Fry at Winfield House, June 2016
Stephen John Fry|
24 August 1957
Hampstead, London, England
|Education||The College of West Anglia|
|Alma mater||Queens' College, Cambridge|
|Occupation||Actor, comedian, author, journalist, broadcaster, film director|
President of Mind (2011–present)
Stephen John Fry (born 24 August 1957) is an English comedian, actor, writer, presenter and activist. After a troubled childhood and adolescence, during which he was expelled from two schools and spent three months in prison for credit card fraud, Fry secured a place at Queens' College, Cambridge, where he studied English literature. While at university, he became involved with the Cambridge Footlights, where he met his long-time collaborator Hugh Laurie. As half of the comic double act Fry and Laurie, he co-wrote and co-starred in A Bit of Fry & Laurie and also took the role of Jeeves (with Laurie playing Wooster) in Jeeves and Wooster.
Fry's acting roles include a Golden Globe Award–nominated lead performance in the film Wilde, Melchett in the BBC television series Blackadder, the title character in the television series Kingdom, a recurring guest role as Dr Gordon Wyatt on the crime series Bones, and as Gordon Deitrich in the dystopian thriller V for Vendetta. He has also written and presented several documentary series, including the Emmy Award–winning Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, which saw him explore his bipolar disorder, and the travel series Stephen Fry in America. He was also the long-time host of the BBC television quiz show QI, with his tenure lasting from 2003 to 2016.
Besides working in television, Fry has contributed columns and articles for newspapers and magazines and written four novels and three volumes of autobiography, Moab Is My Washpot, The Fry Chronicles and More Fool Me. He also appears frequently on BBC Radio 4, starring in the comedy series Absolute Power, being a frequent guest on panel games such as Just a Minute, and acting as chairman for I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, where he was one of a trio of hosts who succeeded the late Humphrey Lyttelton.
Fry is also known for his voice-overs, reading all seven of the Harry Potter novels for the UK audiobook recordings, narrating the LittleBigPlanet and Birds of Steel series of video games, as well as an animated series of explanations of the laws of cricket, and a series of animations about Humanism for the British Humanist Association. He has also filmed commercials, including an advertisement where he explains the essence of British culture to foreigners arriving at London Heathrow.
Early life and education
Fry was born in Hampstead, London, on 24 August 1957, the son of Marianne Eve Fry (née Newman) and Alan John Fry, a British physicist and inventor. The Fry family originates in Dorset, at Shillingstone and Blandford; in the early 1800s, Samuel Fry (second son of James Fry, of Shillingstone and Blandford) settled in Surrey, with his descendants residing in Middlesex.
Fry's mother is Jewish, but he was not brought up in a religious family. His maternal grandparents, Martin and Rosa Neumann, were Hungarian Jews, who emigrated from Šurany (now Slovakia) to Britain in 1927. Rosa's parents, who originally lived in Vienna, Austria, were sent to a concentration camp in Riga, Latvia, where they were murdered. His mother's aunt and cousins were sent to Auschwitz and Stutthof and never seen again. Fry's father is English, and his paternal grandmother had roots in Kent and Cheshire.
Fry grew up in the village of Booton near Reepham, Norfolk, having moved from Chesham, Buckinghamshire, at an early age. He has an elder brother, Roger, and a younger sister, Joanna. Fry briefly attended Cawston Primary School in Cawston, Norfolk, before going on to Stouts Hill Preparatory School in Uley, Gloucestershire, at the age of seven, and then to Uppingham School, Rutland, where he joined Fircroft house, and was described as a "near-asthmatic genius". He was expelled from Uppingham when he was 15 and subsequently from the Paston School.
At 17, after leaving Norfolk College of Arts and Technology, Fry absconded with a credit card stolen from a family friend. He had taken a coat when leaving a pub, planning to spend the night sleeping rough, but had then discovered the card in a pocket. He was arrested in Swindon, and, as a result, spent three months in Pucklechurch Prison on remand. While Fry was in Pucklechurch, his mother had cut out the crossword from every copy of The Times since he had been away, something which Fry said was "a wonderful act of kindness". Fry later stated that these crosswords were the only thing that got him through the ordeal.
Following his release, he resumed his education at City College Norwich, promising administrators that he would study rigorously to sit the Cambridge entrance exams. He scored well enough to gain a scholarship to Queens' College, Cambridge. At Cambridge, Fry joined the Cambridge Footlights, appeared on University Challenge, and read for a degree in English literature, graduating with upper second-class honours. Fry also met his future comedy collaborator Hugh Laurie at Cambridge and starred alongside him in the Footlights Club.
