Childhood & Early Life
James Fox was born was born William Fox, on May 19, 1939, in London, UK, to Robin Fox and Angela Worthington. He was born and raised into an affluent British family deeply rooted in the acting world. He was born as the middle son in the family of three children and grew up alongside two brothers in their London mansion.
His interest in acting was mostly owing to his family’s association with the profession. His maternal grandfather Frederick Lonsdale was a very popular playwright in his time, while his mother worked as an actress. His father was a hugely popular theatrical agent.
James attended theatres as a kid and also began participating in plays. Soon enough, his interest peaked and he decided to begin screen acting at the age of 10.
Although he had made his screen debut at the age of 11, he took a long break after that, to further prepare himself as an actor. Like most of his family members, he attended Harrow School, where he participated in theatres. Following his graduation, he did not begin acting immediately. Instead he chose to work in defence. He worked in the Coldstream Guards after taking a short service commission.
In his early 20s, he further resumed his acting career and began auditioning for roles in films and television.
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He made his acting debut playing a small role as a kid named Toby Miniver in the 1950 film titled ‘The Miniver Story.’ After a long break, he appeared in the 1962 film titled ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner,’ which is widely considered to be his debut performance. He played a supporting role as ’Gunthorpe’ in the film, which received great reception at the critical scale but was a huge box office disappointment.
In the next few years, he appeared playing key roles in films such as ‘Tamahine,’ ‘The Servant’ and ‘King Rat.’ In the latter two, he played one of the main roles. Being from a theatrical background, his performances were hailed widely and slowly but steadily, he moved on to doing lead roles.
One of the first lead roles of his career came about in the 1967 film titled ‘Arabella.’ He played the lead role opposite Virna Lisi, who played the main lead role in the film. The film however, failed to make waves.
In 1970, he appeared playing the main lead role in the crime drama film titled ‘Performance,’ which is widely considered to be his breakthrough film role. He played Chas/Johnny Dean in the film, which turned out to be one of the biggest commercial and critical hits of the year, and the biggest hit of James’ career thus far.
As his performance in the leading role met with huge applauses from all over, the film itself went on getting considered as one of the best British films ever made.
With that, he looked ahead at a very bright career in the British film industry. But he somehow slipped into depression and took a long hiatus from films. He became an evangelical Christian and embarked on a journey of ‘self discovery.’ It was also attributed to the fact that he had to push his mental and physical limits to make his performance memorable and as a result, he felt deeply exhausted.
However, he made a comeback into acting in 1983, but many people who thought his best days were behind him were proven wrong when he gave powerhouse performances in critically acclaimed films such as ‘A Passage to India’ and ‘Runners.’
He also made his television debut in 1983 when he appeared playing the lead role in the TV film titled ‘Anna Pavlova’ He followed with more major roles in TV films such as ‘Doomsday Gun’ and ‘Heart of Darkness.’ In addition, he also appeared playing supporting roles in mini-series’ such as ‘The Choir’ and ‘The Dwelling Place.’
In the 1990s, his film career moved stably ahead with remarkable roles in films such as ‘Anna Karenina’ and ‘Shadow Run.’
He continued working in the 2000s with supporting roles in films such as ‘The Golden Bowl’ and ‘The Prince and Me.’ His television credits in the early 2000s, include ‘Agatha Christie’s Poirot’ and ‘The Falklands Play.’
In 2009, in one of the final roles of his acting career, he appeared playing a supporting role in the detective thriller film titled ‘Sherlock Holmes.’ In the 2010s, he appeared in films such as ‘Cleanskin’ ‘The Double,’ and ‘A Long Way from Home..’ His last film appearance was ‘Surviving Christmas with the Relatives,’ in 2018.
He made his final television appearance in 2015, in a single episode of the series titled ‘London Spy.’
Family & Personal Life
James Fox dated Mary Elizabeth Piper in the 1970s, before getting married to her in 1973. He had five children from his first marriage, named- Laurence, Lydia, Jack, Robin and Thomas. Laurence and Lydia went on becoming actors. James and Mary are still together to this date.
Prior to marrying Mary, he had a roaring affair with actress Sarah Miles, throughout the 1960s.