Mark Strong (August 5, 1963-) is an English film and television actor. He’s known for his work on the television series Our Friends in the North, which featured many breakout performances, and films including Tristan & Isolde, Body of Lies, Sherlock Holmes, Kick-Ass, Robin Hood, Green Lantern, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Zero Dark Thirty, The Imitation Game, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and many others. He is known for often playing the roles of villains or antagonists in his performances. He’s also known for providing narration in BBC’s documentary series Who Do You Think You Are?.

Mark Strong Bio

Mark Strong was born Marco Giuseppe Salussolia on August 5, 1963 in London, England, to an Austrian mother and an Italian father. After his father left the family shortly after his birth, Mark was raised by his mother. Although many think his name of Mark Strong is a stage name, it isn’t the case: his mother changed his name as a child to help him fit in with his peers.

Strong went to secondary school at Wymondham College in Norfolk, England. Wymondham College has the distinction of being the largest state boarding school in England. Strong originally intended to become a lawyer. He attended Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich for a year before returning home to London. From there, he decided to take up English and Drama at Royal Holloway, University of London and then continued his drama schooling at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in Bristol.

Mark Strong Career

Strong kicked off his acting career on television by playing a small role in the ITV sitcom After Henry in 1989. He also played a role in 1993 as Inspector Larry Hall in the 3rd installment of ITV’s Prime Suspect serials. His breakout performance came in 1996 as the role of Terry “Tosker” Cox in the acclaimed BBC drama serial Our Friends in the North. The drama, which told the story of four friends from Newcastle upon Tyne from 1964 to 1995, is seen not only as one of the best British dramas of the 1990s, but also established the names of many big stars. In addition to Strong, the cast was led by Daniel Craig, Christopher Eccleston and Gina McKee. All four of them were able to go on to internationally known careers after receiving acclaim for their breakout performances in the serial. The show also won the award for Best Drama Serial at the 1997 BAFTAs.

In 1997, Strong made one of his first big screen appearances alongside Colin Firth in the original film adaptation of Fever Pitch. Strong plays Steve, the best friend of Firth’s Paul Ashworth, as they live through Arsenal’s 1989 English soccer championship season. He also played the role of Mr. Knightley in the TV film Emma and took on a variety of roles to close out the 20th century, including one in the film Sunshine.

Strong added a variety of movie roles in the early 2000’s, including a supporting role in the 2002 film Heartlands. He also took his acting to the stage in a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at the Donmar Warehouse, which netted him a nomination for the 2003 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role. After film roles in Oliver Twist, Syriana, and Revolver, Strong played Wictred in the 2006 adaptation of Tristan & Isolde. In the film, Wictred conspires to try and overthrow Lord Marke by using the relationship of Tristan (played by James Franco) and Isolde (Sophia Myles) to cause disruption in his empire. It was one of many villain roles Strong has taken through the years, and as he told uInterview in an exclusive interview, is a challenge he enjoys doing.

“I think as an actor you’re always looking for complication in characters. I think if a character’s very near me, that’s not very interesting to play. If a character is unconflicted, it’s not that interesting to play. In fact, the more problems they have and the more outrageous those problems are and their desires and wishes are– for example Blackwood in Sherlock Holmes wanted to take over the world– those things are meat and drink to an actor, certainly to me. That’s why I like the villains… they’re just never boring.”

Mark Strong continued his “evil” ways in the 2007 science fiction thriller Sunshine (which is not related to his 1999 film appearance of the same name) as the insane captain Pinbacker. Although Pinbacker was on a ship that was sent to reignite the Sun in a failed mission, he is still able to survive, albeit with disfiguring burns, and attempt to sabotage the second mission from completing its task. Later in the year he played the supporting role of Septimus in Stardust, where he plays a competing but ultimately good figure to the main character Primus in their attempt to succeed their dying father’s throne. Strong took on another science fiction role in 2008 alongside Vin Diesel in Babylon A.D.

Strong took his performances to the action-spy genre in Body of Lies later in 2008. Starring with Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, Strong played Hani Salaam, the intelligence chief and director of the Jordanian General Intelligence Directorate in the film. Strong’s role of a sophisticated figure in a spy movie was panned by some critics, but was praised by others. He would receive a nomination for the London Critics Circle Film Award for Best British Supporting Actor for his work in the film.

