- NAME: Laurence Olivier
- OCCUPATION: Actor, Filmmaker
- BIRTH DATE: May 22, 1907
- DEATH DATE: July 11, 1989
- EDUCATION: All Saints Choir School, St. Edward's School, Central School of Speech and Drama
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Dorking, South England, United Kingdom
- PLACE OF DEATH: West Sussex, England, United Kingdom
- Full Name: Laurence Kerr Olivier
- AKA: Sir Laurence Olivier
- AKA: Laurence Olivier
- AKA: Baron Olivier of Brighton, OM
- AKA: Kim Olivier
- AKA: Larry Olivier
- AKA: Sir Laurence
Best Known For
Laurence Olivier was one of the most acclaimed actors of the 20th century, known for his numerous Shakespeare roles on stage and screen as well as memorable turns in more modern classics.
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Born in England in 1907, Laurence Olivier was one of the most acclaimed actors of the 20th century, known for his career-defining performances of Shakespearean roles on stage and screen,
"Of all the things I've done in life, directing a motion picture is the most beautiful. It's the most exciting and the nearest that an interpretive craftsman, such as an actor ... can possibly get to being a creator."
"Acting is illusion, as much illusion as magic is, and not so much a matter of being real."
"Work is life for me, it is the only point of life-and with it there is almost religious belief that service is everything."
"If I wasn't an actor, I think I'd have gone mad. You have to have extra voltage, some extra temperament to reach certain heights. Art is a little bit larger than life—it's an exhalation of life and I think I you probably need a little touch of madness."
as well memorable turns in modern classics such as Wuthering Heights and Marathon Man. He was knighted by King George VI and later made Baron Olivier of Brighton by Queen Elizabeth II, who also gave him the Order of Merit. Outside of his acting career, Olivier is remembered for his love affair and tempestuous marriage to actress Vivien Leigh, and his possible dalliance with actor Danny Kaye.
Laurence Kerr Olivier was born in Dorking, in Southern England, on May 22, 1907, to a strict religious family. Both his father and grandfather held prominent positions in the Anglican church; his mother too came from a family of career clerics, but she was his solace in the rigid household run by his father. As the youngest of their three children, Olivier was shattered when his mother died in 1920, when he only 12 years old. But despite his father's severity, it was he who encouraged Larry, also known to the family as Kim, to pursue acting as a career after Shakespearean roles at school showcased his early talent.
Laurence Olivier enrolled at the Central School of Speech and Drama and followed theatrical tradition, joining the Birmingham Repertory company. He rose quickly from spear-carrier to leading man, and soon moved to London's West End. An early theatrical success came with the debut of Noel Coward's Private Lives, which was quickly followed by a bold production of Romeo and Juliet, in which Olivier and John Gielgud alternated playing Romeo and Mercutio. The two actors, whose styles clashed, remained lifelong rivals.
Olivier's dashing good looks attracted the attention of up-and-coming actress Vivien Leigh, and they soon began a passionate romance, abandoning their previous spouses.
Olivier made his mark with star turns in many of Shakespeare's leading roles, including those of Hamlet, Henry V, Anthony, Richard III, Macbeth and Othello, and Vivien often appeared as his leading lady, making the couple, who married in 1940, London theater royalty. The couple also toured and appeared in the United States, capitalizing on her popularity from Gone With the Wind's wild success. He was known to experience crippling state fright, though, even as a seasoned actor.
After the demise of their marriage due to Viven's illness with manic depression, Olivier made a career departure: He starred in John Osborne's The Entertainer, marking a turn in his life and acting approach. Helping to establishing the Royal National Theatre, Olivier became its founding director, serving from 1962 to 1973.
Olivier's first forays into film were faltering, but he hit his stride as Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and Rebecca, which catapulted him to matinee idol status—and helped fund his theatrical ventures. He also put to film some of his most famous Shakespearean roles, winning his first Academy Award (best actor in a leading role) and a second nomination (best director) for Hamlet.
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