James Hugh Calum Laurie, OBE (born 11 June 1959) is an English actor, comedian, writer and musician. He first reached fame as a cast member of Blackadder and then as one half of the Fry and Laurie double act, along with his friend and comedy partner, Stephen Fry. Since 2004, he has starred as Dr. Gregory House, the protagonist in the FOX television drama House.
Laurie was raised in the Scottish Presbyterian church, although he has since become an atheist: "I admire the music, buildings and ethics of religion, but I come unstuck on the God thing." He was brought up in Oxford and attended the Dragon School. He later went on to Eton and then to Selwyn College, Cambridge, where he achieved a Third-Class Honours degree in archaeology and anthropology.
Like his father, Laurie was an oarsman at school and university; in 1977, he was half of the junior coxed pair that won the British national title before representing Britain's Youth Team at the 1977 Junior World Rowing Championships. In 1980, Laurie and his rowing partner J. S. Palmer were runners-up in the Silver Goblets, rowing for Eton Vikings rowing club. Later, he also achieved a Blue while taking part in the 1980 Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. Cambridge lost that year by 1.5 metres (4.9 ft). Laurie is a member of the Leander Club, one of the oldest rowing clubs in the world.
Forced to abandon rowing during a bout of infectious mononucleosis (Glandular Fever), he joined the Cambridge Footlights, which has been the starting point for many successful British comedians. There he met Emma Thompson, with whom he had a romantic relationship; the two remain good friends. She introduced him to his future comedy partner, Stephen Fry. Laurie, Fry and Thompson later parodied themselves as the University Challenge representatives of "Footlights College, Oxbridge" in "Bambi", an episode of The Young Ones, with the series' co-writer Ben Elton completing their team. In 1980–81, his final year at university, Laurie managed to find time outside his rowing to become president of the Footlights, with Thompson as vice-president. They took their annual revue, The Cellar Tapes, to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and won the first Perrier Comedy Award. Written principally by Laurie and Fry, the cast also included Thompson, Tony Slattery, Paul Shearer and Penny Dwyer.
Fry and Laurie went on to work together on various projects throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Among them were the Blackadder series, written by Ben Elton and Richard Curtis, starring Rowan Atkinson, with Laurie in various roles, but most notably Prince George and Lieutenant George. Other projects included their BBC sketch comedy series, A Bit of Fry and Laurie; and Jeeves and Wooster. The latter was an adaptation of P. G. Wodehouse's stories, in which Laurie played Jeeves' employer, the amiable twit Bertie Wooster. It was a role for which Laurie was considered particularly well suited, displaying his talent as a pianist and singer, alongside his celebrated 'posh' voice. He and Fry worked together at various charity stage events, such as Hysteria! 1, 2 & 3 and Amnesty International's The Secret Policeman's Third Ball, Comic Relief TV shows and the variety show Fry and Laurie Host a Christmas Night with the Stars. They collaborated again on the film Peter's Friends.
Laurie appeared in the music videos for the 1986 single "Experiment IV" by Kate Bush and the 1992 single "Walking on Broken Glass" by Annie Lennox, in full Regency-period costume as in Blackadder the Third (and opposite John Malkovich, similarly reprising Dangerous Liaisons).
Laurie's later film appearances include Sense and Sensibility (1995), adapted by and starring Emma Thompson; the Disney live-action movie 101 Dalmatians (1996), where he played Jasper, one of the bumbling criminals hired to kidnap the puppies; Elton's adaptation of his novel Inconceivable, Maybe Baby (2000); Girl From Rio; the 2004 remake of The Flight of the Phoenix; and the three Stuart Little films.
