James Fox
Fox in 2014
William Fox

(1939-05-19) 19 May 1939 (age 84)
London, England
Years active1950–1970, 1981–present
Mary Elizabeth Piper
(m. 1973; died 2020)
Children5, including Jack and Laurence
ParentRobin Fox (father)

James William Fox (born William Fox; 19 May 1939) is an English actor. He won a BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles for The Servant (1963). Other credits include The Miniver Story (1950), The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965), King Rat (1965), The Chase (1966), Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), Isadora (1968), Performance (1970), before quitting acting for several years to be an evangelical Christian.

On his return to acting in the 1980s, he starred in Runners (1983), A Passage to India (1984), Comrades (1986), A Question of Attribution (1992), Patriot Games (1992), Farewell to the King (1993), Heart of Darkness (1993), The Remains of the Day (1993), Gulliver's Travels (1996), Anna Karenina (1997), and Mickey Blue Eyes (1999).

From 2000 onwards he appeared in Sexy Beast (2000), 2001 adaptation of The Lost World (2001), Agatha Christie's PoirotDeath on the Nile (2004), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Waking the Dead (2007), Lewis (2009), Sherlock Holmes (2009), Cleanskin (2010), The Double (2013), W.E. (2010), Utopia (2013), The Great Train Robbery (2013), Death in Paradise (2015), and Surviving Christmas with the Relatives (2018).

Early life

Fox was born on 19 May 1939 in London, the second son of theatrical agent Robin Fox[1] and actress Angela Worthington. His elder brother is actor Edward Fox and his younger brother is film producer Robert Fox. His maternal grandfather was playwright Frederick Lonsdale.[2]


Early career

Fox first appeared on film as eleven-year-old Toby Miniver in The Miniver Story in 1950.[3] His early screen appearances, both in film and television, were made under his birth name, William Fox.

He appeared in the film The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962).[4] Fox's father purportedly attempted to forbid this, fearing his son would lose his job in the bank; nevertheless, Fox took the part.[5]

In 1964, Fox won a BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles for The Servant (1963), working alongside Dirk Bogarde, Sarah Miles, and Wendy Craig.[6]

On 16 June 1965, Ken Annakin's period aviation film Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines was released. In this British period comedy film, Fox is featured among an international ensemble cast including Stuart Whitman, Sarah Miles, Robert Morley, Terry-Thomas, Red Skelton, Benny Hill, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Gert Fröbe and Alberto Sordi.[7][8] Some of the other films he acted in during this time are King Rat (1965),[4] The Chase (1966),[4] Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967),[4] Isadora (1968),[4] and Performance (1970).[3]

Spiritual life and break from acting

After finishing work on Performance (released 1970, but shot in 1968),[4] Fox suspended his acting career. The film, which starred Fox and Mick Jagger, was deemed so outrageous (at the time) that critics at a preview screening walked out, with one film executive's wife reportedly throwing up in the cinema.[3]

In a 2008 interview, he said: "It was just part of my journey...I think my journey was to spend a while away from acting. And I never lost contact with it – watching movies, reading about it ... so I didn't feel I missed it."[9]

He became an evangelical Christian, working with the Navigators and devoting himself to the ministry.[10] During this time, the only film in which Fox appeared was No Longer Alone (1976), the story of Joan Winmill Brown,[11] a suicidal woman who was led to faith in Jesus Christ by Ruth Bell Graham.[11]

Return to acting

After an absence from acting of several years, in 1981 Fox appeared on television in the Play for Today "Country" by Trevor Griffiths, a comedy drama set against the 1945 UK parliamentary elections. On film he starred in Stephen Poliakoff's Runners (1983),[4] A Passage to India (1984),[4] and Comrades (1986).[4] He played Anthony Blunt in the BBC play by Alan Bennett, A Question of Attribution (1992).[4] He also portrayed the character of Lord Holmes in Patriot Games (1992), as well as Colonel Ferguson in Farewell to the King (1989) and the Nazi-sympathising aristocrat Lord Darlington in The Remains of the Day (1993).

