Stephens was born in Bristol, England, and rose to become one of the most respected actors of his generation. By the 1960s he was regarded as the natural successor to Laurence Olivier. In 1967 he married his third wife, actress (Dame) Maggie Smith. They appeared together on stage and in film, notably in the film version of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in (1969). His other films in this period included the starring role in Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970). However, following his departure from the National Theatre in 1970 and the breakup of his marriage in 1973 he suffered a career slump, not helped by heavy drinking.
Although he continued to work on stage and television, it wasn't until the 1990s that he re-established himself at the forefront of his profession, when the Royal Shakespeare Company invited him to play Falstaff in Henry IV, part 1 and then the title role in King Lear. He was awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 1993 for Best Actor, for his performance in Henry V with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He was knighted in 1995.
Robert Stephens was also known for providing the voice of Aragorn in the acclaimed 1981 BBC Radio serialisation of The Lord of the Rings.
Stephens was married four times in all: to Nora Ann Simmonds in 1951 and to Tarn Bassett (1956-1967); he had a child with each. His two sons with Maggie Smith, Toby Stephens and Chris Larkin, also became actors. He remarried in January 1995, to Belfast-born Patricia Quinn, who has appeared with him in Fortunes of War. He died from cancer in November 1995, the same year he was knighted, after several years of ill health.
Stephens was one of eight actors profiled in Roger Lewis' 1989 book Stage People.
Robert Stephens Facts
|July 14, 1931
|Bristol, England, United Kingdom
|Date of death
|November 12, 1995 (London, England, United Kingdom, age 64)