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Wednesday, 27 July 2011



The earliest form of acting was animal impersonation, as primitive tribesmen disguised themselves as animal divinities to ensure successful hunts.

In Ancient Egypt, actors were not allowed to testify in court because they were seen as professional liars.

The first known actor was Thespis of of Icaria in the 6th Century BC. Hence the word ‘Thespian’.

Thespis of Icaria introduced the role of an actor whose role it was to conduct a dialogue with the chorus. Competitions to find the best tragedy were instituted at the City Dionysia in Athens, and Thespis won the first documented competition on November 23, 534 BC.

Capitalizing on his success, Thespis also invented theatrical touring. He traveled around various cities while carrying his costumes, masks and other props in a horse-drawn wagon.

Thespis' wagon, relief of the Giotto's Belltower in Florence,  by I, Sailko, 

The Athenian Aeschylus is said to have brought in a second actor, Sophocles a third.

In the ancient Greek and Roman theatre the audience could tell by the actors' footwear what sort of show they were about to see. A short shoe with soft uppers (soccus in Latin) was worn by the actors when playing a comedy. Knee-high thick-soled boots (the cothurnus) were the correct costume for a tragedy.

The ancient Romans felt acting to be the work of slaves and aliens. Actors were frowned upon, prohibited from testifying in a court of law and were denied the legal protections of citizens.

With the rise of Christianity in Europe acting was forbidden, and had virtually ended by the 6th century.

Men and boys originally acted all of the roles in Shakespeare’s plays. In England at that time, it wasn't proper for females to appear on stage.

English comic actor John Emery (1777-1822) was  the first actor known to have been encored for his playing of a scene, that of Fixture's jealousy in Thomas Morton's A Roland for an Oliver (1819)

J.H. Hackett of New York became the first American actor to appear abroad when he appeared in Love in a Village in London, England in 1826.

By French  law actors had the status of fairground performers, and were forced to pass the hat personally once or twice a night. Until 1867 they were not allowed to perform in stage costume.


Sir Henry Irving became the first person from the theater to be knighted on May 24, 1895. The honor marked the beginning of  the social assimilation of the acting profession.

A c. 1905-1910 portrait of Irving by R. G. Eves

Roy Dotrice (born 1923) made an international reputation with his solo adaptation of John Aubrey's Brief Lives.  His one-man show that saw him on stage for more than two-and-a-half hours (including the interval, during which he would feign sleep). Premiering in 1967 at the Hampstead Theatre in London, the play earned Dotrice a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the greatest number of solo performances (1,782).

Dotrice also has a Guinness World Record for performing the most character voices for an audio book — a total of 224, one for every role in the 28-CD version of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy A Game Of Thrones. It takes 33 hours and 36 minutes to listen to the entire book.

American actor George Lee Andrews holds the Guinness World Record for the most performances in the same Broadway show, having appeared in the musical Phantom of the Opera on 9,382 occasions over a period of 23 years. He began his run when the musical opened at the Majestic Theater on January 26, 1988.

Sir Christopher Lee held the records for the tallest leading actor and for starring in the most films with a sword fight.

At 101-years-old, Norman Lloyd became the oldest working actor in Hollywood when he appeared in the 2015 Judd Apatow-Amy Schumer movie Trainwreck. He is best known for playing Dr. Daniel Auschlander in St. Elsewhere.

Harrison Ford is the only actor whose ten highest grossing movies have each earned at least $200 million.

The Indian film actor and comedian, Brahmanandam Kanneganti, holds a Guinness World Record for appearing in more than 1000 movies, more than any other living actor.

Jagdish Raj (1928 – July 28, 2013), an Indian actor holds the Guinness record for the most type-cast actor. He played a police officer in 144 films.


The British actor Sir Christopher Lee was a world champion fencer, an opera singer, and spoke six languages.

Lee Marvin was expelled from boarding school after throwing his roommate from a second-floor window.

Dustin Hoffman, Robert Duvall and Gene Hackman were roommates as struggling actors in New York City in the 1960s. They now have 19 Oscar nominations and five wins between them.

Spanish actor Antonio Banderas spoke no English while making his first Hollywood film, The Mambo Kings in 1992, so had to learn the script phonetically.

As a teen, Bill Paxton caddied for golf great Ben Hogan in Fort Worth.

Bill Paxton and Lance Henriksen are the only actors to have been killed by a Terminator, an Alien, and a Predator.

Liam Neeson used to be a teacher, but got fired for punching a 15-year-old boy when the boy pulled a knife out in class.

Jason Statham was selling fake jewelry and perfume on street corners before he became a successful action star.

Swedish actors believe that being kicked up the backside before a performance brings good luck.

Sources Europress Family Encyclopedia 1999, The Oxford Interactive Encyclopedia. 1997

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