Famous Graduates

Our alumni have gone on to lead distinguished careers in the profession, working in film, television, theatre and radio across the globe. Many of them have won or been nominated for various awards and accolades, including Oscars, BAFTAs, SAG Awards. Find out more about some of them below.

Paul Bettany

Extract from the Evening Standard:

Paul trained at the Drama Centre between 1991 and 1994. He made his stage debut in Stephen Daldry’s acclaimed production of An Inspector Calls. Early stage successes also saw him spending a year with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He went on to world recognition with his performance in A Beautiful Mind and a central role in Dogville – a three hour marathon co-starring Nicole Kidman and directed by the Danish film maker Lars von Trier. He gained wide acclaim for his key role in the film Master and Commander, opposite Russell Crowe, winning a BAFTA nomination for Best Film Actor, an Evening Standard Best British Actor Award and a Film Critics Circle Best Actor Award. 

Russell Brand 

Extract from The Guardian Weekend:

Brand attended both the Italia Conti stage school and the Drama Centre London (between 1995-98). "I really got trained at Drama Centre, where Paul Bettany, Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan went".

Pierce Brosnan 

Extract from the Independent on Sunday:

"At the Drama Centre we were taught the discipline of the job and the responsibilities you have as an actor. The Drama Centre was my university, my church, my salvation. Before I went there, I’d done some fringe theatre and, in my ignorance and youth, I thought I was above it all – but I really didn’t know anything. When I am on a set with some director who is rudderless and ill-prepared, I hear the words of my teachers coming back to me. The most important lesson they ever taught me is that you will never be directed. The great directors, the good ones, are few and far between, so you’d better be prepared to direct yourself."

Louisa Clein

Graduating in 2000, Louisa went straight into a BBC drama called Judge John Deed. In between filming, Louisa has worked in the theatre on plays such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Jack Shepherd, My Children! My Africa! directed by Dana Fainaru (both alumni of the Drama Centre) and most recently The Lady From The Sea at the Almeida Theatre directed by Trevor Nunn. For this latter role she was nominated for an Ian Charleson Award – the most prestigious national award for actors under 30. 

Gwendoline Christie

Gwendoline Christie graduated from BA Acting in 2005. She is best known for playing Brienne of Tarth on the HBO series Game of Thrones, for which she was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild award. She played Commander Lyme in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, and starred in the second series of Jane Campion's Top of the Lake alongside Nicole Kidman and Elisabeth Moss. She played Captain Phasma in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) and Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017).

Speaking of her time at the College she said: "The training is endlessly stimulating, exciting and tough. It provides realistic preparation, not just for the profession, but for life itself."

Anne Marie Duff 

Extract from The Sunday Mail:

Anne-Marie starred in Shameless, Channel 4's clever, quirky drama by Paul Abbott. But her big breakthrough came in 2002 with the film The Magdalene Sisters, in which she gave a powerful performance as Margaret. Peter Mullan's film won Best Picture at the Venice Film Festival and the UK Film Critics Award for Best Film.

At 19 she started studying at the Drama Centre, alongside John Simm, Anastasia Hille and her good friend, Paul Bettany. She says it was "a very intense training, quite relentless and brilliant" - at which point everything came into sharp focus. She felt at home there almost immediately. “Everyone had the same want, and that’s a relief. If you really crave something, it’s a relief to meet people who are like-minded…It was exhilarating, but a tough training. If there had been a yearbook, I’d have been the person least likely to succeed. There were so many sexy, talented pupils there.”

Despite her misgivings, in 1993 it was Anne-Marie who walked straight out of drama school into touring theatre and then spent three years at the National Theatre, playing among others, Cordelia in King Lear opposite Ian Holm, for which she was nominated for an Ian Charleson Award. She has worked almost solidly since in the theatre, in television period dramas (The Aristocrats; The Way We Live Now) and in films and was nominated for an Olivier Award for her work in Collected Stories opposite Helen Mirren. 