He has since appeared in the 2000 film Sexy Beast,[4] the 2001 adaptation of The Lost World as Prof. Leo Summerlee,[4] Agatha Christie's PoirotDeath on the Nile (2004) as Colonel Race,[4] and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005),[4] playing Mr. Salt, Veruca Salt's father. He appeared in the Doctor Who audio drama Shada,[4] and in 2007, he guest-starred in the British television crime series Waking the Dead.[4] He also appeared opposite his son Laurence Fox in "Allegory of Love", an episode in the third series of Lewis.[4] He was part of the cast of Sherlock Holmes (2009), as Sir Thomas, leading member of a freemason-like secret society.[4]

In 2010, he filmed Cleanskin, a terrorist thriller directed by Hadi Hajaig,[12] and in 2011 he played King George V in the Madonna written and directed film W.E.[13]

In 2013, he played a lead role alongside Natalie Dormer, in the movie A Long Way From Home.[3]

Personal life

Fox married Mary Elizabeth Piper in September 1973, with whom he has five children: four sons, Robin, Thomas, Laurence, Jack, and a daughter, Lydia. Piper died at their home on 19 April 2020.[2][14]

Through his daughter Lydia, his son-in-law is actor Richard Ayoade.[15] His former daughter-in-law is actress Billie Piper, who was married to his son Laurence from 2007 to 2016.[16][17]



Year Title Role Notes
1950 The Miniver Story Toby Miniver
The Magnet Johnny Brent
1962 The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner Gunthorpe
1963 Tamahine Oliver
The Servant Tony
1965 King Rat Flight Lieutenant Peter Marlowe
Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines Richard Mays
1966 The Chase Jason 'Jake' Rogers
1967 Thoroughly Modern Millie Jimmy Smith
Arabella Giorgio
1968 Duffy Stephane Calvert
Isadora Gordon Craig
1970 Performance Chas Devlin
1983 Runners Tom Lindsay
1984 Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes Lord Charles Esker
A Passage to India Richard Fielding
1986 Absolute Beginners Henley of Mayfair, Dressmaker to the Queen
The Whistle Blower Lord
Comrades Governor William Norfolk
1987 High Season Patrick
1989 Farewell to the King Colonel Ferguson
The Mighty Quinn Thomas Elgin
1990 The Russia House Ned
1991 Afraid of the Dark Frank
1992 Patriot Games Lord William Holmes
1993 The Remains of the Day Lord Darlington
1997 Anna Karenina Aleksei Aleksandrovich Karenin
Never Ever Arthur Trevane
1998 Shadow Run Landon-Higgins
Jinnah Mountbatten
1999 Mickey Blue Eyes Philip Cromwell
2000 Up at the Villa Sir Edgar Swift
Sexy Beast Harry
The Golden Bowl Colonel Bob Assingham
2001 Lover's Prayer Old Vladimir Voice
The Mystic Masseur Mr. Stewart
2004 The Prince and Me King Haraald
2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Mr. Salt
2007 Mister Lonely The Pope
2009 Sherlock Holmes Sir Thomas Rotheram
2010 Wide Blue Yonder George
2011 W.E. King George V
2012 Cleanskin Scott Catesby
2013 A Long Way From Home [3] Joseph
The Double The Colonel
Effie Gray Sir Charles Eastlake
2018 Surviving Christmas with the Relatives Uncle John