Fry's career in television began with the 1982 broadcasting of The Cellar Tapes, the 1981 Cambridge Footlights Revue which was written by Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson and Tony Slattery. The revue caught the attention of Granada Television, who, keen to replicate the success of the BBC's Not the Nine O'Clock News, hired Fry, Laurie and Thompson to star alongside Ben Elton in There's Nothing to Worry About!. A second series, retitled Alfresco, was broadcast in 1983, and a third in 1984; it established Fry and Laurie's reputation as a comedy double act. In 1983, the BBC offered Fry, Laurie and Thompson their own show, which became The Crystal Cube, a mixture of science fiction and mockumentary that was cancelled after the first episode. Undeterred, Fry and Laurie appeared in an episode of The Young Ones in 1984, and Fry also appeared in Ben Elton's 1985 Happy Families series. In 1986 and 1987 Fry and Laurie performed sketches on the LWT/Channel 4 show Saturday Live.
Forgiving Fry and Laurie for The Crystal Cube, the BBC commissioned, in 1986, a sketch show that was to become A Bit of Fry & Laurie. The programme ran for 26 episodes spanning four series between 1986 and 1995, and was very successful. During this time, Fry starred in Blackadder II as Lord Melchett, made a guest appearance in Blackadder the Third as the Duke of Wellington, then returned to a starring role in Blackadder Goes Forth, as General Melchett. In a 1988 television special, Blackadder's Christmas Carol, he played the roles of Lord Melchett and Lord Frondo. Between 1990 and 1993, Fry starred as Jeeves (alongside Hugh Laurie's Bertie Wooster) in Jeeves and Wooster, 23 hour-long adaptations of P. G. Wodehouse's novels and short stories.
Towards the end of 2003, Fry starred alongside John Bird in the television adaptation of Absolute Power, previously a radio series on BBC Radio 4. In 2010, Fry took part in a Christmas series of short films called Little Crackers. His short was based on a story from his childhood at school. He appeared as the Christian God in 2011's Holy Flying Circus. In January 2016 it was announced that Fry would be appearing as the character "Cuddly Dick" in Series 3 of the Sky One family comedy Yonderland. In October 2016, Fry will have a lead role in the American sitcom The Great Indoors. He will portray an outdoor magazine publisher helping to ease his best worldly reporter (Joel McHale) into a desk job.
Fry has appeared in a number of BBC adaptations of plays and books, including a 1992 adaptation of the Simon Gray play The Common Pursuit (he had previously appeared in the West End stage production); a 1998 Malcolm Bradbury adaptation of the Mark Tavener novel In the Red, taking the part of the Controller of BBC Radio 2; and in 2000 in the role of Professor Bellgrove in the BBC serial Gormenghast, which was adapted from the first two novels of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast series. In 2011, Fry portrayed Professor Mildeye in the BBC adaptation of Mary Norton's 1952 novel The Borrowers.
Fry narrates the first two seasons of the English-language version of the Spanish children's animated series Pocoyo. From 2007 to 2009, Fry played the lead role in (and was executive producer for) the legal drama Kingdom, which ran for three series on ITV1. He has also taken up a recurring guest role as FBI psychiatrist Dr. (later chef) Gordon Wyatt in the popular American drama Bones. In 2010, having learned some Irish for the role, he filmed a cameo role in Ros na Rún, an Irish-language soap opera broadcast in Ireland, Scotland and the US. In 2014 he began starring alongside Kiefer Sutherland and William Devane in 24: Live Another Day as British Prime Minister Alastair Davies.
Documentaries and other factual programmes
Fry's first documentary was the Emmy Award-winning Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive in 2006. The same year, he appeared on the BBC's genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are?, tracing his maternal family tree to investigate his Jewish ancestry. Fry narrated The Story of Light Entertainment, which was shown from July–September 2006. In 2007, he presented a documentary on the subject of HIV and AIDS, HIV and Me.
On 7 May 2008, Fry gave a speech as part of a series of BBC lectures on the future of public service broadcasting in the United Kingdom, which he later recorded for a podcast. His six-part travel series Stephen Fry in America began on BBC One in October 2008, and saw him travel to each of the 50 US states. In the same year, he narrated the nature documentaries Spectacled Bears: Shadow of the Forest for the BBC Natural World series. In the 2009 television series Last Chance to See, Fry and zoologist Mark Carwardine sought out endangered species, some of which had been featured in Douglas Adams' and Carwardine's 1990 book and radio series of the same name.
