A popular comedian and actor in the United Kingdom, Hugh Laurie gained fame and accolades in America for his role as television’s Dr. Gregory House.
Actor, comedian, and accomplished musician, Hugh Laurie was born on June 11, 1959, in Oxford, England. He skyrocketed to fame in the United States playing the brilliant but rude and arrogant Dr. Gregory House in the TV drama House.
James Hugh Calum Laurie was born 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 said 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 said. "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 academy 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, later admitting that he was "miserable and self-absorbed." 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.
Early Career Direction
While in his last year at Eton, Laurie 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. 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."
But 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, known for launching the careers of such famous alumni as John Cleese, Douglas Adams and Sacha Baron Cohen. The decision would change Hugh Laurie's life forever.
After his successful audition for Footlights, Laurie 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 continued 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. During this time, Laurie also found love with theatre administrator Jo Green, whom he married in 1989.
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.
On the Big Screen
During the mid-1990s, 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 such as 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 a year later, appeared in the film The Borrowers and the Spice Girls vehicle, Spice World. Soon after, Laurie presented audiences with his 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. He 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.
Laurie starred in the action film Flight of the Phoenix in 2004 and that same year he 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 but brilliant Dr. Gregory House in the television medical drama, House. His performance earned him Golden Globe awards in 2006 and 2007, as well as six Emmy nominations.
Since House ended its run in 2012, Laurie has gone on to star in Mr. Pip (2012) and alongside George Clooney in Tomorrowland (2015). In 2016, he starred in the AMC miniseries The Night Manager, for which he earned an Emmy nomination and won a Golden Globe award. He's also starred as Tom James in the popular HBO comedy Veep since 2015.
A talented musician his entire life, Laurie began playing the piano at age six and went on to learning the drums, guitar, harmonica and saxophone. He's featured his talents throughout his acting career and even performed piano on Meatloaf's studio album Hang Cool Teddy Bear (2010).
Having a deep love for jazz and the blues, in 2011 Laurie released a blues album, Let Them Talk, in both France and Germany, famously collaborating with Tom Jones and Irma Thomas, among others. A second album, Didn't It Rain, would be released in the U.K. two years later.
"I have resolved to forge on, deeper into the forest of American music that has enchanted me since I was a small boy,” explains Laurie. “And the further I go, the more bewitched I become – both by the songs and by the people I have been lucky enough to play them with.”
Laurie married Jo Green in 1989, and have three children together: Charles, William and Rebecca.
In 2007, Laurie was made an Officer of the British Empire.