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Connolly, Billy (1942-)

Actor, Comedian, Musician

Main image of Connolly, Billy (1942-)

Unlike his fellow-countryman Sean Connery, wildly popular Billy Connolly is not an ardent nationalist, but they share a poverty-stricken childhood. Born in Anderston, Glasgow in 1942, he worked as baker, bookshop assistant, welder and member of the Parachute Battalion of the Territorial Army before buying a banjo and forming The Humblebums. He grew more interested in a comedy career and the group disbanded in 1971. He became a stand-up comedian with long greasy hair and a talent for non-stop rude one-liners.

His films have been a motley collection: there are concert films like The Secret Policeman's Ball (d. Roger Graef, 1979) and ...Other Ball (d. Julien Temple, 1982), supporting roles, usually comic, in such films as Water (d. Dick Clement, 1985), and The Big Man (d. David Leland, 1990), and substantial starring roles in Mrs Brown (UK/Ireland/US, d. John Madden, 1997), as outspoken John Brown, Queen Victoria's influential Highland gillie, and The Debt Collector (d. Anthony Neilson, 1999), as an ex-crim-turned-sculptor.

He lived in the US for some time and has appeared in TV and films there, including Beautiful Joe (d. Stephen Metcalfe, 2000) with Sharon Stone. The years have tamed the anarchic streak somewhat, but the capacity to surprise - shock - shouldn't be underestimated. His second wife is actress Pamela Stephenson, whom he married in 1989.

Pamela Stephenson, Billy, 2001.

Brian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of British Film

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Just Another Saturday (1975)Just Another Saturday (1975)

A young man's experience of sectarian violence in Glasgow.

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Thumbnail image of Stephenson, Pamela (1950-)Stephenson, Pamela (1950-)

Actor, Presenter, Writer