December 16, 1947 (1947-12-16) (age 61)
Ben Cross (born Harry Bernard Cross on December 16, 1947 in London) is an English actor of the stage and screen, best known for his portrayal of the Jewish Olympic athlete Harold Abrahams in the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire.
He began acting at a very young age and participated in grammar school plays – most notably playing Jesus in a school pageant at age 12. Cross left home and school at age 15 and worked in various jobs including work as a window cleaner, waiter and carpenter. He was master carpenter for the Welsh National Opera and property master at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham.
In 1970 at the age of 22, he was accepted into London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) - the alma mater of actors such as Sir John Gielgud, Glenda Jackson and Sir Anthony Hopkins.
Upon graduation from RADA, Cross performed in several stage plays at Duke's Playhouse where he was seen in Macbeth, The Importance of Being Earnest and Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. He then joined the Prospect Theatre Company and played roles in Pericles, Twelfth Night, and Royal Hunt of the Sun. Cross also joined the cast in the immensely popular musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and played leading roles in Sir Peter Shaffer's Equus, Mind Your Head and the musical Irma La Douce – all at Leicester's Haymarket Theatre.
Cross is a director, writer and musician as well. He has written music, screenplays and articles for English language publications and has also has written the lyrics for an album with "Bulgaria's Frank Sinatra", singer Vasil Petrov, which will be released in late 2007. He also sang two Sinatra songs with Vasil Petrov in the Apollonia Festival at the Black Sea in September 2007. Among many of his original works is the musical Rage about Ruth Ellis, which was performed in various regional towns in the London area. He also starred in it and played the part of the hangman. Cross's first single as a lyricist was released by Polydor Records in the late 1970s and was titled “Mickey Moonshine.” Other works include The Best We’ve Ever Had and Nearly Midnight, both written by Cross and directed by his son Theo. In addition, the original soundtrack for Nearly Midnight was written, produced and performed by his daughter Lauren. These works were performed in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 2002 and 2003 respectively. Square One, directed by Cross, was performed at the Etcetera Theatre in London in 2004.
Cross has lived all over the world, including London, Los Angeles, New York, Southern Spain, Vienna, and, most recently, Sofia. He is familiar with the Spanish, Italian and German languages and enrolled in a course studying Bulgarian.
Cross's first big screen film appearance came in 1976 when he went on location to Deventer, Netherlands, to play Trooper Binns in Joseph E. Levine's World War II epic A Bridge Too Far which starred a very famous international cast, including Dirk Bogarde, Sir Sean Connery, Sir Michael Caine and James Caan.
In 1977, Cross became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and performed in the premier of Privates on Parade as “Kevin Cartwright” and played Rover in a revival of a Restoration play titled Wild Oats.
Cross's path to international stardom began in 1978 with his performance in the play Chicago in which he played Billy Flynn, the slick lawyer of murderess Roxie Hart. During his performance in this play he was recognized and recommended for a leading role in the multiple Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire. The major success of Chariots of Fire opened the doors to the international film market. Cross followed up Chariots of Fire with performances in the BBC series The Citadel in which he played a Scottish physician struggling with the politics of the British medical system during the 1920s and as Ash Pelham-Martyn, a British cavalry officer torn between two cultures in the ITV miniseries The Far Pavilions.
During the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, Cross appeared in a commercial for American Express ("Don't leave home without it") with the 87-year-old Jackson Scholz, a sprinter for the 1924 American Olympic team whose character was featured in the film Chariots of Fire. When Cross says something about beating Scholz, the latter remarks, "You never beat me!" with mock indignation. Proving he is "still pretty fast", Scholz beats Cross to the draw in picking up the tab with his credit card.
He subsequently replaced James Garner as the featured actor endorsing the Polaroid Spectra camera in 1986. Cross was also featured in GQ Magazine as one of the annual “Manstyle” winners in January, 1985 followed by a featured photo shoot in March, 1985.
Over the years, Cross has played Solomon in the Trimark Pictures production Solomon in 1997; Barnabas Collins in the 1991 MGM remake of the miniseries Dark Shadows; Sir Harold Pearson in the 1994 Italian production Caro Dolce Amore (Honey Sweet Love); Ikey Solomon in the Australian production The Potato Factory in 2000; and most recently, his role as Rudolf Hess in the 2006 BBC production Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial.
In November 2007, Cross was cast in the role of Sarek, in the new Star Trek film directed and produced by J. J. Abrams.
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