Colin Firth

Extract from The Sunday Times Magazine:

"I didn't want to grow up and wear a suit. I wanted to be rock and roll." His escape was Saturday drama classes, and then a place at the Stanislavsky-inspired Drama Centre. His teachers at the Drama Centre acclaimed their protégé as "a young Paul Schofield" and warned him of the moribund destiny of the matinee idol, which they could all too clearly see as a possibility. His was the only Hamlet the Drama Centre ever staged, remembered by one in the audience as "incredibly dark and glamorous".

Colin Firth has worked consistently since leaving the Drama Centre in 1982 and walking straight into the play of the year, Julian Mitchell's Another Country, in which he replaced Rupert Everett as the public-speaking proto-traitor Guy Bennett. While he was being cast in Another Country his drama school contemporaries were doing less starry work and they assumed he would change overnight. "In the end I bought the drinks for a long time. I had to be humble." Colin went on to star in such successes as Pride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones's Diary, Shakespeare in Love, High Fidelity, Love Actually and The Importance of Being Earnest.

Tara Fitzgerald

Extract from The Sunday Times:

Tara Fitzgerald studied at the Drama Centre between 1987-90. Soon after graduating she starred in the West End alongside Peter O’Toole in Our Song. Her subsequent career included numerous roles on British television, including Six Characters in Search of an Author, The Chamomile Lawn, The Vacillations Of Poppy Carew, The Virgin Queen, which also starred Anne-Marie Duff, and beginning in 2007, Waking the Dead

Her stage roles have included Blanche Dubois in the Bristol Old Vic 2000 production of A Streetcar Named Desire, and Ophelia (opposite Ralph Fiennes) in a 1995 production of Hamlet; for the latter she won a New York Drama Critics Circle Best Supporting Actress Award. In film she acted in the Academy Award nominated Czech movie Dark Blue World and was paired with Hugh Grant in The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain and Sirens. She also had major roles in A Woman of No Importance, New World Disorder and the film adaptation of Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle.

Tom Hardy 

Tom Hardy studied at Drama Centre London from 1998 to 2001. Two years into his degree, he landed a part in Band of Brothers, swiftly followed by Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down (in which he performed all his own stunts, including being set on fire). 

His notable films include Star Trek: Nemesis (2002), RocknRolla (2008), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), and the biographical western thriller The Revenant (2015), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He portrayed notorious British criminal Charles Bronson in Bronson (2008), the titular character in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), and both of the Kray twins in Legend (2015). He has also appeared in three Christopher Nolan films: Inception (2010), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), as Bane, and Dunkirk (2017).

Jack Maskall 

Extract from the Daily Express:

One week, Jake Maskall plays the East Enders' loveable rogue Danny Moon. The following week audiences at the Theatre Royal Windsor can see Jake, as a cold-blooded aristocrat.

Jake attended Drama Centre between 1996-99. As an actor not long out of drama school, Jake was presented with ten lines to speak at the audition for Danny's part and it was up to him to give his interpretation. "It was lovely to have a free range. I am an actor and I wanted to create a character and that was brilliant.” "I was only supposed to be in it for six weeks and then die of cancer but, they loved what I had brought to the character so much that they extended it for another eight or nine months. Jake had been away for six or eight months before his return. It was lovely to go back and see everybody but this time it was very different because I did not feel so much pressure. I knew I had this job to come back to and the story line was quite mad so it was great fun to do. 'Although I've moved on, being in EastEnders was the greatest experience of my life really and I feel proud and privileged to be part of the EastEnders machine."

Helen McCrory 

Extract from Time Out London:

Helen studied at the Drama Centre in the late 80s and early 90s. "They rejected me at first, telling me I hadn’t lived enough. Undaunted, I went away to Italy for a year, then on my return I sent the Centre an envelope stuffed with photocopies of the letters I had written to other schools rejecting their offers of places. It did the trick.

"It wasn’t just a foundation in acting,” McCrory remembers, “but a preparation for the job, which isn’t quite the same thing. It was a tough course, but it’s a tough profession. It teaches you to ask questions, how to look at yourself – which you need if you’re an actor – and how to keep constantly training yourself."

