British Icon of the Week: Brian Blessed, the Larger Than Life Actor Who's a True Original

Brian Blessed isn’t simply a prolific actor who’s appeared in everything from cult sci-fi movie Flash Gordon to the original West End production of Cats. He’s also an adventurer with a planet-sized personality who’s lived a life like no other. As he celebrates his 85th birthday this Saturday (October 9), let’s take a moment to savor 10 funny, fascinating, and inspiring things about this remarkable man.
1. He has made three attempts to climb Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen.
Blessed came closest to reaching the peak in 1993, The Independent reports, when he scaled 28,215' of the 29,032' mountain before being forced to turn back. Wisely, he warned prospective climbers that "you have to obey the rules of the mountain."
2. He once helped a young woman to give birth, entirely without planning to, while running through a London park.
Blessed spoke about the somewhat strange incident during an appearance on U.K. daytime show This Morning. Be warned, though, that his version of events is pretty graphic in places.
3. He has made a habit of impersonating Pavarotti at sci-fi conventions.
Blessed's singing voice isn't quite operatic, but there's no denying he has a mighty set of lungs.
4. Growing up in Yorkshire, he became close friends with Patrick Stewart.
“I was the sort of boy who was always off, scrumping apples, being a little bit naughty and cheeky. Patrick was always the one who erred on the side of caution, and was forever telling me ‘Brian, please do be careful,’" Blessed told the Yorkshire Post. "He hasn’t changed, not one bit. These days, if I say to him that I’m off to the mountains to do a bit of climbing, or that I’m planning an expedition somewhere, I hear it all over again, his voice down the phone, whispering ‘Oh, Brian, do be careful!'"
5. He is also good friends with Kenneth Branagh, whom he has worked with frequently in the past.
However, Blessed told The Guardian last year that he hopes never to work with Branagh again. “We’ve done five films over the years and my friendship with him is much more important than being in films," Blessed explained. "So we have an agreement that he never directs me again.”
6. He is so known for his big, booming voice that students at York University voted to rename a workspace the "Brian Blessed Centre for Quiet Study."
“I’ve always had this voice," Blessed told The Times last year. "Even a lot of actors do not speak properly and they use their throat a great deal. Whereas when I do a long session it will be my diaphragm and stomach and hips that ache at the end of it, not my throat." 
You can hear the famous Blessed roar in this BBC News clip.
7. He fully embraces his formidable frame.
"I can’t wait to wake up in the morning and be me. I look in the bathroom mirror and I’m a cross between a yeti and a gorilla," Blessed told The Guardian. "But I love it. On mountains in the Himalayas, the sherpas call me Big Yeti. I love it that I’ve got a 55-inch chest.”
8. He is a fully trained cosmonaut, having completed 800 hours of space training in Russia, and still hopes to venture into space.
“I want to go. I instinctively feel that I will live to about 120, 130," he told The Times last year. "I’m the oldest man to reach the North Pole, for God’s sake – they said I couldn’t do it. I climbed the highest mountain in South America, 20,000ft."
9. He has vowed not to let heart problems stop him in his tracks.
"I'll be 85 in October," Blessed told the i earlier this year. "Ultimately, long story short, I have had a pacemaker put in me and I now feel like a man of 20."
10. And finally, he has become known for swearing on TV.
As you might expect, the clip below contains a lot of salty language.
Do you have a favorite thing about Brian Blessed?