5 Great Acting Performances of Richard III

As the last English King to die in battle is finally given his resting place in Leicester Cathedral, we have delved through the archives to find 5 great portrayals of the history that has surrounded the monarch who died 530 years ago.


Whilst again Richard continues to grab the airtime through Channel 4 live coverage in the UK all week, it is clear that the facts and myths have combined to provide a platform for some of the very best actors in the world to interpret William Shakespeare’s story. The following short videos give us an insight into 5 Richard III performances.

1. Ian McKellen Playing Richard III in 1995

Ian McKellen starred in this 1995 adaption of Richard Eyre’s National Theatre production. McKellen made unconventional uses of some key British landmarks by sometimes moving them through early CGI to new locations within the United Kingdom, including the moving of St Pancras train station for the seat of government. The film is a well-shot rich production that cinematically draws parallels with the award-winning production of The Grand Budapest Hotel.

2. Laurence Olivier Playing Richard III in 1955

Laurence Olivier took on a triple role in the 1955 production of Richard III by taking on the jobs of director, producer and Richard III. The cast includes may notable Shakespearean actors and shows Richard conspiring to take the throne from his brother Edward IV.

3. Al Pacino Playing Richard III in 1996

Hollywood actor, Al Pacino had his directorial debut with this film which was part documentary and part theatrical. The film was called Looking For Richard, and Al Pacino played himself and Richard III as the audience are taken through the plot and the historical background to the story.

4. Kevin Spacey Playing Richard III in 2011

Kevin Spacey was more used to working in Hollywood at one time, but he turned his talents to an incredibly well received production of Richard III at the Old Vic in London. Having worked with Director Sam Mendes on American Beauty in 1999, the two paired up again at the Old Vic to produce this modern adaptation which was also released on film.

5. Peter Cook as Richard III in 1983

Responsible for some of the funniest UK TV, Peter Cook wasn’t known for his Shakespearean roles, but he excelled playing a comic take on the king in the hugely successful TV series, Blackadder.

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