Ronald Pickup

Ronald Alfred Pickup (born 7 June 1940)[1] is an English actor. He has been active in television and film since 1964.

Ronald Pickup
Ronald Alfred Pickup

(1940-06-07) 7 June 1940[1]
Years active1964–present
Spouse(s)Lans Traverse (m. 1964); 2 children (Rachel, Simon)

Early life and training

Pickup was born in Chester, the son of Daisy (née Williams) and Eric Pickup, who was a lecturer.[1] Pickup was educated at the King's School, Chester, and studied English at the University of Leeds, graduating in 1962. He then trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London and became an Associate Member of RADA.

Acting roles


His television work began with an episode during the first series of Doctor Who (as a physician in part 4 of The Reign of Terror) in 1964,[1] for which he was paid £30. In 1973, he starred in the BBC drama series The Dragon's Opponent, playing Charles Howard, 20th Earl of Suffolk, a World War II bomb disposal expert. In 1982 Pickup had the starring role as composer Giuseppe Verdi in the acclaimed The Life of Verdi, written and directed by Renato Castellani.[2]

In 1983 he appeared opposite Penelope Keith in Moving and as Friedrich Nietzsche in Wagner; existing in several versions, Wagner has also been released as a film. In 1984 Pickup portrayed Jan Tyranowski in the TV movie Pope John Paul II, Albert Einstein in the TV mini series Einstein[3] and Prince Yakimov, a hapless, down-at-heel Russo-British aristocrat, opposite Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh in the BBC serial Fortunes of War (1987) based on a novel cycle by Olivia Manning. He was the voice of Aslan in the BBC adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1988) and later in The Chronicles of Narnia, both serials derived from the books by C. S. Lewis. Pickup starred in the short lived sit-com Not with a Bang, broadcast in 1990, and appeared opposite Michael Caine in Jekyll & Hyde the same year. In 1992 he appeared alongside Dervla Kirwan in the television adaptation of Melvyn Bragg's book A Time To Dance.

Other roles have included parts in Hornblower, The Riff Raff Element, Hustle, Foyle's War, Midsomer Murders, Waking the Dead, The Bill, Silent Witness, Sherlock Holmes, Doc Martin, Inspector Morse, Rector's Wife, the 1991 television adaptation of John le Carré's A Murder of Quality and the BBC's 2004 drama for children, Feather Boy. He also appeared in The Ruth Rendell Mysteries series, playing Chief Inspector Moore in "A Case of Coincidence".

Pickup played a regular part in the BBC sitcom The Worst Week of My Life.[4] He starred opposite Judi Dench in the 1989 Channel 4 serial Behaving Badly. In February 2010 he also appeared as Pegleg in the BBC's period drama Lark Rise to Candleford.[4]

Pickup appeared in the fifth series of Young Dracula in early 2014, portraying Morgan, chairman of the vampire high council, who later becomes the host of the Blood Seed, the main antagonist of the series finale. He appeared in Holby City as Charles, Lord Byrne and in November 2014 appeared on Coronation Street in a cameo role as an OAP arranging a birthday party with Michelle Connor in the Rovers Return. In 2016, he played the role of Geoffrey Fisher, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 4 episodes of the Netflix series The Crown.


Ronald Pickup is also an accomplished stage actor. He worked with Laurence Olivier at the Royal National Theatre, most notably in Three Sisters and Long Day's Journey into Night. He was nominated for a 1998 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role of 1997 for his performance in Amy's View.

Between March and August 2009, he starred as Lucky in Sean Mathias's production of Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett opposite Sir Ian McKellen (Estragon), Patrick Stewart (Vladimir) and also Simon Callow (Pozzo). The tour opened in Malvern, Worcestershire before travelling to Milton Keynes, Brighton, Bath, Norwich, Edinburgh and Newcastle; its run at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket was extended due to demand.


In 1973, he appeared as a forger in The Day of the Jackal. The following year he was seen in Ken Russell's film Mahler, and also appeared in Joseph Andrews in 1977. Pickup played one of the Prussian agents conspiring to blow up the Houses of Parliament in The Thirty Nine Steps (1978).

Pickup played Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury in the BBC Television Shakespeare version of Henry VIII (1979). He played Lt. Harford in Zulu Dawn (1979), Igor Stravinsky in Nijinsky (1980), Prince John in Ivanhoe (1982), and a government official in the James Bond film Never Say Never Again (1983) opposite Sean Connery.[4] He portrayed Portuguese governor Don Hontar in The Mission (1986).[4] In 1989 he played Captain Lancaster, a very strict teacher in Danny, the Champion of the World, and also appeared as a state advocate in A Dry White Season the same year.

In 2004, he appeared in the film Secret Passage alongside John Turturro. In 2005, he had a supporting role in the family-based film, The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby and the science fiction TV movie Supernova.

In 2012, he played one of the main characters, bachelor Norman Cousins, in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.[4] He reprised the role in the sequel, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, released in 2015.[4] In the 2017 film Darkest Hour, Pickup portrays Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of Great Britain in his last days, as he cedes power to Winston Churchill in the early months of World War II.


Pickup is married to Lans Traverse, and is father to Rachel Pickup, an actress, and Simon Pickup.[1] Ronald and Rachel have appeared in two productions together: Midsomer Murders episode "The Magician's Nephew" (2008) and Schadenfreude (2016).[5]



  1. Ronald Pickup,; accessed 2 January 2014.
  2. Rota, Ornella (17 August 1979). "Quell'inglese che fa Verdi alla TV" [That Englishman that Plays Verdi on T.V.]. La Stampa (in Italian). Turin. p. 6. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  3. "Einstein". Retrieved 9 December 2017.
  4. Ronald Pickup on IMDb
  5. "Productions including Ronald Pickup and Rachel Pickup". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
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