Alex Jennings (born 10 May 1957) is an English actor, who has worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre. A three-time Olivier Award winner, he won for Too Clever by Half (1988), Peer Gynt (1996), and My Fair Lady (2003). He is the only performer to have won Olivier awards in the drama, musical and comedy categories. He played Prince Charles in the 2006 film The Queen. His other film appearances include The Wings of the Dove (1997), Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004), Babel (2006) and The Lady in the Van (2015). He also played Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor, in the critically acclaimed Netflix series The Crown.
10 May 1957
Jennings was born in Essex, the son of Peggy Patricia (née Mahoney) and Michael Thomas Jennings. He attended Abbs Cross Technical High School in Hornchurch and then studied English and Theatre studies at the University of Warwick, graduating in 1978. He said he saw his first theatre when he was in high school and went to the Old Vic Theatre, which led him to be inspired to be an actor.
He trained as an actor for two years at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
Jennings began his career in regional repertory theatre, in 1985 playing a range of roles including Maximilien Robespierre in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Jennings met director Nicholas Hytner during this production and has worked with him many times since.
For his performance as Gloumov in Too Clever by Half at the Old Vic, he won the Olivier Award for Best Comedy Performance in 1988. He was nominated in the same category the following year for portraying Dorante in The Liar.
His Royal Shakespeare Company roles include the title role in Peer Gynt (for which he won an Olivier Award 1995-06 for Best Actor), the title role in Richard II (opposite Anton Lesser as Henry Bolingbroke), Theseus/Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream (UK, American tour and Broadway), Angelo in Measure for Measure, and the title role in Hamlet.
In 2002, he appeared in the Cameron Mackintosh/Trevor Nunn revival of My Fair Lady at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and won an Olivier Award as Best Actor in a Musical. He was an Associate Artist at the Royal Shakespeare Company.
In 2011, he played Mikhail Bulgakov in the National Theatre's production of Collaborators.
In 2014, he played the role of Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical, which was directed by Sam Mendes and was performed on London's West End theatre district. He took over the role from Douglas Hodge in 2014.
He also appeared in War Requiem, the RSC's film version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Lord Mark in the Oscar-nominated movie The Wings of the Dove, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and The Four Feathers.
Jennings portrays playwright Alan Bennett in the 2015 film The Lady in the Van opposite Academy Award winner Maggie Smith in the title role. The film is directed by Nicolas Hytner, who is a long-time collaborator from the theatre.
Jennings' work in television includes appearances in The State Within, Smiley's People, The Franchise Affair, Inspector Morse, Lewis, Alfonso Bonzo, the title role in Ashenden, Dead Poets Society, Inspector Alleyn, Hard Times, Bad Blood, and Peter Ackroyd's London. His many radio credits include Casino Royale, The Way of the World, Strange Meeting, Vorbis in Small Gods, and The Old Curiosity Shop.
From 2011 to 2014, Jennings played Alan Cowdrey QC in the BBC One legal drama Silk. In 2016, he appeared in the Netflix series The Crown as Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor (former Edward VIII), great uncle to Prince Charles (whom Jennings played in The Queen), as well as Leopold I of Belgium in the ITV series Victoria. In 2018 he played Liberal MP Peter Bessell in A Very English Scandal, a miniseries about the Jeremy Thorpe affair by Stephen Frears.
Audiobooks and narrations
He has recorded the audio versions of the booksThe Kraken Wakes, The Horse and His Boy, Out of the Silent Planet, and Perelandra by C.S. Lewis, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, and Attention All Shipping by Charlie Connelly, which was selected in June 2008 as one of the top 40 audiobooks of all time. In 2006, he recorded an abridgement of A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon. He is also a regular narrator on BBC Radio 4's Book at Bedtime.