Year Title Role Notes
1959 Armchair Theatre Jay Minton Episode: Light from a Star
1981 Play for Today Philip Carlion Episode: Country
1982 Nancy Astor Waldorf Astor TV Mini-series
1983 Anna Pavlova Victor Dandré
The Road to 1984 George Orwell TV movie[18]
1989 She's Been Away Hugh Ambrose TV movie
1990 Never Come Back Foster TV Mini-series
1992 A Question of Attribution Sir Anthony Blunt TV movie
1993 Heart of Darkness Gosse TV movie
1994 The Dwelling Place Lord Fischel TV Mini-series, 3 episodes[19]
Doomsday Gun Sir James Whittington TV movie
The Old Curiosity Shop The Single Gentleman TV Mini-series
1995 The Choir The Dean, Hugh Cavendish TV Mini-series, 5 episodes
1996 Gulliver's Travels Dr. Bates TV Mini-series
2001 Armadillo Sir Simon Sherrifmuir
The Lost World Prof. Leo Summerlee TV movie
2002 The Falklands Play Lord Carrington KCMG MC PC (Foreign Secretary)
2003 Cambridge Spies Lord Halifax TV Mini-series
2003 Hans Christian Andersen: My Life as a Fairytale Jonas Collin TV movie
2004 Agatha Christie's Poirot Colonel Race Episode: Death on the Nile
2005 Agatha Christie's Marple Colonel Arthur Bantry Episode: The Body in the Library
Colditz Lt. Colonel Jimmy Fordham TV Mini-series
Absolute Power Gerald Thurnham Episode: Identity Crisis
2006 Suez: A Very British Crisis Anthony Eden TV documentary
2007 Waking the Dead Dr Bruno Rivelli Episode: Mask of Sanity
2008 New Tricks Ian Figgis Episode: Spare Parts
2009 Lewis Professor Norman Dearing Episode: Allegory of Love
Margaret Charles Powell TV movie
Red Riding 1980 Philip Evans TV movie
2010 Midsomer Murders Sir Michael Fielding Episode: Master Class
2011 Law & Order: UK Dr. Edward Austen Episode: The Wrong Man
2012 Merlin King Rodor Episode: Another's Sorrow
2013 Utopia The Assistant 6 episodes
The Great Train Robbery Henry Brooke TV movie
Downton Abbey Lord Aysgarth Episode: The London Season
2014 Unknown Heart [fr] Ludlow
1864 Lord Palmerston Miniseries
2015 Death in Paradise Martin Goodman 2 episodes
London Spy James Episode: Blue


  1. ^ Robert Morley, Robert Morley: a reluctant autobiography (1967), p. 214
  2. ^ a b "A Family Of Foxes: Edward, James, Robert, Laurence, Emilia, Freddie, Even Billie Piper..." huffingtonpost.co.uk. 6 December 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e Simon Hattenstone (2 December 2013). "James Fox: 'I didn't take that much acid'". The Guardian.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "James Fox credits". tvguide.com. Retrieved 1 July 2023.
  5. ^ James M. Welsh, John C. Tibbetts, The Cinema of Tony Richardson: Essays and Interviews (1999), p. 119: "It was Richardson who gave James Fox his first part as the public school runner who wins the race, despite the fact that his friend, agent Robin Fox, was bitterly against it: "We only had one quarrel, when he forbade me to offer his son 'Willie' James Fox a small role in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, saying that his son had no talent and that for him to quit his job in a bank would be to disrupt his life."
  6. ^ "BAFTA Film - Most Promising Newcomer To Leading Film Roles in 1964". awards.bafta.org. Retrieved 1 July 2023.
  7. ^ Crowther, Bosley (17 June 1965). "Movie Review: Those Magnificent Men In their Flying Machines (1965)". The New York Times.
  8. ^ "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines – Or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 Hours 11 Minutes". Variety. 1 January 1965. Retrieved 16 December 2019.
  9. ^ Jeeves (22 November 2010). ""Tweedland" The Gentlemen's club: James Fox". Tweedland the Gentlemans Club. Retrieved 13 May 2012.
  10. ^ "Biography at British Cinema Greats". Archived from the original on 22 July 2012. Retrieved 31 July 2006.
  11. ^ a b "The Epitome of a Christian Woman". Christianitytoday.com. Christianity Today. 20 June 2007.
  12. ^ "Bean, Rampling Join Terrorist Thriller "Cleanskin"". Dark Horizons. 2 March 2010.
  13. ^ "W./E film Cast". We-movie.com. 18 March 2011. Archived from the original on 11 September 2014.
  14. ^ "Telegraph Announcements | Deaths | Fox". The Daily Telegraph. 20 April 2020. Retrieved 4 December 2021.
  15. ^ White, Adam (23 June 2017). "The Crystal Maze 2017: everything you need to know about host Richard Ayoade". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022.
  16. ^ Church wedding for Piper and Fox, BBC News, 31 December 2007.
  17. ^ "Billie Piper and Laurence Fox divorce". ITV News. 12 May 2016. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
  18. ^ "The Road to 1984 (1983)". Archived from the original on 7 July 2023.
  19. ^ Catherine Cookson's The Dwelling Place at radiotimes.com