Simon McBurney

McBurney in The Encounter, August 2015
Simon Montagu McBurney

(1957-08-25) 25 August 1957 (age 66)
Alma materPeterhouse, Cambridge
Lecoq International School of Theatre, Paris
Years active1988–present
SpouseCassie Yukawa
RelativesGerard McBurney (brother)
Charles McBurney (great-grandfather)

Simon Montagu McBurney OBE (born 25 August 1957) is an English actor, playwright, and theatre and opera director. He is the founder and artistic director of the Théâtre de Complicité, London. He has had roles in the films The Manchurian Candidate, Friends with Money, The Last King of Scotland, The Golden Compass, The Duchess, Robin Hood, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Magic in the Moonlight, The Theory of Everything, and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. He played Cecil the choirmaster in BBC's The Vicar of Dibley.

Early life

McBurney was born on 25 August 1957[1][2] in Cambridge, England. His father, Charles McBurney, was an American archaeologist and academic of Scottish descent. His paternal great-grandfather was American surgeon Charles McBurney, who was credited with describing the medical sign McBurney's point. Simon McBurney's mother, Anne Francis Edmondstone (née Charles), was a British secretary of English, Scottish and Irish ancestry.[3] His parents were distant cousins who met during World War II.[4] His older brother is composer and writer Gerard McBurney.[5]

He studied English literature at Peterhouse, Cambridge, graduating in 1980. After his father died, he moved to Paris and trained for the theatre at the Jacques Lecoq Institute.[4]


McBurney at the Edinburgh International Festival on 6 August 2015

McBurney is a founder and artistic director of the UK-based theatre company Complicite, which performs throughout the world.[6] In 1997 he was awarded the Europe Prize Theatrical Realities, with the Théâtre de Complicité.[7] He directed their productions of Street of Crocodiles (1992); The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol (1994), which was adapted from the John Berger trilogy Into Their Labors; To the Wedding (another Berger collaboration); Mnemonic (1999); The Elephant Vanishes (2003); A Disappearing Number (2007); A Dog's Heart (2010); The Master and Margarita (2011), and The Kid Stays in the Picture (2017).

A Disappearing Number was a devised piece conceived and directed by McBurney, taking as its inspiration the story of the collaboration between two of the 20th century's most remarkable pure mathematicians, the Indian genius Srinivasa Ramanujan, and Cambridge don G.H. Hardy.[8] It played at the Barbican in autumn 2008 and toured internationally. In February 2009, McBurney directed the Complicite production Shun-kin, based on two texts by Jun'ichiro Tanizaki. It was produced in London and Tokyo in 2010.

On a freelance basis, McBurney directed the following: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui and All My Sons (2008) (both in New York City), and live comedy shows, including Lenny Henry's So Much Things To Say and French and Saunders' Live in 2000.

McBurney is an established screen actor. He played the recurring role of Cecil the choirmaster in The Vicar of Dibley, CIA computer whiz Garland in Body of Lies, Dr. Atticus Noyle in The Manchurian Candidate (2004), British diplomat Nigel Stone in The Last King of Scotland, the metrosexual husband Aaron in Friends with Money, Fra Pavel in The Golden Compass, Charles James Fox in The Duchess, and Oliver Lacon in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He also wrote the story and was an executive producer for Mr. Bean's Holiday.

From 2010 to 2014, he appeared in the BBC comedy television series Rev., portraying the role of Archdeacon Robert. McBurney provided the voice of Kreacher in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010). In the series The Borgias, he portrayed the canon law expert Johannes Burchart. He is the Artiste Associé of the 66th Festival d'Avignon (2012). He starred in The Encounter, about photographer Loren McIntyre becoming lost in the Javari Valley in Brazil and his experiences with locals, which premiered at the 2015 Edinburgh International Festival.[9] In July 2015, he starred as Atlee, the director of MI6 in the film Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, and in 2016, he portrayed paranormal investigator Maurice Grosse in the horror film sequel The Conjuring 2.[10]

In 2013 he directed the English National Opera production of Mozart's The Magic Flute at the London Coliseum,[11] and the same opera at the New York Metropolitan Opera in 2023.[12]

In September 2019, the Complicité production of The Encounter was ranked by The Guardian writers as the 13th best theatre show since 2000.[13]

Personal life

In 2007, he met concert pianist Cassandra "Cassie" Yukawa.[14][15] They have since married, and reside in Stroud, Gloucestershire, with their three children, having previously lived in north London.[16] His sister-in-law is violinist Diane Yukawa.[17]

In the 2005 New Year Honours, McBurney was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) "for services to Drama".[18] He is an Ambassador for Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples' rights.[19]



