Joss Ackland

Sidney Edmond Jocelyn “Joss” Ackland, CBE (born 29 February 1928) is an English actor who has appeared in more than 130 film and television roles. He was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for portraying Jock Delves Broughton in White Mischief (1987).

Early life

Ackland was born in North Kensington, London, the son of Ruth (Izod) and Sydney Norman Ackland. He was trained by Elsie Fogerty at the Central School of Speech and Drama, then based at the Royal Albert Hall, London. Ackland and his wife, the former Rosemary Kirkcaldy, were married on 18 August 1951 when Ackland was 23 and she 22. She was an actress and Ackland wooed her when they appeared on stage together in the town of Pitlochry in Scotland. The couple struggled initially as Ackland's acting career was in its infancy. They moved to Kenya, where Ackland managed a tea plantation for six months, but, deciding it was too dangerous, they moved to Cape Town, South Africa. Though they both obtained steady acting jobs in South Africa, after two years, they returned to England in 1957.


Ackland joined the Old Vic, appearing alongside other notable actors including Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Tom Courtenay. Ackland worked steadily in television and film in the 1960s and 70s. He worked opposite Alec Guinness in the 1979 television serial Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, playing sporting journalist and intermittent British espionage operative Jerry Westerby, and his career advanced through the 1980s with important parts in such films as The Sicilian, Lethal Weapon 2, The Hunt for Red October and White Mischief. Ackland also appeared in Passion of Mind with Demi Moore and the two-part TV serial Hogfather based on Terry Pratchett's Discworld. He played C. S. Lewis in the television version of Shadowlands before it was adapted into a stage play starring Nigel Hawthorne and then a theatrical film with Anthony Hopkins in the same role.

His stage roles included creating the role of Juan Perón in Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Evita opposite Elaine Paige. He also starred in the London production of Stephen Sondheim's and Hugh Wheeler's A Little Night Music with Jean Simmons and Hermione Gingold, performing on the RCA Victor original London cast album.

Ackland appears in the Pet Shop Boys' 1987 film It Couldn't Happen Here, and in the video for their version of the song Always on My Mind, which was taken from the film. Several years later, he said in an interview with the Radio Times that he appeared with the band purely because his grandchildren liked their music.

In a 2001 interview with the BBC, Ackland said that he appeared in some "awful films" due to being a workaholic. He said that he "regretted" appearing in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey and the Pet Shop Boys music video, while lambasting former co-star Demi Moore as "not very bright or talented".

In 2007 Ackland narrated and provided the voice for the Robert Garofalo biography film/documentary on the notorious occultist Aleister Crowley, titled In Search of the Great Beast 666 that was released on DVD.

Also in 2007, Ackland appeared in the film How About You opposite Vanessa Redgrave, portraying a recovering alcoholic living in a residential home after being forced to retire and losing his wife to cancer.

In 2008 he returned to the small screen as Sir Freddy Butler, a much married baronet, in the ITV1 show Midsomer Murders. The episode, entitled Vixens Run also featured veteran actress Siân Phillips.

In September 2013 Jonathan Miller directed a Gala Performance of William Shakespeare's King Lear at the Old Vic in London. Ackland played Lear.

Ackland was well regarded in the acting community and known the world over as a prankster. Borrowing heavily from his role as Arjen Rudd in Lethal Weapon 2, Ackland was frequently overheard claiming that he had "diplomatic immunity" off-screen.

Personal life

Ackland and his wife Rosemary were married for 51 years. They had seven children and, as of May 2006, 32 grandchildren. Despite his filming taking him to far-flung locations, he said they never spent a night apart.

In 1963, their house in Barnes caught fire. Rosemary saved their five children but broke her back when jumping from the bedroom window. She was told she would miscarry and never walk again, but later gave birth and, after two years in Stoke Mandeville Hospital, walked again.

Their eldest son, Paul, died of a heroin overdose in 1982, aged 29. In 2000 Rosemary was diagnosed with motor neurone disease; she died on 25 July 2002.

