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Jason Isaacs Biography

Home > Actors > I > Isaacs, Jason > Biography

Birth Name: Jason Isaacs
Born: 06/06/1963
Birth Place: Lancashire, England, GB

Born June 6, 1963, Isaacs was one of four brothers born to a Jewish family in Liverpool, England. The family relocated to London in the mid-1970s, and Isaacs found himself flexing his first acting muscles by utilizing a heavy Cockney accent to avoid criticism by classmates. The performing bug bit hard when he visited the United States at age 18 to work as a camp counselor. By the time he was attending Bristol University for a law degree, he was spending more time in the drama department, where he directed and acted in some 20 plays. A transfer to the esteemed Central School of Drama and Speech in London soon followed, as did performances at the Edinburgh Festival. Following graduation, he landed an agent and a bit part in the comedy "The Tall Guy" (1989). During this period, Isaacs met his longtime partner, BBC documentary filmmaker Emma Hewitt, with whom he had two children in 2002 and 2005.

Hungry for work, Isaacs began making the rounds on television dramas and stage. "Capital City" (ITV, 1989-1990), about the cutthroat side of the banking industry, marked his first time as a series regular, but there were notable guest shots on "Inspector Morse" (ITV, 1987-2000) and "Taggart" (ITV, 1983- ) as well, both of which helped to establish Isaacs as a watchable and hissable villain - for the former, he played a man who murdered his identical twin, while in the latter he was an unscrupulous doctor. By 1993, he was earning notices for his turn as the sexually conflicted Louis Ironside in a production of Tony Kushner's "Angels in America." The following year marked his first sizable role in "Shopping" (1994), a much publicized drama about wayward London youth from his Central School classmate Paul Anderson.

Hollywood took notice of Isaacs in the mid-1990s after a string of supporting turns in U.K.-made productions like "Dragonheart" (1996) and "Event Horizon" (1997). He was slated for a larger role in the doomsday blockbuster "Armageddon" (1998), but stepped down into a smaller part in order to accommodate his turn as a feared IRA terrorist in the indie comedy, "Divorcing Jack" (1998). A turn as Julianne Moore's priestly confidante in Neil Jordan's "The End of the Affair" preceded his most attention-garnering role - that of British Colonel William Tavington, whose murder of farmer Mel Gibson's teenage son sets off the Revolutionary War action of "The Patriot" (2000). Isaacs' performance as Tavington made an impact on viewers and critics alike, who nominated him for British Supporting Actor of the Year (London Film Critics Circle) and Favorite Villain of the Year (Blockbuster Awards).

Isaacs wisely followed this notable role with a spate of more likable characters to show his versatility. He was a priest who carried on an affair with a gangster's daughter in "The Last Don II" (1998) for American television, a drag queen in the syrupy romance "Sweet November" (2001) with Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron, and an American officer in Ridley Scott's harrowing "Black Hawk Down" (2001). Isaacs also returned to the stage in his native England to play a detective who matches wits with an alleged terrorist in "Force of Change" (2000).

But by 2002, Isaacs was back in the black hat, this time as the imperious Lucius Malfoy in the hit film adaptation of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" (2002). His association with the Potter franchise - which extended for two more pictures: "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" (2005) and "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" (2007) - gave Isaacs unprecedented recognition in households around the world, making him an in demand performer for Hollywood and independent projects, as well as eye candy for grownups. In fact, a San Francisco Chronicle article listed him as one of the "13 Sexiest Men Alive," while his Malfoy was listed among the "13 Sexiest Men Who Were Never Alive." Meanwhile, he was a Bond-style superspy who unintentionally lends Jackie Chan the title device in the comedy "The Tuxedo" (2002), another military man in John Woo's World War II drama "Windtalkers" (2002) and showed considerable versatility as both the operatically evil Captain Hook and the meek Mr. Darling in "Peter Pan" (2003). American television also afforded him a kinder, gentler role, that of photojournalist Colin Ayres, who serves briefly as love interest to Donatella Moss (Janel Moloney) on "The West Wing" (NBC, 1996-2004).

The years 2006 and 2007 saw Isaacs busier than ever with two television series on either side of the Atlantic. For Showtime's "Brotherhood," he played Irish mobster Michael Caffee who returns to his hometown of Providence, RI in the hopes of kick-starting his life of crime, much to the consternation of his brother (Jason Clarke), who was serving as a member of the state's House of Representatives. For "The State Within," he was the British Ambassador to the United States who finds himself embroiled in a global conspiracy to bring down Western governments. Despite the nonstop work, Isaacs also found time to participate in the independent drama, "Friends with Money" (2006), the "Order of the Phoenix" entry of the "Harry Potter" franchise, and even turned up in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo for Edgar Wright's amusing "Don't!", a trailer for a faux English horror film which turned up in "Grindhouse" (2007).

In 2007, Isaacs returned to the British stage for a production of Harold Pinter's "The Dumb Waiter." That same year, he found himself a Golden Globe nominee for "The State Within." Not one to let a moment go by without another project, he signed on to the television feature "The Curse of Steptoe" (2008), in which he played acclaimed British actor Harry H. Corbett, whose career was somewhat derailed by his participation in the popular British sitcom, "Steptoe and Son" (BBC One, 1962-1974). After co-starring opposite Viggo Mortensen in the British-made political drama, "Good" (2008), Isaacs was featured in director Paul Greengrass' political action thriller, "Green Zone" (2010), which focused on a rogue U.S. Army officer (Matt Damon) tracking down weapons of mass destruction while the war in Iraq worsens all around him. He next reprised Death Eater Lucius Malfoy for the highly anticipated finale to the "Harry Potter" series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 1" (2010).

Cast as the villain so often, Isaacs even found himself playing the bad guy while merely providing voice work. In the first of two direct-to-DVD animated features based on DC Comics properties, he voiced the immortal Machiavellian mastermind Ra's al Ghul in "Batman: Under the Red Hood" (2010), as well as the tragic hero-turned-villain character of Sinestro in "Green Lantern: Emerald Knights" (2011). Isaacs was on the side of right for a change when he lent his vocals to the role of Siddeley, the high-tech spy jet, in Pixar's "Cars 2" (2011). After completing his tour as the disgraced Death Eater Lucius Malfoy in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" (2011) and making a brief appearance in the action-thriller "Abduction" (2011), Isaacs took a starring role on a major U.S. network television series. On the sci-fi crime-drama "Awake" (NBC, 2012) he played Michael Britten, a Los Angeles police detective who begins switching back and forth between two alternate realities after surviving a deadly car accident. Despite an initially strong showing, uniformly positive critical reviews - especially for Isaacs' performance - and a passionate core fan base, a rapid decline in the ratings quickly doomed the inventive program to cancellation by the end of its first season.