Born in Hull, Tom Courtenay studied drama at RADA in London. He made his stage debut in 1960 and went on to take the lead in Billy Liar the following year. War drama Private Potter provided his first film role, and he put in a BAFTA-winning turn in 1962 flick The Loneliness Of The Long-Distance Runner. Twelve months on and he was back in the title role for Billy Liar, this time on the big screen, a performance which earned another best actor BAFTA. A supporting part in Doctor Zhivago alongside Omar Sharif and Julie Christie was also highly acclaimed and marked by an Oscar nod. By the mid Sixties theatre had reclaimed him, although he was back on the silver screen in 1984 opposite Albert Finney in The Dresser, which brought them both Academy Award nominations. More recently he has appeared in a screen adaptation of the novel The Golden Compass. The actor parted from his actress wife Cheryl Kennedy in1982, and married stage manager Isabel Crossley six years later. The couple split their time between homes in Manchester and Putney. In 2001 he was knighted by the Queen for services to cinema and theatre.