Selected TV and filmography

  • Landfall (1949) (uncredited) as O'Neil
  • Seven Days to Noon (1950)
  • Ghost Ship (1952) as Ron, a seaman
  • Destination Downing Street (1957) (TV) as Immelmann
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream (1959)
  • In Search of the Castaways (1962) (uncredited) as Seaman on yacht
  • The Indian Tales of Rudyard Kipling (1963) (TV) as William Stevens
  • David Copperfield (1966) (TV serial) as Mr. Peggotty
  • Rasputin: the Mad Monk (1966) as the Bishop
  • Lord Raingo (1966) (TV) as Tom Hogarth
  • On the March to the Sea (1966) (TV)
  • Room 13 (1966) (TV) as Herr Scavenius
  • The Further Adventures of the Three Musketeers (1967) (TV series) as d'Artagnan
  • The Troubleshooters (1966) (TV) (1966–1968) as Mr Gibbon (1966), Sam Jardine (1966–1967), Considine (1968), Lewis (1968)
  • Mystery and Imagination (1966) (TV) (1966, 1968) as Herr Scavenius
  • A Place of One's Own (1968) (TV)
  • Z-Cars (1967) (TV) (1967–1968) as Det. Insp. Todd
  • The Avengers (1969) (TV series) as Brig. Hansing
  • The Gold Robbers (1969) (TV) as Derek Hartford
  • Before the Party (1969) (TV) as Harold Bannon
  • Crescendo (1969) as Carter
  • The House That Dripped Blood (1970) as Neville Rogers
  • The Three Sisters (1970) (BBC Play of the Month series) as Chebutykin
  • Mr. Forbush and the Penguins (1972) as The Leader
  • Thirty-Minute Theatre (1971) (TV) (1971, 1972)
  • Villain (1971) as Edgar Lewis
  • The Persuaders! (1972) (TV) as Felix Meadowes
  • Shirley's World (1972) (TV) as Inspector Vaughan
  • The Happiness Cage (1972) as Dr Frederick
  • Six Faces (1972) (TV series) as Harry Mellor
  • Six Faces: True Life (1972) (TV)
  • Six Faces: Gallery of Faces (1972) (TV)
  • Penny Gold (1973)
  • The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes (1973) (TV) as Grubber
  • Hitler: The Last Ten Days (1973) (TV) as Gen. Burgdorf
  • England Made Me (1973) as Haller
  • The Three Musketeers (1973) as D'Artagnan's Father
  • The Protectors (1974) (TV) as Arthur Gordon
  • The Black Windmill (1974) as Chief Supt. Wray
  • S*P*Y*S (1974) ... Martinson
  • The Little Prince (1974) as the King
  • Great Expectations (1974) (TV) as Joe Gargery
  • One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing (1975) as B.J. Spence
  • Royal Flash (1975) as Sapten
  • Operation Daybreak (1975) as Janák
  • You Talk Too Much (1976) (TV)
  • The Crezz (1976) (TV series) as Charles Bronte
  • The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It (1977) as President
  • Watership Down (1978) (voice) as Black Rabbit
  • Enemy at the Door (1978) (TV) as Major General Laidlaw
  • Silver Bears (1978) as Henry Foreman
  • The Greek Tycoon (1978) (uncredited)
  • Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? (1978) as Cantrell
  • Return of the Saint (1978) (TV) as Gunther
  • The Sweeney (1978) (TV) as Alan Ember
  • A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square (1979) (uncredited) as Prison Warden
  • Saint Jack (1979) as Yardley
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (TV) (1979) as Jerry Westerby
  • Tales of the Unexpected (1980) (TV) (1980, 1988) as Malcolm Harper (1980), Colonel George Peregrine (1988)
  • A Question of Guilt (1980) (TV series) as Samuel Kent
  • The Love Tapes (1980) (TV) (uncredited) as Narrator
  • Rough Cut (1980) as Insp. Vanderveld
  • The Gentle Touch (TV) as Ivor Stocker
  • The Apple (1980) as Hippie Leader/Mr Topps
  • Dangerous Davies – The Last Detective (1981) as Chief Insp. Yardbird
  • Thicker Than Water (1981) (TV) as Joseph Lockwood
  • The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1982) (TV) as Edward Moulton-Barrett
  • Shroud for a Nightingale (1984) (TV) as Stephen Courtney-Briggs, surgeon
  • The Tragedy of Coriolanus (1984) (TV) as Menenius
  • Shadowlands (1985) (TV) as C. S. Lewis
  • A Zed & Two Noughts (1985) as Van Hoyten
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – "The Copper Beeches" (1985) (TV series) as Jephro Rucastle
  • Lady Jane (1986) as Sir John Bridges
  • When We Are Married (1987) (TV) as Henry Ormonroyd