The villain role was up Strong’s alley once more as he starred alongside Robert Downey, Jr. in the 2009 movie of Sherlock Holmes. Strong played Lord Blackwood, a ritual murderer whose intent on world domination needed to be stopped by Holmes. The film landed accolades, including Best Thriller at the Empire Awards. Strong would be the main villain in his next two films as well: Kick-Ass (2010), where he played crime head Frank D’Amico, and Robin Hood (2010), where he takes the role of Sir Godfrey. He took on another highly publicized villain role in 2011’s Green Lantern, where he played the initially heroic but progressively evil Sinestro. Then in 2012, Strong was Matai Shang, the leader of the evil Therns in John Carter. These roles landed Strong a spot on a Jaguar commercial in 2014 with fellow British movie villains Ben Kingsley and Tom Hiddleston, where he used the tagline “it’s good to be bad.”

Mark Strong changed things up in 2011 and 2012 by being one of the good guys. Strong portrayed Jim Prideaux, a British Intelligence agent who was shot by the Soviets in a spy operation and goes on to live his life in the protection of being a schoolteacher, in the 2011 Cold War spy film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In the 2012 War on Terror drama Zero Dark Thirty, which dramatized the manhunt of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the September 11th attacks, Strong played George, a senior CIA supervisor, as the agency worked to track down bin Laden. Both films were well acclaimed and showed the versatility of Strong as an actor.

Strong appeared on American television in 2013 in a starring role on AMC’s Low Winter Sun. In it he played Frank Agnew, a Detroit homicide detective who is out for revenge after he believes his girlfriend was brutally murdered. His role was an American version of the same character he played in Low Winter Sun‘s original British mini-series in 2006. The show lasted for one season before it was cancelled by AMC due to low ratings.

Strong also maintained his presence on British television by narrating the BBC documentary series Who Do You Think You Are?, which took a look on celebrities discovering their family’s ancestry and heritage. Strong would provide the narration for the show from 2006 to 2012, a span that saw the show get nominated for a BAFTA Television Award for Best Factual Series in 2010.

2014 would be a busy year for Strong, appearing in four different feature films. Included in this was a role in the acclaimed film The Imitation Game, where Strong joined a cast with Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode and Allen Leech. He would portray British Major General and MI6 agent Stewart Menzies, who after World War II ordered the breaking up of the group that worked on the “Bombe” machine to decode secret German messages after it was revealed to one another than Alan Turing was gay and that John Cairncross was a Russian spy.

Strong also appeared in the mystery thriller Before I Go To Sleep in 2014, starring alongside Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth in the role of Dr. Nasch. Strong spoke to uInterview about the movie prior to its release in theaters.

Strong said of Kidman:  “She’s such a professional. She knows exactly what’s she’s doing and how to achieve what she needs to achieve in each scene.” With acting being such a technical discipline, Strong said that in working with her he knows “she’s wonderful at it… she really manages to deliver what’s needed.” Strong said it was a “joy” to work with Kidman and a very easy time.

Although Strong only shared one scene with Firth in the film, it was the fourth time the two were in a movie together. Strong told uInterview that he knows Colin “pretty well, and acting with him is always very fun.”

Strong was recently in the spy action-comedy Kingsman: The Secret Service as Merlin, a senior Kingsman agent and trainer. He is currently filming Grimsby, another spy action-comedy, with Sacha Baron Cohen. The film will feature Strong as a British black-ops spy who has to deal with his English soccer hooligan brother in Cohen.

Mark Strong Personal Life

Mark Strong was baptized a Catholic. He speaks fluent German and some Italian.

Strong is married to Liza Marshall. The two have two sons: Gabriel and Roman. The family resides in London, where Mark says the family maintains a normal lifestyle inside the city.

Strong is personal close friends with Daniel Craig. The two were co-stars in Our Friends in the North and have been friends ever since. Craig is also the godfather of one of Strong’s sons. Strong also maintains a friendship with Colin Firth, who has appeared in four films with him.

Strong says his style icon is David Bowie and that he wanted to grow up to look like French actor Alain Delon. Strong’s wishes would eventually come true, as he was named one of GQ‘s “50 Best Dressed British Men” in 2015.

Mark Strong is also a supporter of Arsenal F.C. in English soccer, just as he played one in Fever Pitch.

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