At 15, dropped out of school to become an apprentice toolmaker at Vickers Armstrong in Crayford, England; he remains interested in mechanical things and collects antique guns.
Joined the company of London's National Theatre in 1963, when it was under the direction of Sir Laurence Olivier; appeared in productions that included The Royal Hunt of the Sun, The Crucible and Mother Courage.
First major film role came in 1974, with the campy werewolf movie The Beast Must Die, starring horror vet Peter Cushing.
Won Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Actor in 1988 for A View from the Bridge and Best Comedy Performance in 1986 for A Chorus of Disapproval and in 1990 for Man of the Moment; has also been nominated numerous times.
Was made a Commander of Order of the British Empire in 1992 and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1997.
Won Best Actor BAFTAs for 1986 miniseries The Singing Detective, 1999 miniseries Wives and Daughters, 2000 TV historical drama Longitude and 2001 TV drama Perfect Strangers.
Son Fergus is a ceramics expert who has appeared on the BBC's Antiques Roadshow.
2003, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television: Nominee
2005, Critics' Choice Awards — Best Acting Ensemble: Nominee
2001, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture: Winner
1996, Olivier Awards — Best Actor: Nominee
2002, Critics' Choice Awards — Best Acting Ensemble: Winner
2010, Emmy — Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie: Nominee
1997, Tony — Actor (Play): Nominee
2001, Olivier Awards — Best Actor: Nominee
2015, Critics' Choice Television Awards — Best Actor in a Movie or Limited Series: Nominee
2003, Olivier Awards — Best Actor: Nominee
2002, Emmy — Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie: Nominee
2010, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture: Winner