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Joss Ackland

Sidney Edmond Jocelyn Ackland

(1928-02-29) 29 February 1928 (age 94)
Years active1949–2014
Rosemary Kirkcaldy
(m. 1951; died 2002)

Sidney Edmond Jocelyn "Joss" Ackland CBE (born 29 February 1928)[1] is a retired English actor who has appeared in more than 130 film and television roles.[2] 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 on 29 February 1928, the son of Major Sydney Norman Ackland (died 1981), an Irish journalist who had been sent to England to live with an aunt by his parents for seducing their maid, but subsequently seducing his aunt's maid, Ruth Izod (died 1957), whom he married.[3][4][5] He was trained by Elsie Fogerty at the Central School of Speech and Drama, then based at the Royal Albert Hall, London.[6]

Ackland and Rosemary Kirkcaldy were married on 18 August 1951, when Ackland was 23 and she 22.[7] She was an actress and Ackland wooed her when they appeared on stage together in Pitlochry, Scotland.[8] The couple struggled initially as Ackland's acting career was in its infancy.[7] They moved to Lilongwe, Malawi,[when?] where Ackland managed a tea plantation for six months but, deciding it was too dangerous, they moved to Cape Town, South Africa.[7] Though they both obtained steady acting jobs in South Africa, after two years they returned to England in 1957.[7][9]


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.[1]

On television Ackland appeared as Jephro Rucastle with Jeremy Brett and David Burke in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; the episode entitled "The Copper Beeches". Other appearances included Passion of Mind with Demi Moore and the two-part TV serial Hogfather based on Terry Pratchett's Discworld.[1] 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.[10]

His stage roles included creating the role of Juan Perón in Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Evita opposite Elaine Paige.[11] 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.[12]

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.[13] 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.[citation needed]

He also co-starred as Emilio Estevez's mentor and friend Hans in the 1992 Disney hit The Mighty Ducks.[14] He reprised the role four years later in 1996's D3: The Mighty Ducks.[1]

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. He also criticised former co-star Demi Moore as "not very bright or talented".[9]

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.[15]

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.[16]

In September 2013 Jonathan Miller directed a Gala Performance of William Shakespeare's King Lear at the Old Vic in London. Ackland played Lear.[17]

Personal life

Ackland and his wife Rosemary were married for 51 years. They had seven children, thirty-two grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.[18] Despite his filming taking him to far-flung locations, he said Rosemary and he "were hardly ever apart".[19] Daughter Kirsty married Anthony Shawn Baring, a descendant of the merchant banker Sir Francis Baring, 1st Baronet and a descendant of Robert Rundell Guinness, founder of the merchant bank Guinness Mahon.[20][21] In 1963, their house in Barnes caught fire. Rosemary saved their five children but broke her back when jumping from the bedroom window.[22] She was told she would miscarry and never walk again, but later gave birth and, after 18 months in Stoke Mandeville Hospital, walked again.[23][7]

Their eldest son, Paul, died of a heroin overdose in 1982, aged 29.[24] In 2000 Rosemary was diagnosed with motor neurone disease; she died on 25 July 2002.[25]

In 2020, Ackland participated in the Letters Live project, and was recorded from his home in Clovelly, Devon.[26] His letter reflected on the COVID-19 crisis and his hopes for how the country could draw 'strength from adversity'.[27]


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  1. ^ a b c d "Joss Ackland". BFI.
  2. ^ Hal Erickson (2009). "The New York Times". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Baseline & All Movie Guide. Archived from the original on 21 June 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  3. ^ My Better Half and Me, Joss Ackland and Rosemary Ackland, Random House, 2010, p. 1
  4. ^ People of Today 2017, Debrett's Ltd, 2017, p. 2127
  5. ^ Joss Ackland Biography (1928–).
  6. ^ V&A, Theatre and Performance Special Collections, Elsie Fogerty Archive, THM/324
  7. ^ a b c d e "Interview: Joss Ackland - Love and Joss". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. 19 August 2009.
  8. ^ Whitney, Interview by Hilary. "Time and place: Joss Ackland" – via
  9. ^ a b "Joss Ackland admits 'awful' films." BBC News.
  10. ^ "Shadowlands". 22 December 1985. p. 44 – via BBC Genome.
  11. ^ "Evita review – breathtaking inventiveness and quicksilver fluency". The Guardian. 22 September 2014.
  12. ^ "A Little Night Music - 1975 Original London Cast" – via
  13. ^ "Watch It Couldn't Happen Here". BFI Player.
  14. ^ "The Mighty Ducks (1992) - Stephen Herek | Cast and Crew" – via
  15. ^ "How about You (2007)". BFI.
  16. ^ "Midsomer Murders - S9 - Episode 3: Vixen's Run - Part One". Radio Times.
  17. ^ "The Old Vic - King Lear". Archived from the original on 29 October 2013.
  18. ^ Bohdanowicz, Kate (22 June 2010). "Motor neurone disease made Joss Ackland and his wife live life to the full". Retrieved 9 June 2021.
  19. ^ Whitney, Interview by Hilary. "Time and place: Joss Ackland". ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 9 June 2021.
  20. ^ Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 107th edition, vol. 2, pp. 1694-5, 2932
  21. ^ Burke's Irish Family Records, ed. Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd, Burke's Peerage Ltd, 1976, p. 531
  22. ^ "Ackland pays tribute to 'plucky' wife". Irish Examiner. 25 July 2002. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  23. ^ Bohdanowicz, Kate (22 June 2010). "Motor neurone disease made Joss Ackland and his wife live life to the full".
  24. ^ White, Roland. "Joss Ackland on love life with wife Rosemary". ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  25. ^ "Obituary: Rosemary Ackland". The Daily Telegraph. London. 14 August 2002. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  26. ^ Lloyd, Howard (20 April 2020). "Legendary Devon actor says crisis can 'breathe strength' into UK". DevonLive. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  27. ^ "92-year-old Joss Ackland reads a letter to the world - #ReadALetter". YouTube. 11 April 2020. Retrieved 15 November 2020.