Childhood & Early Years
Cary Elwes was born on 26 October 1962, in London into an illustrious family that had produced many well-known artists, musicians, poets, diplomats, priests and monks.
His father, Bede Evelyn Dominic Elwes, better known as Dominic Elwes, was a portrait painter while his mother, Tessa Kennedy, was an heiress and a noted interior designer. The couple made sensation, when they eloped to get married in Havana, Cuba.
Cary was born youngest of his parents’ three children, having two elder brothers; Cassian Elwes, who grew up to be an independent film producer and Damian Elwes, a reputed artist. From his mother’s second marriage to Hollywood film producer Elliott Kastner, he has two stepsiblings; Dillon and Milica.
Not much is known about his childhood except that he was an altar boy at Westminster Cathedral. However, unlike others in the family, he never attended denominational schools.
In January 1969, when Cary was six years old, his parents divorced and thereafter for some time, he split his time living partly with his father in Spain and partly with his mother in London. However, he was mostly raised in London.
In 1971, his mother got married to Elliott Kastner. Then in 1975, his father committed suicide. Thereafter, he was sent to Harrow School, an independent boarding school for boys in London, for his high school education.
On graduating from Harrow School, he studied briefly at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art before moving to the United States of America in 1981. During this period, he started working as a production assistant in various films, besides appearing as Disco Dancer in ‘Yesterday’s Hero’ (1979).
In the USA, he entered Sarah Lawrence College in New York, studying acting, philosophy and history. Concurrently, he started giving auditions. One day, he met Al Pacino, who told him that he was actually drifting and advised him to do something. Later, he took Elwes to his mentor, Charlie Laughton.
Concurrently with attending classes at Sarah Lawrence College, Elwes began his training in acting under Charlie Laughton at the Actors Studio Inc and the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. To maintain himself, he also started taking up odd jobs, mostly serving as a waiter and a busboy.
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In 1984, Elwes left college to begin his career in films, debuting in the same year in the movie ‘Another Country’, in which he portrayed the character of James Harcourt, a gay student and the love interest of the main character, Guy Bennett. Thereafter, he appeared briefly in ‘Oxford Blues’ (1984) and ‘The Bride’ (1985).
In 1986, Elwes got his first substantial role, appearing as Lord Guildford Dudley, the husband of Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days' Queen, in a costume drama romance film called ‘Lady Jane’. Although the film failed to make much impact, his performance in this film earned him his greatest role.
In 1987, he appeared as Lev Glebovich Ganin in ‘Maschenka’, a British film adapted from Vladimir Nabokov’s debut novel. The film was shot in Germany and while he was shooting for it, he was contacted by Rob Reiner, the director of ‘The Princess Bride’ for the role of Westley.
His character in ‘The Princess Bride’ was a farmhand who would eventually rescue his true love, Princess Buttercup, from evil Prince Humperdinck. To play the part, he took fencing lessons for three months, spending much of his free time practicing.
‘The Princess Bride’ was released on September 25, 1987. Although the film was a modest box office hit it earned great critical acclaim. However, it did not result in deluge of roles.
His next film, ‘Glory’, in which he portrayed the role of Maj. Cabot Forbes, was released in February, 1990. Also in 1990, he had a sport-action-drama film, ‘Days of Thunder’, released; appearing in it as Russ Wheeler, a rookie driver, who later became bitter rival of the main character.
In 1991, Elwes appeared in the role of LT Kent Gregory in a comedy film called ‘Hot Shots’. It was followed by 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' and ‘Leather Jackets’; both released in 1992. Incidentally, he was also an associate producer of ‘Leather Jackets’, a film produced by his brother, Cassius.
In 1993, he appeared two films; as Nick Eliot in ‘The Crush’ and Robin Hood in ‘Robin Hood: Men in Tights’.
In 1994, he had three film released; ‘The Jungle Book’, “The Chase’ and ‘Felidae’. However, in the last mentioned film, he only gave voice over for the house cat, Francis, in its English version.
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In 1996, Elwes debuted in television, appearing as David Lookner in the ‘Wait Out’ episode of the NBC production ‘Seinfeld’. Also in the same year, he appeared as ‘Dr. Jonas Miller’ in ‘Twister’, the second highest grossing film of the year.
In 1997, he costarred in ‘Kiss the Girls’, appearing in it as police detective Nick Ruskin, receiving his first nomination for the role. It was followed by ‘The Informant’ (1997), ‘Liar Liar’ (1997), ‘Quest for Camelot’ (1998), ‘The Pentagon Wars’ (1998) and ‘Cradle Will Rock’ (1999).
Towards the end 1990s, he also emerged as a busy television star, appearing in several series as well as television films, a trend that continued into the new millennium. In 2000, he starred in the horror film 'Shadow of the Vampire'.
Continuing to work both on big and small screen, he appeared in six episodes of ‘X-File’ in 2001-2002. Among the films, he acted during this period include: ‘The Cat's Meow’ (2001), ‘Wish You Were Dead’ (2002), ‘Comic Book Villains’ (2002) and ‘Porco Rosso’ (2003). He was also a co-producer of ‘Comic Book Villains’.
In 2004, he appeared as Dr. Lawrence Gordon in ‘Saw’. The film, made with a budget on $1 million, grossed over $100 million worldwide.
Also in 2004, for the first time he appeared in the role of a villain, when he depicted the character of Sir Edgar in ‘Ella Enchanted’. It was followed in the same year by ‘Riverman’ and ‘American Crime’.
In 2007, he became the executive producer for ‘Walk the Talk’, simultaneously enacting the role of Eric in it. ‘Georgia Rule’, in which he appeared as Arnold, is another of his important works of this year.
In 2010, he returned to the ‘Saw’ franchise with ‘Saw 3D’, appearing in it as Dr. Lawrence Gordon. Opening in twenty-five territories, the film was a huge hit, grossing $136.1 million worldwide.
In 2011, he starred in ‘No String Attached’, a film that grossed $149.2 million worldwide. It was followed in the same year by ‘Delhi Safari’ (Voice only), ‘The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn’, ‘New Year's Eve’, ‘The Story of Luke’, ‘Camilla Dickinson’ and ‘Hellgate’.
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In 2012, he starred in two different types of movies. The first was a children’s musical adventure film called 'The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure' while the second was an independent film called ‘Citizen’, which integrated many true stories about difficulties faced by the Arab-Americans.
In 2013, he appeared in ‘Hansel and Gretel Baked’, ‘Behaving Badly’ and ‘Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox’ (voice), which were followed by ‘Reach Me’ and ‘Mouse Tale’ (Voice), both released in 2014. Concurrently, he started writing the screenplay for ‘Elvis & Nixon’.
The screenplay for ‘Elvis & Nixon’ was ready by November 2014 and the film was released in April 2016. Apart from writing the screenplay, he was also one of the co-producers of the film. Meanwhile in 2015, he had ‘H8RZ’, ‘Being Charlie’ and ‘A Haunting in Cawdor’ released.
In 2016, he starred in ‘Sugar Mountain’ and ‘Indiscretion’. In the same year, he also appeared ‘The Queen of Spain’ and gave voice over in ‘The Elephant Kingdom’. In addition, he appeared in 20 episodes of ‘The Art of More’ in 2015-2016.
In 2017, Elwes had only one film, ‘We Don’t Belong Here’, released, appearing in it as Frank Harper. Also in 2016-2017, continuing his work on television, he appeared in four episodes of ‘Life in Pieces’ and one episode of ‘Workaholics’.
His last film, 'Billionaire Boys Club', in which he appeared as Andy Warhol, American artist, director and producer, had limited release in theatres on August 17, 2018.