In August 2011, Stephen Fry's 100 Greatest Gadgets was shown on Channel 4 as one of the 100 Greatest strand. His choice for the greatest gadget was the cigarette lighter, which he described as "fire with a flick of the fingers". In the same month, the nature documentary series Ocean Giants, narrated by Fry, premiered. In September 2011, Fry's Planet Word, a five-part documentary about language, aired on BBC HD and BBC Two. In November 2011, an episode of Living The Life featured Fry in an intimate conversation discussing his life and career with Rolling Stones bass player Bill Wyman.
At the 2012 Pride of Britain Awards shown on ITV on 30 October, Fry, along with Michael Caine, Elton John, Richard Branson and Simon Cowell, recited Rudyard Kipling's poem "If—" in tribute to the 2012 British Olympic and Paralympic athletes. In November 2012, Fry hosted a gadgets show called Gadget Man, exploring the usefulness of various gadgets in different daily situations to improve the livelihoods of everyone. In October 2013, Fry presented Stephen Fry: Out There, a two-part documentary in which he explores attitudes to homosexuality and the lives of gay people in different parts of the globe.
On Christmas Day 2013, Fry featured with adventurer Bear Grylls in an episode of Channel 4's Bear's Wild Weekends. Over the course of two days, in the Italian Dolomites, Fry travelled on the skids of a helicopter, climbed down a raging 500-foot waterfall, slept in a First World War trench and abseiled down a towering cliff face. In June 2015 Fry was the guest on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. His favourite piece was the String Quartet No. 14 by Beethoven. His book choice was Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot and his luxury item was "canvasses, easels, brushes, an instruction manual".
In 2003, Fry began hosting QI (Quite Interesting), a comedy panel game television quiz show. QI was created and co-produced by John Lloyd, and features permanent panellist Alan Davies. QI has the highest viewing figures for any show on BBC Four and Dave (formerly UKTV G2). In 2006, Fry won the Rose d'Or award for "Best Game Show Host" for his work on the series. In October 2015, it was announced that Fry would retire as the host of QI after the "M" series.
Having made his film début in the 1985 film The Good Father, Fry had a brief appearance in A Fish Called Wanda (in which he is knocked out by Kevin Kline, who is posing as an airport security man), and then appeared as the eponymous Peter in Kenneth Branagh's Peter's Friends in 1992. In the 1994 romantic comedy film I.Q., he played the role of James Moreland. Portraying Oscar Wilde (of whom he had been an ardent admirer since the age of 13) in the 1997 film Wilde, he fulfilled to critical acclaim a role that he has said he was "born to play". It also earned him a nomination for Best Actor – Drama in the 1998 Golden Globe Award. A year later, Fry starred in David Yates' small independent film The Tichborne Claimant, and in 2001 he played the detective in Robert Altman's period costume drama, Gosford Park. In the same year, he also appeared in the Dutch film The Discovery of Heaven, directed by Jeroen Krabbé and based on the novel by Harry Mulisch.
In 2003, Fry made his directorial début with Bright Young Things, adapted by him from Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies. In 2001, he began hosting the BAFTA Film Awards, a role from which he stepped down in 2006. Later that same year, he wrote the English libretto and dialogue for Kenneth Branagh's film adaptation of The Magic Flute.
Fry continues to make regular film appearances, notably in treatments of literary cult classics. He portrayed Maurice Woodruff in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, served as narrator in the 2005 film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and in 2005 appeared in both A Cock and Bull Story, based on Tristram Shandy, and V for Vendetta, as a non-conforming TV presenter who challenges the fascist state. The Wachowskis pointed out that it was Fry's "normalcy" in the face of the insanity of the censorship of BTV that makes his character truly powerful and adds a "wholly unexpected dimension to the film". In 2006, he played the role of gadget-master Smithers in Stormbreaker, and in 2007 he appeared as himself hosting a quiz in St Trinian's. In 2007, Fry wrote, for director Peter Jackson, a script for a remake of The Dam Busters. He also appeared that year in Eichmann.
