Julian Fellowes Biography


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Birth Name: Julian Fellowes
Born: 08/17/1949
Birth Place: Egypt


Born on Aug. 17, 1949 in Cairo, Egypt, Fellowes was raised in a privileged home headed by his civil servant father, who worked as a diplomat for the British Foreign Affairs office and was instrumental in restoring Haile Selassie to Ethiopia's throne during World War II. Growing up on the family estate in Weatherby Place, South Kensington, Fellowes was educated at Ampleforth College before attending the University of Cambridge, where he earned his master's in English literature and was a member of the famed Footlights theater club. After studying further at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, Fellowes honed his craft appearing on the stage with various repertory companies as well as making the occasional guest appearance on television, including "The Duchess of Duke Street" (1977). Following a turn in the British miniseries "My Son, My Son (BBC, 1979), he headed to Los Angeles and acted in several made-for-television movies, portraying a Nazi to Anthony Hopkins' Hitler in "The Bunker" (CBS, 1981), the Emperor Nero in the biblical miniseries "Peter and Paul" (CBS, 1981), and Prince Regent in "The Scarlet Pimpernel" (CBS, 1982).

Almost right away, however, Fellowes became disenchanted with Southern California and returned to England, where he served as the associate producer on the four-part miniseries "A Married Man" (1984) starring Hopkins. In front of the camera, he had roles in "Florence Nightingale" (1985) and "Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend" (1985), before co-starring in "Fellow Traveler" (HBO, 1989), about the Hollywood blacklist in the 1950s. Fellowes went on to play famed playwright Noel Coward in the Ian Fleming biopic, "Golden Eye" (1990) - not to be confused with Pierce Brosnan's debut as James Bond in 1995 - before landing supporting roles in "To Be the Best" (1992), "Damage" (1992), "Sharpe's Rifles (1993) with Sean Bean, and Richard Attenborough's acclaimed drama "Shadowlands" (1993). In 1994, he made his screenwriting debut adapting Frances Hodgson Burnett's novel Little Lord Fauntleroy into an award-winning miniseries that aired in the United States on the Disney Channel the following year. In a rather odd twist, Fellowes was cast as the Minister of Defense in "Tomorrow Never Dies" (1997) and later drew upon his family background to essay the role of a titled nobleman in the British miniseries "Aristocrats" (1999).

Continuing to tap into his aristocratic heritage, Fellowes joined the cast of the series "Monarch of the Glen" (BBC, 2000-05) as the Scottish Earl Kilwillie, a role he played for 23 episodes during the course of its seven series. While appearing on the show, he was hired by director Robert Altman to write the screenplay for "Gosford Park" (2001), a murder mystery set in 1930s England disguised as an upstairs-downstairs study of class division. Featuring an all-star ensemble cast that included Clive Owen, Helen Mirren, Michael Gambon, Kristin Scott Thomas and Maggie Smith, "Gosford Park" was nearly unanimously hailed by critics and won Fellowes the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. From there, he adapted William Makepeace Thackeray's "Vanity Fair" (2004) for director Mira Nair and made his own directing debut with the marriage drama, "Separate Lies" (2005), starring Emily Watson and Tom Wilkinson. After scripting "Piccadilly Jim" (2005) and "Young Victoria" (2009), Fellowes directed his second feature, "From Time to Time" (2009), a comic fantasy about a boy (Alex Etel) living in a haunted house during World War II.

Fellowes earned his share of criticism for the critically-maligned Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt thriller "The Tourist" (2010), but bounced back nicely as the creator and executive producer of "Downton Abbey" (BBC/PBS, 2010- ), an upstairs-downstairs drama in the vein of "Gosford Park" that delved into the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their many servants. Featuring a large ensemble cast that included Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern and Maggie Smith, "Downton Abbey" started near the turn of the century with the sinking of the Titanic and moved through major events like World War I, the Spanish flu outbreak in 1918, and the Irish War of independence in the 1920s, while dealing with the personal triumphs and travails inside the household. Premiering on the BBC and crossing the Atlantic to air on PBS' "Masterpiece Theater," the show earned massive acclaim as well as big ratings at home and aboard. "Downton" also earned numerous award nominations, including a whopping 16 Emmy Award nods in 2012, making it the most nominated non-U.S. show in Emmy history. Because of its popularity, due in no small part to the Emmy Award-winning performance of Maggie Smith as the tart-tongued Dowager Countess of Grantham, the show was parodied on a number of comedy shows including "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ), "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" (NBC, 2009- ) and "The Colbert Report" (Comedy Central, 2005- ).

By Shawn Dwyer




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