It's no exaggeration to call Jim Broadbent one of Britain's most prolific and accomplished character actors. Since he began his career in the early '70s, he's racked up more than 160 TV and movie credits in everything from Game of Thrones to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and The Borrowers to Gangs of New York.
Today (March 26) sees a VOD release for his latest movie Six Minutes to Midnight, in which he reunites with his Iris co-star Dame Judi Dench. It's a perfect opportunity to look back at just 10 of Broadbent's many memorable roles.
Only Fools and Horses (1983-1991)
Broadbent turned down this iconic sitcom's lead role, which ultimately went to Sir David Jason. "I like to say that it was my big contribution to British culture," he told The Guardian a few years ago. "I would have done one series and it wouldn’t have been particularly successful. And even if it had been successful, I’d have wanted to do something else. And then the world would never have known Only Fools and Horses." Showing there was no sour grapes whatsoever, he went on to guest star in three episodes as Roy Slater, a dodgy copper who causes trouble for Jason's (also rather dodgy) businessman Derek Trotter.
Broadbent has appeared in five films by Mike Leigh, the British director known for developing his dialogue through lengthy, semi-improvised rehearsals. In this witty period drama, he plays W.S. Gilbert, one half of comic opera specialists Gilbert and Sullivan. As the duo launch a comeback with their latest work The Mikado, he gives a beautifully layered performance as a man who's outwardly confident and ostentatious, but clearly affected by melancholy, too.
Broadbent won an Oscar and a BAFTA for his touching performance as literary critic John Bayley in this deeply poignant film about his relationship with novelist wife Iris Murdoch (Dench). As her brilliant mind gives way to Alzheimer's disease, Broadbent's Bailey has to take on a very different role in their relationship: initially in thrall of his super-talented wife, he eventually becomes Murdoch's sometimes frustrated but always very loving carer.
Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Director Baz Luhrmann's lavish musical movie starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor is an O.T.T. treat from start to finish. Broadbent is on hilarious form as Harold Zidler, the overbearing owner of the Moulin Rouge cabaret club, who isn't averse to delivering the odd song-and-dance number himself. Once you've seen Broadbent’s performance of Madonna's "Like a Virgin," you won't forget it.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004), and Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016)
Broadbent is a warm and reassuring presence in all three movies as Colin Jones, Bridget's dear old dad. He's such a good egg that in the original movie, he even welcomes back Bridget's mum Pamela (Gemma Jones) after she briefly leaves him for a slimy shopping network presenter.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2005) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011)
Broadbent pops up in a couple of the Harry Potter films as Horace Slughorn, the Potions master at Hogwarts who's a collector of curious objects. He's an eccentric character, secretive when he needs to be but always well-meaning, and given a typically sympathetic reading by Broadbent.
Co-written by The Crown’s Peter Morgan, this excellent TV movie follows the unlikely friendship that developed between upper-crust social reformer Lord Longford (Broadbent) and infamous serial killer Myra Hindley (Samantha Morton). Longford spent years campaigning for Hindley's release from prison – very much against the tide of British public opinion, and also to his own detriment. In a BAFTA and Golden Globe-winning performance, Broadbent perfectly captures his fundamental decency and loyalty, as well as the naivety that saw him cruelly dubbed "Lord Wrongford."
The Iron Lady (2011)
Meryl Streep's performance as controversial British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is a force of nature and an impressive technical accomplishment: she gets the Iron Lady's distinctive speaking voice just right. Broadbent shines too in the movie's most humanizing scenes as her likeable husband Denis, very much the lighthearted yin to Thatcher's super-driven yang.
Paddington (2014) and Paddington 2 (2017)
The Paddington movies are filled with charming extended cameos from beloved thesps; Broadbent offers one of the best as quirky antique shop owner Mr. Gruber, a firm friend to Ben Whishaw's furry hero.
London Spy (2015)
This gripping BBC America miniseries follows Ben Whishaw's sweet and sociable Danny as he tries to find out what really happened to his more introverted partner, Alex (Edward Holcroft), an MI6 spy found murdered in mysterious circumstances. Broadbent is wonderful in a key supporting role as Scottie, an older retired spy from a less tolerant generation. Also gay, Scottie's own life has been constrained by a lack of freedoms that Danny now takes for granted.
Which is your favorite Jim Broadbent performance?