Fry was offered a role in Valkyrie, but was unable to participate. Fry starred in the Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland, as the voice of the Cheshire Cat. He played Mycroft Holmes in the 2011 film Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, directed by Guy Ritchie. In 2010, Fry provided the voice of Socrates the Lion in the environmental animated film Animals United. He portrayed the Master of Lake-town in two of Peter Jackson's three film adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit: the second The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and the third The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
Fry came to the attention of radio listeners with the 1986 creation of his alter-ego, Donald Trefusis, whose "wireless essays" were broadcast on the BBC Radio 4 programme Loose Ends. In the 1980s, he starred as David Lander in four series of the BBC Radio 4 show Delve Special, written by Tony Sarchet, which then became the six-part Channel 4 series This is David Lander in 1988. In 1988, Fry wrote and presented a six-part comedy series entitled Saturday Night Fry. Frequent radio appearances have ensued, notably on panel games Just a Minute and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. In 2000, he began starring as Charles Prentiss in the Radio 4 comedy Absolute Power, reprising the role for three further series on radio, and two on television. In 2002, Fry was one of the narrators of A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, in which he voiced Winnie-the-Pooh. He presented a 20-part, two-hour series, The Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music, a "witty guide" to the genre over the past 1,000 years, on Classic FM.
In 2007, he hosted Current Puns, an exploration of wordplay, and Radio 4: This Is Your Life, to celebrate the radio station's 40th anniversary. He also interviewed the Prime Minister Tony Blair as part of a series of podcasts released by 10 Downing Street. In February 2008, Fry began presenting podcasts entitled Stephen Fry's Podgrams, in which he recounts his life and recent experiences. In July 2008, he appeared as himself in I Love Stephen Fry, an Afternoon Play for Radio 4 written by former Fry and Laurie script editor Jon Canter.
Since August 2008, he has presented Fry's English Delight, a series on BBC Radio 4 about the English language. As of 2015, it has been running for eight series and 30 episodes. In the summer 2009 series of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, Fry was one of a trio of hosts replacing Humphrey Lyttelton (the others being Jack Dee and Rob Brydon). In 2012, he appeared as a guest panellist in the BBC Radio 4 comedy panel show Wordaholics. In September 2012, he guest-starred as himself in the audio comedy drama We Are The BBC, produced by the Wireless Theatre Company, written by Susan Casanove.
Fry wrote the play Latin! or Tobacco and Boys for the 1980 Edinburgh Festival, where it won the Fringe first prize. It had a revival in 2009 at London's Cock Tavern Theatre, directed by Adam Spreadbury-Maher. The Cellar Tapes, the Footlights Revue of 1981, won the Perrier Comedy Award. In 1984, Fry adapted the hugely successful 1930s musical Me and My Girl for the West End, where it ran for eight years.
Fry was cast in Simon Gray's The Common Pursuit for its first staging in London's West End on 7 April 1988, with Rik Mayall, John Sessions, Sarah Berger, Paul Mooney and John Gordon Sinclair, directed by Simon Gray. He was also cast in a lead role in Simon Gray's 1995 play Cell Mates, which he left three days into the West End run, pleading stage fright. He later recalled the incident as a hypomanic episode in his documentary about bipolar disorder, The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. In 2007, Fry wrote a Christmas pantomime, Cinderella, which ran at London's Old Vic Theatre.
Fry is a long-standing fan of the anarchic British musical comedy group the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, and particularly of its eccentric front man, the late Vivian Stanshall. Fry helped to fund a 1988 London re-staging of Stanshall's Stinkfoot, a Comic Opera, written by Vivian and Ki Longfellow-Stanshall for the Bristol-based Old Profanity Showboat. Fry performed several of Stanshall's numbers as part of the Bonzos' 2006 reunion concert at the London Astoria. He also appears as a shiny New Millennium Bonzo on their post-reunion album, Pour l'Amour des Chiens, on which he recites a recipe for "Salmon Proust", plays a butler in "Hawkeye the Gnu", and voices ads for the fictitious "Fiasco" stores. Following three one-man shows in Australia, Fry announced a 'sort of stand-up' performance at The Royal Albert Hall in London for September 2010.
In September 2012, Fry made a return to the stage at Shakespeare's Globe, appearing as Malvolio in a production of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, which transferred to the West End in November 2012. He received excellent reviews. The production transferred to Broadway, with previews beginning 15 October 2013 and Opening Night 10 November 2013. Fry was nominated for a Tony in the category Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play for the Broadway revival. In August 2013, he lent his voice to the title role in Britten's operetta Paul Bunyan at the Wales Millennium Centre with the Welsh National Youth Opera.