Jack Shepherd

Extract from The Stage:

A student at the Drama Centre in its earliest years, between 1963-5, Jack Shepherd was born in the Chapel Allerton area of Leeds. His family were "just about" working class, i.e. working class with the ambition to better themselves. His father loved the Liverpool comic Tommy Handley but loathed the notoriously vulgar Frank Randle. Now Shepherd has written Only When I Laugh, a play inspired by his love of music hall comedians. In it, Shepherd the writer examines the nature of working-class music hall heroes and the precarious relationship with the audience.

John Simm

John Simm graduated in 1992. While at Drama Centre, John appeared in another Dostoyevsky piece, Camus’ adaptation of the novel The Possessed, alongside fellow students Craig Kelly and Joe Duttine. Film audiences will know him from Michael Winterbottom's movie Wonderland, in which he appeared as Eddie. He played Cal McCaffrey, the journalist in the political thriller State of Play. He will be familiar to television viewers from numerous films and series ranging from The Lakes, in which he played Danny Kavanagh, to Crime and Punishment, shown in 2003, in which he led as Raskolnikov.

Jamie Sives

Extract from the Scotsman:

The quality of Jamie's acting in films such as Wilbur and the Highland comedy One Last Chance has earned him a place on the Shooting Stars Roadshow that tours film festivals such as Berlin and Taormina, showcasing major new European acting talent. 

He went to the Drama Centre between 1995 and 1998 when he was in his late 20s. "The whole thing was happening at a time when I wanted a big change so I just went for it." Drama Centre led to a string of TV roles, including Pyschos, Holby City and climbing drama Rockface, as well as a part in Vinny Jones's football vehicle Mean Machine, which led to his latest films. There is certainly nothing pretentious about Sives. He has charisma to burn, but hasn’t let the success of Wilbur go to his head. "Acting doesn’t come easy to me at all.”

Polly Walker 

Extracted from The Sunday Mail 'You Magazine':

Polly Walker’s screen alter ego, Atia, was the most flamboyant character on television in 2005. Undoubtedly the star of the BBC and HBO's grand and wildly expensive drama Rome. It was a tour de force from Polly and earned her a Golden Globe nomination as best actress in a TV drama (the series has also been nominated, but no other actor). 

After three years at the Drama Centre London (between 1985-88) she went straight on tour with the RSC, playing the second gravedigger to Mark Rylance's Hamlet, then she got the title role in the 1990 TV adaptation of Lorna Doone and the film Patriot Games. Next came Enchanted April in 1992 with Joan Plowright, then Sliver with Sharon Stone, Restoration with Robert Downey Jr., Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow (Polly played Jane Fairfax) and The Woodlanders with Rufus Sewell. 

Stephen Wight

Extract from The Evening Standard:

Acting was just something he did for a laugh. “I just thought, 'Well, let’s give this a go, then'. If I hadn’t got into the Drama Centre [between 1999-2001], I’d probably still be on the Isle of Wight, working for Currys." It was not until his second year a drama school that the acting bug really bit, and he has scarcely been out of work since. Shortly after graduating, while working as a "charity mugger", he was cast in a seven-month RSC tour of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

In 2005 he played David Jason's son in TV drama Diamond Geezer – "that was the financial breakthrough" – and there have been a couple of films including the Brit horror Wilderness, and plenty more theatre.

Penelope Wilton

Extract from The Guardian:

"I grew up doing little plays with my sister – acting was just what I always wanted to do". Penelope took herself off to the Drama Centre, London “as soon as I could at 18” (1965-68). After which she soon landed a stage management job in Nottingham, then the part of Cordelia in Jonathan Miller's King Lear.

Since then she has had an incredibly varied career taking in theatre, film and TV roles. Her roles have included everything from Shakespeare, Ibsen, Pinter, the ever put-upon Ann in Ever Decreasing Circles, a woman who falls in love with a murderess in Alan Bennett's Talking Heads, Iris from Calendar Girls to Shaun of the Dead.