Tom Wilkinson made his film debut with the acclaimed director, Andrzej Wajda, in the movie ‘The Shadow Line’ in 1976. The film didn’t fare well, but Wilkinson had established himself as a powerful actor. Though he continued acting on stage, he switched to film for financial reasons.
He made his television debut with Jeffery Archer’s adaptation of ‘First Among Equals’ in 1986, where he played a butcher’s son aspiring to be a prime minister. In the coming years, he appeared in small roles on television dramas.
His other notable appearances in the 1980s included Parker (1984), Sylvia (1985), and Wetherby (1985). He remained more active in television during this decade, including his role in the memorable BBC series ‘Miss Marple’ and the crime drama series ‘The Ruth Rendell Mysteries’.
Though Wilkinson was an established part of the industry, he hadn’t received a role where he could leave an indelible mark. It was with Ang Lee’s period drama ‘Sense and Sensibility’ in 1995 that he emerged as a notable actor.
His next most acclaimed movie was Peter Cattaneo’s ‘The Full Monty’, a British comedy, in 1997, which earned him a BAFTA award, and the appreciation of a wider audience.
He worked in several films in the 1990s, including ‘Oscar and Lucinda’, ‘Shakespeare in Love’, ‘The Governess’, and ‘The Essex Boys’. He also starred in the BBC adaptation of ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’, a mini-series for TV.
In the 1998 film ‘Rush Hour’, he acted alongside Jackie Chan, where he portrayed the role of the antagonist. The movie was a commercial success.
Tom Wilkinson’s most memorable performance was his portrayal of Matt Fowler in the 2001 movie ‘In the Bedroom’. The New York Film Critics’ Circle named him the ‘Best Actor of the Year’ and he received further praise in the form of an Academy Award nomination.
His acting repertoire comprises several internationally successful films such as ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ (2003), ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ (2004), ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose’ (2005), and ‘Batman Begins’ (2005).
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His second Academy Award nomination came in for his role as Arthur Edens, an attorney suffering from bipolar disorder, in the film ‘Micheal Clayton’, in 2007. He also was given a role in Woody Allen’s ‘Cassandra’s Dream’ in the same year.
In 2008, he starred in the HBO mini-series ‘John Adams’. He portrayed Benjamin Franklin in it and received an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Screen Actors’ Guild Award nomination for this role.
He played the American political advisor and lawyer, James A. Baker in the HBO political drama ‘Recount’ (2008). In the same year, he starred alongside Tom Cruise in the World War II thriller ‘Valkyrie’ where he played the role of the Commander in Chief of the German Reserve Army, Friedrich Fromm.
Tom Wilkinson’s career progressed at a steady pace and he has appeared in over 20 since 2008, including the horror comedy ‘Burke and Hare’, Roman Polanski’s ‘The Ghost Writer’, Wes Anderson’s ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, and John Madden’s ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’.
He played Joseph Kennedy Sr. in the 2011 historical mini-series ‘The Kennedys’. His real wife Diana Hardcastle played his on-screen wife, Rose Kennedy, in this movie. He was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for this role.
He has recorded his voice for the video games ‘Batman Begins’ as Carmine Falcone and ‘Sleeping Dogs’ as Superintendent Pendrew.
In 2016, he played a British lawyer, Richard Rampton, in the movie ‘Denial’. He represented Deborah Lipstadt (played by Rachel Weisz) after she was charged with libel by a Holocaust denier.
He has several releases lined up in 2018, including ‘Burden’, ‘The Happy Prince’, and ‘The Titan’; he is also a part of the upcoming British animated television mini-series ‘Watership Down’.
Personal Life & Legacy
Tom Wilkinson is married to the actress Diana Hardcastle since 1998, and they have two daughters, Alice and Molly. The family lives in North London. They plan to renew their wedding vows on their 30th anniversary.
For his services to the industry, he was awarded a ‘Doctor of Letters’ honorary degree from his alma mater, the University of Kent, in 2001.
As part of the 2005 New Year Honors, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II.