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Guest Actor Biography
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Joss Ackland

Brigadier Hansing, The Morning After

by Addison Hart

Joss Ackland remains one of the greatest British actors of the last fifty years, and one of the most distinguished actors to appear in The Avengers. He has been in films since 1950 and it seems he shall be in films to come as well. At 74 years old, he is still appearing on film, in many cases in starring roles.

Ackland was born 29 February 1928 in North Kensington, London. By 1950, when he appeared in the movie Seven Days to Noon in a bit part for which he was uncredited, he had already appeared on stage several times. In 1952 he received another small role as Ron, a fisherman, in Ghost Ship. He was on stage only for most of the rest of the 50s, but made his first television appearance in the show Destination Downing Street, in the episode "Two Faces East." His next television appearance was in the popular show Z-Cars, where he played Detective Inspector Todd in several episodes in 1968. By this time he had also appeared in several stage plays broadcast live on television, including Focus, Before the Party (about Somerset Maugham), and Death of a Salesman. He had also appeared in Hammer Films' 1966 movie Rasputin: The Mad Monk as a Russian Bishop.

In 1969, at the age of 41, he appeared alongside Brian Blessed in The Avengers episode "The Morning After," where he played Brigadier Hansing. Other TV shows in which he made an appearance included The Persuaders! and the very popular series The Sweeney. In the 70s he made many stage and screen appearances, the latter including Crescendo, The House that Dripped Blood, Kings Cross, Six Faces, Hitler: The Last Ten Days (1973, with the great Sir Alec Guinness as Hitler, Ackland playing General Burgdorf), and The Three Musketeers (1973), the excellent film directed by Richard Lester with Ackland appearing as D'Artagnan's Father; along with Michael York as D'Artagnan, it also starred Oliver Reed, Charlton Heston, Christopher Lee and Roy Kinnear among others. Additional film credits include The Little Prince (as the King), Operation Daybreak, One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing (as Spence), The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It (as the President), Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe, Watership Down (providing the voice of the Black Rabbit), and A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square (as the Prison Warden).

When the 80s arrived, Ackland was again appearing in a large variety of films, including The Apple, Thicker than Water, The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Shakespeare's Tragedy of Coriolanus (playing Menenius, broadcast live from the stage), Shadowlands (the excellent TV movie on the life of C.S. Lewis; Ackland played Lewis and Claire Bloom played his wife, Joy), Lady Jane, Queenie, The Sicilian (a Godfatherish film wherein he played Don Masino Croce), It Couldn't Happen Here, The Man Who Lived at the Ritz (playing Herman Georing), Lethal Weapon 2 (as Aryan Rudd), First and Last, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (in which he played Dr. Lanyon). He also appeared in the excellent TV Series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes starring Jeremy Brett, guest starring in the episode "The Copper Beeches" with an excellent performance as the cruel Jephro Rucastle.

In the 90s he has appeared in The Secret Life of Ian Fleming (as General Hellstein), The Hunt for Red October (playing Ambassador Andrei Lysenko, alongside Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery), A Woman Named Jackie (as Aristoteles Onassis), A Murder of Quality, Sherlock Holmes and the Incident at Victoria Falls (alongside Patrick Macnee), Voices in the Garden, Mozart, Nowhere to Run, The Princess and the Goblin, Miracle on 34th Street, Surviving Picasso, Jacob: A TNT Bible Story (as Isaac), and Milk. He also was seen in such television shows as Testament: The Bible in Animation as Noah, and in the Miss Marple story They Do It With Mirrors as Lewis Serrocold.

In 2000 and 2001 he has appeared in Passion of Mind, Mumbo Jumbo, as Barabbas in the powerful and thought-provoking BBC series Tales from the Madhouse, and narrating the documentary, Painting Faces. He has been in 115 movies, hundreds of stage plays, and many other television shows.

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Page last modified 8 May 2002.