Jennings has won three Olivier Awards:
- 1985: The Scarlet Pimpernel at Her Majesty's Theatre
- 1987–1988: Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare at Royal Shakespeare Company as Lucio
- 1988: Too Clever by Half at Old Vic Theatre in London
- 1988: The Country Wife at Royal Exchange, Manchester
- 1988: Too Clever by Half at Old Vic Theatre in London
- 1989: Ghetto at National Theatre as Kittel
- 1990: The Wild Duck for Peter Hall Company as Hjalmar Ekdal
- 1990: The Liars at Old Vic Theatre in London as Dorante
- 1990: Richard II by William Shakespeare at Royal Shakespeare Company as Richard II
- 1992: The Recruiting Officer at National Theatre as Captain Plume
- 1993: The Importance of Being Earnest at Aldwych as John Worthing
- 1994: Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen at Royal Shakespeare Company as Peer Gynt
- 1994–1995: Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare at Royal Shakespeare Company as Angelo
- 1996: Easter Bonnet Competition at Palace Theatre in New York City
- 1996: A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in the roles Oberon and Theseus
- Hyde Park at Royal Shakespeare Company
- The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare at Royal Shakespeare Company
- 1997: Hamlet by William Shakespeare at Royal Shakespeare Company as Hamlet
- May 1997 to June 1998: Traveling productions in the United Kingdom and the United States
- 2000: Albert Speer at Lyttelton Theatre, London
- 2001: The Winter's Tale at Royal National Theatre in New York City
- 2001: The Relapse at Royal National Theatre in New York City
- 2001: My Fair Lady at Royal National Theatre as Professor Henry Higgins
- 2003: Brand at Theatre Royal Haymarket in London
- 2009: The Habit of Art by Alan Bennett for National Theatre of Great Britain as Henry
- November 2009 to September 2010: Lyttelton Theatre in London
- 2011: Collaborators by John Hodge for National Theatre of Great Britain as Mikhail Bulgakov
- October 2011 to June 2012: Cottesloe Theatre in London
- 2012: Hymn by Alan Bennett for National Theatre of Great Britain
- November 2012 to March 2013: Lyttelton Theatre in London
- 2012: Cocktail Sticks by Alan Bennett for National Theatre of Great Britain
- December 2012 to March 2013: Lyttelton Theatre in London
- 2013: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl as Willy Wonka
- 2016: My Fair Lady at Sydney Opera House as Professor Henry Higgins
- September 2016
- 2019: Hansard at the Lyttelton Theatre, London, as Robin Hesketh
- 1999: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as Butler
- 2010: National Theatre Live: The Habit of Art as Henry / Benjamin Britten
- 2011: National Theatre Live: Collaborators as Mikhail Bulgakov
- 2013: National Theatre Live: 50 Years on Stage as Henry Higgins
- 1989: War Requiem as Blinded Soldier
- 1996: A Midsummer Night's Dream as Theseus / Oberon
- 1997: The Wings of the Dove as Lord Mark
- 2002: The Four Feathers as Colonel Hamilton
- 2004: Five Children and It as Father
- 2004: Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason as Horatio
- 2006: Babel as Ken Clifford
- 2006: The Queen as Prince Charles
- 2008: The Disappeared as Adrian Ballan
- 2010: Words of the Blitz as George Orwell
- 2013: Trap for Cinderella as Chance
- 2013: Belle as Lord Ashford
- 2014: Castles in the Sky as Henry Tizard
- 2015: The Lady in the Van as Alan Bennett
- 2016: Denial as Sir Charles Gray
Mini-series and TV films
- 1982: Smiley's People (TV Mini-Series) as P.C. Hall (1 episode: "Episode No. 1.1")
- 1991: Ashenden (TV Mini-Series) as John Ashenden (4 episodes)
- 1991: Bye Bye Columbus (TV film) as King Ferdinand
- 1994: Hard Times (TV Mini-Series) as Bitzer (1 episode: "Episode No. 1.1")
- 1997: Liberty! The American Revolution (TV Mini-Series) as King George III (6 episodes)
- 1999: The Hunley (TV film) as Lt. Alexander
- 2001: Bad Blood (TV film) as Joe Harker
- 2002: Great Britons (TV Mini-Series documentary) as Churchill (voice) (1 episode: "Sir Winston Churchill")
- 2004: London (TV film) as Stephen Spender
- 2005: A Very Social Secretary (TV film) as Alastair Campbell
- 2005: Riot at the Rite (TV film) as Sergei Diaghilev
- 2008: Fairy Tales (TV Mini-Series) as Roger Bateman (1 episode: "Rapunzel")