Fry has been the reader for the British versions of all of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series of audiobooks. He discussed this project in an interview with Rowling in 2005. He has also read for Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy film tie-in edition, and has made recordings of his own books, such as The Stars' Tennis Balls and Moab Is My Washpot, and of works by Roald Dahl, Michael Bond, A. A. Milne, Anthony Buckeridge, Eleanor Updale and Alexander Pushkin. In June 2015, Fry backed children's fairytales app GivingTales in aid of Unicef together with other British celebrities, Sir Roger Moore, Ewan McGregor, Dame Joan Collins, Joanna Lumley, Michael Caine, David Walliams, Charlotte Rampling and Paul McKenna.
Fry's distinctive voice has been featured in a number of video games, including an appearance as Reaver, an amoral supporting character in Lionhead Studios games Fable II and Fable III, and as the narrator of the LittleBigPlanet series. He also narrated the first four Harry Potter games: (Philosopher's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, and Goblet of Fire).
Fry has appeared in numerous advertisements – either on-screen or in voice-over – starting with an appearance as "Count Ivan Skavinsky Skavar" in a 1982 advert for Whitbread Best Bitter. Fry has said, in his memoirs, that after receiving his payment for this work – £25,000 – he has never subsequently experienced "what one could call serious money troubles". He has since appeared in adverts for products and companies such as Marks and Spencer, Twinings, Kenco, Vauxhall, Honda, Direct Line, Calpol, Heineken, Alliance & Leicester (a series of adverts which also featured Hugh Laurie), After Eights, Trebor, Panama cigars, Virgin Media and Orange Mobile.
Since the publication of his first novel, The Liar (1991), Fry has written three further novels, several non-fiction works and three volumes of autobiography. Making History (1997) is partly set in an alternative universe in which Adolf Hitler's father is made infertile and his replacement proves a rather more effective Führer. The book won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. The Hippopotamus (1994) is about Edward (Ted/Tedward) Wallace and his stay at his old friend Lord Logan's country manor in Norfolk. The Stars' Tennis Balls (2000) is a modern retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo. Fry's book The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within is a guide to writing poetry.
When writing a book review for Tatler, Fry wrote under a pen name, Williver Hendry, editor of A Most Peculiar Friendship: The Correspondence of Lord Alfred Douglas and Jack Dempsey, a field close to his heart as an Oscar Wilde enthusiast. Once a columnist in The Listener and The Daily Telegraph, he now writes a weekly technology column in the Saturday edition of The Guardian. His blog attracted more than 300,000 visitors in its first two weeks.
In May 2009, Fry unveiled The Dongle of Donald Trefusis, an audiobook series following Donald Trefusis (a fictional character from Fry's novel The Liar and from the BBC Radio 4 series Loose Ends), set over 12 episodes. After its release, it reached No. 1 on the UK Album Chart list. Fry's use of the word "luvvie" (spelled "lovie" by Fry) in The Guardian on 2 April 1988 is given by the Oxford English Dictionary as the earliest recorded use of the word as a humorous synonym for "actor".
In August 2010, Fry joined the board of directors at Norwich City Football Club. A lifelong fan of "the Canaries" and a regular visitor to Carrow Road, he said, on being appointed, "Truly this is one of the most exciting days of my life, and I am as proud and pleased as I could be." Fry stepped down from his Board position in January 2016, to take up a new position as "Norwich City Ambassador". Fry said, "My five years in the role have been an honour and a privilege beyond almost anything I can remember. I wish I could take credit for ushering the club up from League One to the Premiership during that time on the Board. Actually, I’m going to. It was all me. It can’t have been a coincidence ... But now I’m so happy to relinquish my seat on the board to Thomas Smith and to engage as fully as I can in the role of ambassador for Norwich City. We have so much to be proud of, both on and off the pitch, and I hope to welcome many new fans to the greatest club of all. On the Ball, City!" In February 2014, Fry became the honorary president of Proud Canaries, a new club for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fans.
In October 2008, Fry began posting to the social networking site Twitter, which he regularly updated. On 16 May 2009, he celebrated the 500,000-follower mark: "Bless my soul 500k followers. And I love you all. Well, all except that silly one. And that's not you." As of November 2016 he had 12.3 million followers.
Fry wields a considerable amount of influence through his use of Twitter. He is frequently asked to promote various charities and causes, often inadvertently causing their websites to crash because of the volume of traffic generated by his large number of followers; as Fry notes on his website: "Four thousand hits a second all diving down the pipeline at the same time for minutes on end." He uses his influence to recommend underexposed musicians and authors (who often see large increases in web hits and sales) and to raise awareness of contemporary issues in the world of media and politics, notably the dropping of an injunction against The Guardian and the attacking of Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir over her article on the death of Boyzone member Stephen Gately.
