered the Dragon School, a prep school in Oxford, England. He found himself fighting depression, smoking cigarettes and “cheating on French vocabulary tests.” A particularly lazy student with no inclination to study, Laurie said he was unpleasant to be around. “I was miserable and self-absorbed,” he says.

Despite his lack of scholarly motivation, Laurie excelled as an amateur rower. His athletic pursuits gave him the credentials necessary to transfer to the prestigious Eton public school for boys during high school. During his studies here, Laurie and his rowing partner became junior national champions in coxed pairs rowing, and placed fourth in the World Junior Rowing Championships in Finland in 1977.

While in his last year at Eton, Laurie says he briefly toyed with the idea of becoming a member of the medical profession, like his father. Instead, the young man entered Selwyn College, Cambridge, in 1978 with the sole intention of rowing. “I went there to row, I’ll be blunt with it,” Laurie says of his college days. He majored in anthropology and archaeology, but Hugh was never truly interested in either subject, claiming “anthropology was the most convenient subject to read while spending eight hours a day on the river.”

Laurie’s rowing career came to a sudden halt his freshman year when a serious case of mono kept him off the team. To keep himself busy, he auditioned for Footlights, the university’s world-renowned dramatic society. The group is known for launching the careers of such famous alumni as John Cleese, Douglas Adams and Sasha Baron Cohen. The decision would change ’s life forever.

After his successful audition for Footlights, he met fellow student Emma Thompson and the two became romantically involved. By 1980, Laurie was the president of Footlights, and Thompson was vice president. Through their relationship, Laurie met Footlights performer and playwright, Stephen Fry. Laurie had been so impressed by Fry’s play Latin! that he insisted Thompson introduce the two men. Together, the fast friends wrote the sketch “The Cellar Tapes” with Emma Thompson in 1981, which they entered in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

After their graduation in 1981, the comedy trio won the Perrier Comedy Award for their Fringe submission. The honor resulted in a tour across England and Australia and a 1982 made-for-TV film of their work called Cambridge Footlights Review. Thompson, Fry and Laurie also teamed up with Grenada television to create several sketch comedy shows throughout the early 80s, including There’s Nothing to Worry About!, The Crystal Cube, and Alfresco. They also appeared as guests on the popular British comedy, The Young Ones.

In 1986, Fry and Laurie would continue their partnership without Thompson. They wrote and starred in a string of comedy shows, including A Bit of Fry and Laurie (1987). Fry and Laurie showcased the duo’s wide variety of talents, including Laurie’s musical abilities on piano and guitar. The show ran for eight years, and made the pair household names in Britain.

In 1987, after several guest appearances on Blackadder, Laurie became a regular on the show for its entire third season. Laurie’s portrayal of the simpering idiot George, the Prince Regent, caught the public’s attention—and typecast him as an upper-class twit for years to come. In 1989, Laurie married Jo Green, a theatre administrator.

The following year, Laurie and Fry began the series Jeeves and Wooster, a comedy adapted from P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories about a brainless young man (played by Laurie) who is helped out of various tricky situations by his ingenious butler, Jeeves (Fry). The show ran for four seasons until its end in 1993.

During the mid 90s, Laurie branched out into films, music and writing. He appeared alongside friend and former girlfriend, Emma Thompson, in the film version of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (1995). He also began a voice-acting career for children’s films like The Snow Queen’s Revenge (1995) and The Ugly Duckling (1997). In 1996, he played a clumsy villain in the Disney hit, 101 Dalmatians, and published his first novel, The Paper Soldier, which received critical acclaim. In 1997, Laurie appeared in the films The Borrowers and the Spice Girls vehicle, Spice World. The following year, Laurie presented audiences with another novel, The Gun Seller, and performed a small role in the blockbuster film, The Man in the Iron Mask.

In 1999, Laurie appeared in another children’s film about a mouse, Stuart Little, and returned for its sequels in 2002 and 2005. Laurie returned to the small screen in 2003 as a director and actor in the television comedy-drama Fortysomething. The show was canceled after one season.

In 2004, Laurie scored the role that would make him famous in the U.S. He adopted an American drawl for his portrayal of the tortured and erratic Dr. Gregory House in the television medical drama, House. His performance earned him Golden Globe awards in 2006 and 2007. In 2007, Laurie was also made an Officer of the British Empire.

Laurie faced a banner year in 2008 as he skyrocketed to fame in the United States. He made his second appearance on the hit sketch comedy show, Saturday Night Live. He also received Emmy, Screen Actor’s Guild, and Golden Globe nominations for his role on House. He also made an appearance in the American action film, Street Kings.

Laurie is currently married to Jo Green. The couple has three children, and the family resides in Los Angeles, California.

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