Kenneth Colley (born 7 December 1937) is an English film and television actor whose career spans over 60 years. He came to wider prominence through his role as Admiral Piett in the Star Wars films The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983).
Colley was born in Manchester, Lancashire. One of his early appearances on British television was as Noah Riley in the 1970s police drama The Sweeney, in an episode entitled Trap. He played Jesus in The Life of Brian, having also appeared in the earlier Monty Python-related production Ripping Yarns episode "The Testing of Eric Olthwaite" alongside Michael Palin. As a Shakespearean actor he played the Duke of Vienna in the BBC Television Shakespeare production of Measure for Measure in 1979.
Colley worked extensively with British director Ken Russell from the early 1970s to the early 1990s as part of a repertory of actors who appeared across Russell's television and film work. He played the role of Modest Tchaikovsky in the film The Music Lovers (1971). He went on to play the role of LeGrand in Russell's The Devils (also 1971); he played the journalist Krenek in the biopic Mahler (1974); the composer Frédéric Chopin in Lisztomania (1975); Mr Brunt in Russell's adaptation of The Rainbow (1989) by D. H. Lawrence. His last role for Russell was as Captain Dreyfus in the film Prisoner of Honor (1991), which dealt with the Dreyfus affair.
For his work in the Star Wars franchise, Colley's role as Admiral Piett is noted for differing from the other ill-fated Imperial officers who appeared alongside him in The Empire Strikes Back (1980), as Colley was the only actor to play an Imperial officer in a second Star Wars film, reprising his role in Return of the Jedi (1983). Colley reprised his role as Piett in the Cartoon Network animated special Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out in September 2012. Coincidentally, Colley and David Prowse had a part in the fantasy film Jabberwocky (1977).
Colley also played a notable role in the 1982 Clint Eastwood film Firefox, where he played a Soviet colonel tasked with the protection of the Firefox and its secrets. He went on to play SS-Standartenführer Paul Blobel in the Second World War drama War and Remembrance.
Colley has directed one film to date, Greetings (2007), a horror film starring Kirsty Cox, Henry Dunn and Ben Shockley.
In 2017, Colley recorded a series of short narrations for inclusion on Pop Wasteland, an album by Folkestone band Phenomenal Cat.
Colley lives in Hythe, Kent.
According to comments which Terry Gilliam (who directed him in Jabberwocky and acted with him in Life of Brian) made in the DVD audio commentaries for both films, Colley has a stammer in real life. When he had a role in a film, however, he could recite the lines perfectly. Stuttering is a character trait, however, in his role as the Accordion Man in the 1978 BBC television drama, Pennies from Heaven.
|1964||Seventy Deadly Pills||Covent Garden Porter|
|1967||The Jokers||De Winter|
|How I Won the War||2nd Replacement|
|1968||The Blood Beast Terror||James|
|1970||Performance||Tony Farrell||credited as Ken Colley|
|The Music Lovers||Modeste Tchaikovsky|
|1972||The Triple Echo||Provo Corporal||credited as Ken Colley|
|1973||Hitler: The Last Ten Days||Boldt||Uncredited|
|1974||Fall of Eagles||Father Gapon|
|Mahler||Krenek||credited as Ken Colley|
|1975||Slade in Flame||Tony Devlin|
|Lisztomania||Frédéric Chopin||credited as Ken Colley|
|1979||Measure For Measure||The Duke of Vienna|
|Monty Python's Life of Brian||Jesus|
|1980||The Empire Strikes Back||Admiral Piett|
|1981||Peter and Paul||Theodotus|
|1983||The Scarlet and the Black||Captain Hirsch||credited as Ken Colley|
|Return of the Jedi||Admiral Piett|
|1984||Return to Waterloo||The Traveller|
|1987||The Whistle Blower||Bill Pickett|
|1988||A Summer Story||Jim||credited as Ken Colley|
|1989||The Rainbow||Mr. Brunt||credited as Ken Colley|
|1990||The Plot to Kill Hitler||Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel|
|I Hired a Contract Killer||The Killer|
|The Last Island||Nick|
|1992||La Vie de Bohème||Balayeur de rues|
|1996||El último viaje de Robert Rylands||Archdale|
|Brassed Off||Greasley||credited as Ken Colley|
|1999||Hold Back the Night||Uncle Bob|
|1963:||The Avengers (TV series) (episode: Don't look behind you)||A young man||1 episode|
|1971||The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes||Farrish||2 episodes|
|1974||The Nine Tailors||"Potty" Peake||TV mini-series, Series 1 Episode 3, Lord Peter Wimsey|
|1974||Special Branch||Oliver||TV series, Series 4 Episode 9, Date of Birth|
|1975||The Sweeney||Noah Riley||TV series, Series 2 Episode 6, Trap|
|1977||Ripping Yarns||Arthur, The Robber||1 episode, The Testing of Eric Outhwaite|
|1978||Les Misérables||Police Prefect||TV film|
|1978||Pennies from Heaven||The Accordion Man||6 episodes, TV mini-series|
|1979||Measure for Measure||Duke||BBC Shakespeare series|
|The Danedyke Mystery||Major||6 episodes, TV series|
|1985||Wallenberg: A Hero's Story||Adolf Eichmann||TV film|
|Mussolini: The Untold Story||King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy||TV mini-series|
|1982||I Remember Nelson||Admiral Lord Nelson|
|1986||Return to Treasure Island||Ben Gunn||10 episodes, credited as Ken Colley|
|1988||War and Remembrance||SS Standartenführer Paul Blobel||2 episodes, TV mini-series|
|1990||Agatha Christie's Poirot||Mathew Davenheim||1 episode, "The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim"|
|1991||Inspector Morse||DCI Patrick Dawson||Episode 16 Second Time Around|
|Prisoner of Honour||Captain Alfred Dreyfus||TV film|
|1993||Unnatural Causes||Inspector Gerry Reckless||TV film|
|1994-1995||Moving Story||Ken Uttley||13 episodes|
|1995||Solomon & Sheba||Nathan||TV film|
|1995-1999||The Bill||Various Characters||3 episodes, credited as Ken Colley in 1999|
|1999||The Last Train||Mark||Episode Five, credited as Ken Colley|
|2001||Midsomer Murders||Lloyd Kirby||1 episode, The Electric Vendetta|
|2002||Relic Hunter||Professor Lamenza||1 episode, Faux Fox|
|2005||Like Father Like Son||Rawsthorne||2 episodes|
|2006||Foyle's War||Brian Jones||1 episode, Bad Blood|
|2009||Casualty 1909||Dr. Frederick Smith||3 episodes|
|2012||Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out||Admiral Piett||TV film, credited as Kenneth Cooley|
|2013||Vera||Ronald Devreux||Series 3, Episode 3 Young Gods|
|Misfits||Old Rudy||Series 5, Episode 4|
|2016||Peaky Blinders||Vicente Changretta||Series 3, Episodes 2 & 3|
...since his character is the only Imperial officer to last more than one Star Wars film
Ken Colley, from Hythe