- 2008: Hancock & Joan (TV film) as John Le Mesurier
- 2008: The 39 Steps (TV film) as Captain Kell
- 2009: The Last Days of Lehman Brothers (TV film) as Timothy 'Tim' Geithner
- 2010: On Expenses (TV film) as Andrew Walker
- 2012: We'll Take Manhattan (TV film) as John Parsons
- 2013: The Lady Vanishes (TV film) as The Professor
- 2015: Churchill's Secret (TV film) as Anthony Eden
- 1986: Kit Curran as PC Woods (1 episode: "A Sick Society")
- 1988: The Franchise Affair as Nevil Bennet (6 episodes)
- 1989: The Return of Shelley as Jeremy (1 episode: "The Gospel According to Shelley")
- 1990: Inspector Morse as Victor Preece (1 episode: "The Sins of the Fathers")
- 1990: Alfonso Bonzo as Alfonso Bonzo (6 episodes)
- 1992: Screenplay as Byron (1 episode: "Dread Poets' Society")
- 1993: Alleyn Mysteries as Sebastian Parish (1 episode: "Death at the Bar")
- 2000: Too Much Sun as Julian Edgbaston-Bowles (6 episodes)
- 2005: Agatha Christie's Poirot as Dr Roberts (1 episode: "Cards on the Table")
- 2006: Spooks as James Allan (1 episode: "Episode No. 5.4")
- 2006: The State Within as James Sinclair (6 episodes)
- 2007: Waking the Dead as James Andrews (2 episodes)
- 2008: 10 Days to War as Vincent (1 episode: "Failure Is Not an Option")
- 2009: Agatha Christie's Marple as Inspector Curry (1 episode: "They Do It with Mirrors")
- 2007–2009: Cranford as Reverend Hutton / The Rev Hutton (7 episodes)
- 2010: Masterpiece Classic as Captain Kell (1 episode: "The 39 Steps")
- 2010: Grandpa in My Pocket as Captain Shipshape (1 episode: "Captain Shipshape and a Fish Called Bryan")
- 2009–2010: Whitechapel as Commander Anderson (5 episodes)
- 2012: Being Human as Griffin (1 episode: "Eve of the War")
- 2012: Inspector Lewis as Rev Conor Hawes (1 episode: "The Soul of Genius")
- 2012: New Tricks as Professor Blake (1 episode: "Body of Evidence")
- 2011–2014: Silk as Alan Cowdrey, QC (13 episodes)
- 2015: Foyle's War as Clive Ord-Smith (1 episode: "Trespass")
- 2016–2019: Victoria as King Leopold I (Main role, 9 episodes)
- 2016–2017: The Crown as Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor (Main role, 6 episodes)
- 2017: The Halcyon as Lord Hamilton (Guest Star, 1 episode)
- 2018: A Very English Scandal as Peter Bessell
- 2018: Unforgotten as Tim Finch
- 2019: Gold Digger as Ted
- Costa, Maddy (19 September 2007). "'I wanted to be Fred Astaire'". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- "Alex Jennings takes on Willy Wonka role". BBC News. 7 February 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- Shenton, Mark (7 February 2014). "Bold casting choices and versatile actors". The Stage. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- Lawson, Richard. "The Crown Season 2 Review: A Stately Soap Opera We Just Can't Resist".
- Rosenthal, Daniel (2 October 2013). "National Histories: Nancy Carroll and Alex Jennings". Royal National Theatre. Archived from the original on 8 November 2015. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
- Evans, Lloyd (21 June 2014). "Alex Jennings interview: the new Willy Wonka on Roald Dahl's 'child killer'". The Spectator. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- "Who's Who in the Cast: Who's Who - Alex Jennings; A Midsummer Night's Dream - Opening Night: March 31, 1996". Playbill. 31 March 1996. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- Jennings, Alex (22 October 2011). "5 days in the life of ... Alex Jennings". The Independent. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
- Mitford, Oliver (17 February 2014). "Alex Jennings to take over from Douglas Hodge as Willy Wonka". Best of Theatre. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
- "Alex Jennings is Henry Higgins in 'My Fair Lady'". 19 August 2016.
- Telegraph Film (27 May 2015). "The Lady in the Van: Maggie Smith as you've never seen her". The Telegraph. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- Mangan, Lucy (20 May 2018). "A Very English Scandal review: funny and confident – like Jeremy Thorpe". Guardian. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
- "Radio and audio book companies", in Lloyd Trott, ed., Actors and Performers Yearbook 2016, pp. 353-354
- "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- Lukowski, Andrzej (4 September 2019). "'Hansard' review". Time Out. London.