In 1996, Laurie's first novel, The Gun Seller, a spoof of the thriller genre, was published and became a best seller. He has since been working on the screenplay for a movie version and on a second novel, The Paper Soldier. In 1998, Laurie had a brief guest-starring role on Friends in the episode "The One with Ross's Wedding, Part Two"
Since 2002, Laurie has appeared in a range of British television dramas, guest-starring that year in two episodes of the first season of the spy thriller series Spooks on BBC One. In 2003, he starred in and also directed ITV's comedy-drama series Fortysomething (in one episode of which Stephen Fry appears). In 2001, he voiced the character of a bar patron in the Family Guy episode "One If by Clam, Two If by Sea". Laurie was the character of Mr. Wolf in the cartoon Preston Pig. He was a panellist on the first episode of QI, alongside Fry as host. In 2004, Laurie guest-starred as a professor in charge of a space probe called Beagle, on The Lenny Henry Show.
Although Laurie has been a household name in many parts of the world since the 1980s, he only came to the attention of a broader American public in 2004, when he first starred as the acerbic attending physician Dr. Gregory House in the popular FOX medical drama House. For his portrayal, Laurie assumes an American accent. Laurie was in Namibia filming Flight of the Phoenix and recorded the audition tape for the show in the bathroom of the hotel, the only place he could get enough light. His US accent was so convincing that executive producer Bryan Singer, who was unaware at the time that Laurie is English, pointed to him as an example of just the kind of compelling American actor he had been looking for. Laurie also adopts the voice between takes on the set of House, as well as during script read-throughs.
Laurie was nominated for an Emmy Award for his role in House in 2005. Although he did not win, he did receive a Golden Globe in both 2006 and 2007 for his work on the series and the Screen Actors Guild award in 2007. Laurie has also been awarded a large increase in salary, from what was rumoured to be a mid-range five-figure sum to $350,000 per episode. His House contract was extended for an additional year, allowing for at least a fifth season to be produced. Laurie was not nominated for the 2006 Emmys, apparently to the "outrage" of Fox executives, but he still appeared in a scripted, pre-taped intro, where he parodied his House character by rapidly diagnosing host Conan O'Brien and then proceeded to grope him as the latter asked him for help to get to the Emmys on time. He would later go on to speak in French while presenting an award with Dame Helen Mirren on stage.
Laurie was initially cast as Perry White, the editor of the Daily Planet, in the film Superman Returns but had to bow out of the project because of his involvement in House (the series is produced by Bad Hat Harry Productions, which is owned by Bryan Singer, who directed Superman Returns). In July 2006, Laurie appeared on Bravo!'s Inside the Actors Studio, where he also performed one of his own comic songs, "Mystery", on the piano with vocal accompaniment. He hosted NBC's Saturday Night Live, in which he appeared in drag in a sketch about a man (Kenan Thompson) with a broken leg who accuses his doctor of being dishonest. Laurie played the man's wife.
In August 2007, Laurie appeared on BBC Four's documentary Stephen Fry: 50 Not Out, filmed in celebration of Fry's 50th birthday.
Laurie stated on BBC Radio 2 in an interview with Steve Wright in January 2006 that he was living in an apartment in West Hollywood while in the United States working on House. Laurie plays the piano, guitar, drums, harmonica and saxophone. He has displayed his musical talents in episodes of several series, most notably A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Jeeves and Wooster, House and when he hosted Saturday Night Live in October 2006. He is a vocalist and keyboard player for the Los Angeles charity rock group Band From TV.
Laurie was awarded an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 2007 New Year Honours List for his services to drama. On 23 May 2007, he was given the honour by Queen Elizabeth II.
Laurie has periodically struggled with severe clinical depression, and continues to receive regular treatment from a psychotherapist. He stated in an interview that he first concluded he had a problem while driving in a charity demolition derby in 1996, and realised that driving around explosive crashes caused him to be neither excited nor frightened (he said that he felt, in fact, bored). "Boredom," he commented in an interview on Inside the Actors Studio, "is not an appropriate response to exploding cars."
Laurie admires the writings of P.G. Wodehouse, explaining in a 27 May 1999 article in The Daily Telegraph how reading Wodehouse novels had saved his life.