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Freeman, Martin (1971-)


Main image of Freeman, Martin (1971-)

Although he will always be associated with Tim Canterbury, the likeable, put-upon everyman marooned amongst the grotesques and no-hopers of The Office (BBC, 2001-3), Martin Freeman's varied career has shown him to be equally adept at serious drama. He was born on 8th September, 1971, in Aldershot, and trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama. He made his television debut in a small role in the second series of This Life (BBC, 1997), and then had the usual actor's apprenticeship of bit parts in The Bill (ITV, 1996) and Casualty (BBC, 1998). He collaborated with up-and-coming comedians Kevin Eldon and Phil Cornwell in the series World of Pub (BBC, 2000), and played a straight role in the study of male disaffection and football hooliganism Men Only (Channel 4, 2001). He was also entertaining as a bumbling drug dealer in the television version of Lock, Stock... (Channel 4, 2000).

While Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant have rightly been praised for the extraordinary success of The Office, there is no doubt that it is Freeman's sensitive, nuanced performance, playing Tim's despair and unrequited love entirely straight, which supplies much of the emotional core. He relaxed somewhat for Ali G Indahouse (France/UK/Germany, 2002), and virtually reprised Tim, albeit in a hardware store, for the sitcom Hardware (ITV, 2003-4). He had a small but amusing part (no pun intended) in Love Actually (UK/US, 2003) as a nude double falling in love with his co-star, and was very effective in another straight role as Lord Shaftesbury in Charles II: The Power and the Passion (BBC, 2003). A tiny cameo in Shaun of the Dead (UK/France, d. Edgar Wright, 2004), was followed by the lead role of the bewildered, dressing-gown clad Arthur Dent in the long-awaited The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (US/UK, d. Garth Jennings, 2005).

A return to sitcom with the family comedy The Robinsons (BBC, 2005) was not especially successful, nor was an appearance in the improvised comedy Confetti (d. Debbie Isitt, 2006). He has a wildly varied list of forthcoming projects, from a collaboration with Anthony Minghella in the eagerly awaited Breaking And Entering (US, 2006) to appearing as Rembrandt in Peter Greenaway's examination of the painter's life Nightwatching (Canada/France/Germany/Poland/Netherlands/UK, 2007). He is also, along with half the British acting profession, appearing in the follow-up to Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz (d. Edgar Wright, 2007).

Alexander Larman

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