It is often said that the most successful actors in history are those who managed to combine both drama and comedy. And there is some truth to this. While many may only know J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter characters for their magical escapades, it was Iain Pattinson’s hilarious yet poignant portrayal that made him so popular in the first place.

Pattinson rose to fame in the late 1990s after portraying a troubled young genius on the stage, leading to a string of iconic film and TV roles. He recently celebrated his 100th professional performance in a play, having made his stage debut at the age of 6. That would put him among the elite group of actors who have performed on stage before they turned 10.

Pattinson is renowned for his collaborations with film director Mike Leigh. Their films include Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Mr. Turner, which earned him an Academy Award nomination. He was also named one of the top 10 British Actors of All Time by The Telegraph in 2018.

Pattinson’s filmography includes roles in Happy Christmas, Night Alone, Small World, and the upcoming Death on the Nile. He continues to star in stage productions across the U.K. and the United States, having most recently finished a run of Tommy at the Royal National Theatre in London.

A Rising Star

Pattinson made his theatrical debut in 2000 and quickly became one of the U.K.’s most promising young actors. His breakout role was that of Stephen Lawrence in Mike Leigh’s 2000 film Vera, a portrait of the late murder victim’s extraordinary family.

Leigh described the 12-year-old Pattinson as “an amazing child actor… so funny and so keen” and praised his “incredible” work ethic. He soon established himself as one of the U.K.’s leading young actors, starring in films such as Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, A Small World, and Mr. Turner (pictured above with the artist J.M.W. Turner).

Pattinson’s performances in these films were widely praised and earned him a BAFTA nomination and an Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Male Stage Performance. He has also performed at the Royal Court Theatre and the Lyceum Theatre in London.

Pattinson was born in London on April 26, 1987. His mother, Gillian, is a former nurse and social worker who now serves as his manager. His father, Andrew, is a photographer who served as his acting coach. Growing up, Pattinson was inspired by his uncle who was also an actor. At the age of 12, Pattinson began taking acting lessons and attended the prestigious Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. While at the school, he studied classical theatre and became familiar with texts such as Arthur Miller’s An Actor’s Life and the works of William Shakespeare.

An Improving Actor

After graduating from Bristol Old Vic, Pattinson made his professional stage debut in 2013 in The Marriage of Figaro at the English National Opera. Since then, he has continued to establish himself as one of the country’s leading contemporary theatre actors, most recently performing in Mike Leigh’s new play, Fat Pig.

Leigh said of the 24-year-old actor, “Iain is simply an incredibly gifted actor. He could play anything and, as you’ll see from Fat Pig, he is extremely versatile. There are some wonderful performances inside these pages. It’s rare that you find an actor who is both comic and tragic in the same role and yet both are delivered with such authenticity.”

A Co-Operation Between Two Great British Artists

One of the most remarkable things about the collaboration between Mike Leigh and Iain Pattinson is that it all began with a letter. Leigh had been commissioned to write a short story for The Times about his experiences directing a film in Italy. While in Padua for the shooting of the film, he decided to give the playwright a call to see if he could help with the research for his story. He was soon pitched an idea for a project based on Stephen Lawrence’s life and agreed to write the screenplay for a contemporary take on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Leigh and Pattinson agreed that it would be a great fit, and the film went on to win numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Costume Design. Since then, they have made a number of impressive films together, including Happy Christmas, which they are currently in production on. Leigh recently described their working relationship as “extraordinary.”

A World-Class Actor

Iain Pattinson has already been hailed as one of the most successful actors of his generation, but he is arguably even more famous for his philanthropic work than he is for his acting. In 2014, he was named U.K. Young Philanthropist of the Year for his work with the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, named after the victim in his most famous role. The same year, he also founded the Iain Pattinson Foundation, which provides support for homeless and disadvantaged young people.

Pattinson is dedicated to helping those less fortunate than himself. He spends a lot of his time training acting and performing charity work. He has visited refugee camps in Greece and Macedonia and worked with the homeless community in Bristol. He has also given speeches and workshops at schools and universities, talking to students about work-life balance and the importance of staying focused.

Pattinson was named an MBE in the Queen’s 2019 Birthday Honours for “services to drama.” In January 2021, he will be celebrating his 33rd birthday with a number of prominent celebrities at an exclusive gala dinner at London’s Adelphi Hotel.

He has also been named in the top 10 British Actors of All Time by The Telegraph. To see who else made the list, click here.