Year Title Role Notes
1991 Kafka Assistant Oscar
1994 A Business Affair Salesman
Being Human Hermas
Tom & Viv Dr. Reginald Miller
Mesmer Franz
1996 The Ogre Brigadier
1997 The Caucasian Chalk Circle Azdak the Judge Video
1998 Cousin Bette Vauvinet
1999 Onegin Monsieur Triquet
2000 Eisenstein Sergei Eisenstein
2003 Bright Young Things Sneath (Photo-Rat)
Skagerrak Thomas
2004 The Reckoning Stephen
The Manchurian Candidate Dr. Atticus Noyle
Human Touch Bernard
2006 Friends with Money Aaron
The Last King of Scotland Nigel Stone
2007 The Golden Compass Fra Pavel
2008 Body of Lies Garland
The Duchess Charles James Fox
2009 Boogie Woogie Robert Freign
2010 Robin Hood Father Tancred
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 Kreacher Voice
2011 Jane Eyre Mr. Brocklehurst
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Oliver Lacon
2013 For Those Who Can Tell No Tales Tim Clancy
2014 Magic in the Moonlight Howard Burkan
The Theory of Everything Frank Hawking
2015 Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation Director Atlee
2016 The Conjuring 2 Maurice Grosse
Allied S.O.E. Official
2018 The Mercy Sir Francis Chichester
2020 Siberia Magician
Wolfwalkers Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell Voice
2022 The Pale Blue Eye Captain Hitchcock
2024 The Actor TBA Post-production
Nosferatu Herr Knock Post-production[20]


Year Title Role Notes
1988 Screenplay Martin Episode: "Burning Ambition"
1989 The Two of Us The Man Episode: "Trust"
1992 The Bill Shaun Anderton Episode: "Man of the People"
1992–93 The Comic Strip Presents Mick / Madman 2 episodes
1994–2004 The Vicar of Dibley Choirmaster Cecil 4 episodes
1995 Performance Ancient Pistol Episode: "Henry IV"
1996 Absolutely Fabulous Conductor Episode: "The Last Shout (Part 1)"
1999 Midsomer Murders Henry Carstairs Episode: "Death of a Stranger"
2010–14 Rev. Archdeacon Robert 19 episodes
2011–13 The Borgias Johannes Burchart 6 episodes
2013 Utopia Christian Donaldson 3 episodes
2014 Knifeman Houdyshell Unsold pilot
2015 The Casual Vacancy Colin "Cubby" Wall Miniseries; 3 episodes
2019 The Loudest Voice Rupert Murdoch Miniseries
2019–2023 Carnival Row Runyan Millworthy[21] Recurring
2023 Hijack Edgar Miniseries



  1. ^ "Playbill Vault's Today in Theatre History: August 25". Playbill. Retrieved 8 June 2023.
  2. ^ Wiśniewski, Tomasz (27 October 2016). Complicite, Theatre and Aesthetics From Scraps of Leather. Springer International Publishing. p. 58. ISBN 9783319334431.
  3. ^ Costa, Maddy (11 September 2010). "A life in theatre: Simon McBurney". The Guardian.
  4. ^ a b O'Mahony, John (1 January 2005). "Anarchy in the UK - Profile: Simon McBurney". The Guardian.
  5. ^ "Gerard McBurney | British Youth Music Theatre". Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  6. ^ Thorpe, Vanessa. "Sophie Hunter: The Opera Director Who Has to Dodge Paparazzie". Sophie Hunter Central.
  7. ^ "Europe Theatre Prize - V Edition - Reasons". Retrieved 21 December 2022.
  8. ^ A Disappearing Number at the Barbican
  9. ^ "The Encounter". Edinburgh International Festival.
  10. ^ Kroll, Justin (17 September 2015). "'Harry Potter' Actor Simon McBurney Joins 'Conjuring 2' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety.
  11. ^ "The Magic Flute - review". The Guardian. 10 November 2013. Retrieved 30 September 2023.
  12. ^ "This 'Magic Flute' Has Ringtones, Bird Tracks and a Foley Artist". The New York Times. 18 May 2023. Retrieved 30 September 2023.
  13. ^ Billington, Michael; Soloski, Alexis; Love, Catherine; Fisher, Mark; Wiegand, Chris (17 September 2019). "The 50 best theatre shows of the 21st century". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  14. ^ Costa, Maddy (10 September 2010). "A life in theatre: Simon McBurney". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  15. ^ Fingleton, Eamonn. "Wronged?: An Unwed English Mother, A Flinty Japanese Employer, And History's Worst Plane Crash". Forbes. Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  16. ^ Jacques, Adam (20 September 2011). "How We Met: Simon McBurney and Kathryn Hunter". The Independent.
  17. ^ Ward, David (8 March 2002). "Air crash payout after 17 years". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  18. ^ "No. 57509". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2004. p. 12.
  19. ^ "Actor and director Simon McBurney becomes Survival International Ambassador". Survival International. 2 February 2017.
  20. ^ Squires, John (30 May 2023). "Filming on the Robert Eggers 'Nosferatu' Remake Has Reportedly Wrapped in Prague". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 30 May 2023.
  21. ^ Petski, Denise (9 October 2017). "'Carnival Row' Casts Simon McBurney; Jonny Coyne Joins 'The Blacklist'". Deadline. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  22. ^ "V EDIZIONE". Premio Europa per il Teatro (in Italian). Retrieved 21 December 2022.
  23. ^ Wildermann, Patrick (21 October 2008). "Bitte schnell was trinken". Der Tagesspiegel (in German). Berlin. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
Preceded bySarah Palmer Footlights Vice President 1979–1980 Succeeded byEmma Thompson