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Morrissey, David (1964-)

Actor, Director

Main image of Morrissey, David (1964-)

Always accomplished and increasingly renowned as an actor, David Morrissey has also found some success as a director. He was born on 21st June 1964 in Everton, Liverpool, and trained at the city's Everyman Youth Theatre and at RADA. He made his debut in the leading role of the Willy Russell-scripted coming-of-age drama One Summer (Channel 4, 1983) and followed it with another impressive performance as the murderous handyman George Bowman in the Terence Rattigan adaptation Cause Célèbre (ITV, 1987). He also indulged his artier side with an appearance as Joely Richardson's lover in Peter Greenaway's playfully obscure Drowning By Numbers (UK/Netherlands, 1988).

If he was not unduly stretched in roles in such television dramas as The Storyteller (TVS, 1990), in which he played the Greek hero Theseus, and the 'other' (i.e. starring Patrick Bergin and not Kevin Costner) Robin Hood (Canada/Germany/US/UK, 1991), in which he was Little John, he nonetheless maintained an unusual commitment to interesting and quirky projects, as can be seen by his appearance in the Fenland incest saga Waterland (d. Stephen Gyllenhaal, 1992) and the offbeat Being Human (UK/Japan, d. Bill Forsyth, 1993).

If he was ever typecast, it tended to be as a grimly effective lawman, which he played to perfection in such projects as The Knock (LWT, 1994), Between The Lines (BBC, 1993) and Out of the Blue (BBC, 1995). However, these did not present the same acting challenge as that of the morally conflicted protagonist Shaun Sotherns in Tony Marchant's magisterial ensemble drama Holding On (BBC, 1997), a role that established Morrissey in the forefront of contemporary British actors. This reputation was then cemented by his brilliant portrayal of the villainous, obsessed Bradley Headstone in the Dickens adaptation Our Mutual Friend (BBC, 1998). As if to go against a growing reputation for dourness, he had a multi-faceted comic role in the Jacqueline du Pré biopic Hilary and Jackie as Kiffer Finzi, Hilary's husband, and appeared in the romantic comedy Fanny and Elvis (d. Kay Mellor, 1999).

He took on more feature film roles at this point, including Daniel Craig's sympathetic, compassionate brother in the schizophrenia drama Some Voices (d. Simon Cellan Jones, 2000) and the decent but conflicted German officer in the adaptation of Captain Corelli's Mandolin (UK/France/US, d. John Madden, 2001). He also made a very confident directorial debut with the retribution saga Sweet Revenge (BBC, 2001), showing a technical proficiency that he had honed through earlier short films. A later directorial effort, Passer By (BBC, 2004), working from a Tony Marchant script, was equally acclaimed.

2003 saw him playing two defining roles, in the acclaimed TV dramas State of Play (BBC) and The Deal (Channel 4). In the former, for which he was BAFTA-nominated (losing to co-star Bill Nighy), he delivered a magisterial performance as a tormented, adulterous politician whose researcher's death turned out to be a far more complex affair than it originally seemed. In the latter, he was a suitably dour Gordon Brown, exploring the pain and disappointment of having to cede the Labour leadership to Michael Sheen's Tony Blair.

Dispelling his own reputation for seriousness, he played Ripley Holden, the charismatic wide-boy protagonist of Blackpool (BBC, 2004), demonstrating both remarkable comic flair and a fine singing voice. He was very good as Tom Keylock, the Rolling Stones' manager and fixer, in the overlooked Brian Jones biopic Stoned (d. Stephen Woolley, 2005), but had a near-irrelevant supporting part in his first proper Hollywood drama, the uninvolving thriller Derailed (US, 2005). His 'big break' was supposed to be as Sharon Stone's love interest in the long-awaited Basic Instinct 2 (Germany/Spain/UK/US, d. Michael Caton-Jones, 2006), but the film's po-faced pomposity ensured critical and commercial failure. He reprised the character of Holden in the one-off special Viva Blackpool! (BBC, 2006), which saw him back on more comfortable ground.

Alexander Larman

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Deal, The (2003)Deal, The (2003)

Controversial drama about the Tony Blair-Gordon Brown leadership pact

Thumbnail image of Holding On (1997)Holding On (1997)

Epic, multi-stranded drama series set in late 1990s multicultural London

Thumbnail image of One Summer (1983)One Summer (1983)

Drama about two teenagers who run away from Liverpool to Wales

Thumbnail image of State of Play (2003)State of Play (2003)

Acclaimed political thriller for the New Labour era

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Thumbnail image of Made in LiverpoolLiverpool: Made in Liverpool

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