  • White Mischief (1987) as Sir Jock Delves Broughton
  • A Killing on the Exchange (1987) (TV) as Sir Max Sillman
  • Queenie (1987) (TV) as Sir Burton Rumsey
  • The Sicilian (1987) as Don Masino Croce
  • It Couldn't Happen Here (1988) as Priest/murderer
  • The Man Who Lived at the Ritz (1988) (TV) as Hermann Göring
  • Codename: Kyril (1988) (TV) as 'C'
  • To Kill a Priest (1988) as Colonel
  • First and Last (1989) (TV) as Alan Holly
  • A Quiet Conspiracy (1989) (TV) as Theo Carter
  • The Justice Game (1989) (TV) as Sir James Crichton
  • Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) as Arjen 'Aryan' Rudd
  • Jekyll & Hyde (1990) (TV) as Charles Lanyon
  • Dimenticare Palermo (1990) (TV) as Mafia boss
  • The Hunt for Red October (1990) as Ambassador Andrei Lysenko
  • The Secret Life of Ian Fleming (1990) (TV) as Gen. Gerhard Hellstein
  • Tre colonne in cronaca (1990) as Gaetano Leporino
  • Incident at Victoria Falls (1991) (TV) as King Edward
  • A Murder of Quality (1991) (TV) as Terence Fielding
  • The Object of Beauty (1991) as Mr Mercer
  • Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991) as Chuck De Nomolos
  • A Woman Named Jackie (1991) (TV) as Aristotle Onassis
  • Ashenden (1991) (TV) as Cumming
  • They Do It with Mirrors (1991) (TV) as Lewis Serrocold
  • The Sheltering Desert (1992) as Col. Johnston
  • Once Upon a Crime (1992) as Hercules Popodopoulos
  • Shadowchaser (1992) as Kinderman
  • The Bridge (1992) as Smithson
  • The Mighty Ducks (1992) as Hans
  • The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles - episode - "Austria, March 1917" - The Prussian (1992)
  • Shakespeare: The Animated Tales (1992) (TV) (voice) as Julius Caesar
  • Nowhere to Run (1993) as Franklin Hale
  • Voices in the Garden (1993) (TV) as Sir Charles (Archie) Peverall
  • The Princess and the Goblin (1993) (voice) as King Papa
  • OcchioPinocchio (1994) as Brando
  • Miracle on 34th Street - Victor Landberg (Store Competitor for Shopper’s Express) (uncredited) (1994)
  • Jacob (1994) (TV) as Isaac
  • Citizen Locke (1994) (TV) as Lord Ashley
  • Giorgino (1994) as Father Glaise
  • Citizen X (1995) (TV) as Bondarchuk
  • Mad Dogs and Englishmen (1995) as Insp. Sam Stringer
  • The Thief and the Cobbler (1995) (voice) as Brigands
  • A Kid in King Arthur's Court (1995) as King Arthur
  • Daisies in December (1995) (TV) as Gerald Carmody
  • Testament: The Bible in Animation (1996) (TV) (voice) as Noah
  • Hidden in Silence (1996) (TV) as German factory manager
  • Deadly Voyage (1996) (TV) as Captain
  • To the Ends of Time (1996) (TV) as King Francis
  • Surviving Picasso (1996) as Henri Matisse
  • D3: The Mighty Ducks (1996) as Hans
  • Swept from the Sea (1997) as Mr Swaffer
  • Heat of the Sun (1998) (TV) as Max van der Vuurst
  • My Giant (1998) (uncredited) as. Monsignor Popescu
  • The Mumbo Jumbo (2000) as Mayor Smith
  • Passion of Mind (2000) as Dr Langer, the French Psychiatrist
  • Othello (2001) (TV) as James Brabant
  • No Good Deed (2002) as Mr Thomas Quarre
  • K-19: The Widowmaker (2002) as Marshal Zelentsov
  • Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness (2003) (voice) as Pieter Van Eckhardt
  • Henry VIII (2003) (TV) as Henry VII
  • I'll Be There (2003) as Evil Edmonds
  • A Different Loyalty (2004) as Randolph Cauffield
  • The Christmas Eve Snowfall (2005) (Narrator)
  • Asylum (2005) as Jack Straffen
  • Icon (2005) (TV) as retired General Nikolai Nikolayev
  • Midsomer Murders (2006) Vixen's Run.(TVs) as Sir Freddy Butler
  • These Foolish Things (2006) as Albert
  • Moscow Zero (2006) as Tolstoy
  • Above and Beyond (2006) (TV) as Winston Churchill
  • Hogfather (2006) (TV) as Mustrum Ridcully
  • Rise of the Ogre (Audiobook) (2006) (Narrator)
  • How About You (2007) as Donald
  • Kingdom (2007) as Mr Narbutowicz
  • Flawless (2008) as MKA
  • Prisoners of the Sun (2013) as Prof. Mendella
  • Katherine of Alexandria (2014) as Rufus


  • Ackland, Joss (17 June 2010). My Better Half and Me. Ebury Press.
  • -- (1989). I Must Be In There Somewhere (autobiography). Hodder and Stoughton.