In November 2009, Fry's Twitter account reached one million followers. He commemorated the million-followers milestone with a humorous video blog in which a 'Step Hen Fry' clone speaks from the year 2034, where MySpace, Facebook and Twitter have combined to form 'Twit on MyFace'. In November 2010, he welcomed his two-millionth follower with a blog entry detailing his opinions and experiences of Twitter. On 11 March 2012, Fry noted his passing of the four-million-followers mark with a tweet: "Lordy I've breasted the 4 million followers tape. Love you all. Yes even YOU. But let's dedicate today to Douglas Adams's diamond jubilee".
Fry has a history of temporarily distancing himself from the social networking site which began when he received criticism in October 2009. However, he retracted the announcement that he would be leaving the following day. In October 2010, Fry left Twitter for a few days, with a farewell message of "Bye bye", following press criticism of a quote taken from an interview he had given. After returning, he explained that he had left Twitter to "avoid being sympathised with or told about an article" he "would otherwise never have got wind of". In some quarters, the general methods Fry uses on Twitter have been criticised. On 15 February 2016, Fry deleted his Twitter account, after receiving criticism for a tweet about Jenny Beavan and her dress. Fry alluded to this on an April 2016 episode of The Rubin Report in which he criticized groupthink mentality and stated that his return to Twitter was a "maybe".
In 1995, Fry was presented with an honorary doctorate from the University of Dundee, which named their main Students' Association bar after his novel The Liar. Fry is a patron of its Lip Theatre Company. He also served two consecutive terms – 1992 to 1995 and 1995 to 1998 – as the student-elected Rector of the University of Dundee. Such was his popularity, he was unopposed when he sought re-election to office in 1995, and by the time he completed his second term in office, he had won the widespread admiration of the University's staff and students. He was awarded the AoC Gold Award in 2004, and was entered into their Hall of Fame. Fry was also awarded an honorary degree from Anglia Ruskin University in 2005.
He was made honorary president of the Cambridge University Quiz Society and honorary fellow of his alma mater Queens' College, Cambridge. On 13 July 2010, he was made an honorary fellow of Cardiff University, and on 28 January 2011, he was awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Sussex, for his work campaigning for people suffering from mental health problems, bipolar disorder and HIV. He is a Patron of the Norwich Playhouse theatre and a Vice-President of The Noël Coward Society. Fry was the last person to be named Pipe Smoker of the Year before the award was discontinued.
In December 2006, he was ranked sixth for the BBC's Top Living Icon Award, was featured on The Culture Show, and was voted Most Intelligent Man on Television by readers of Radio Times. The Independent on Sunday Pink List named Fry the second most influential gay person in Britain in May 2007; he had taken the twenty-third position on the list the previous year. Later the same month, he was announced as the 2007 Mind Champion of the Year, in recognition of the success of his documentary The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive in raising awareness of bipolar disorder. He was also nominated in "Best Entertainment Performance" for QI and "Best Factual Series" for Secret Life of the Manic Depressive at the 2007 British Academy Television Awards. That same year, Broadcast magazine listed Fry at number four in its "Hot 100" list of influential on-screen performers, describing him as a polymath and a "national treasure". He was also granted a lifetime achievement award at the British Comedy Awards on 5 December 2007, and the Special Recognition Award at the National Television Awards on 20 January 2010.
BBC Four dedicated two nights of programming to Fry on 17 and 18 August 2007, in celebration of his 50th birthday. The first night, comprising programs featuring Fry, began with a sixty-minute documentary entitled Stephen Fry: 50 Not Out. The second night was composed of programmes selected by Fry, as well as a 60-minute interview with Mark Lawson and a half-hour special, Stephen Fry: Guilty. The weekend programming proved such a ratings hit for BBC Four that it was repeated on BBC Two on 16 and 17 September 2007. In 2011, he was the subject of Molly Lewis's song An Open Letter to Stephen Fry, in which the singer jokingly offers herself as a surrogate mother for his child. In February 2011, Fry was awarded the Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism by the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University, the Harvard Secular Society and the American Humanist Association.
In 2012, Fry wrote the foreword to the Union of UEA Students report on the student experience for LGBT+ members. As recognition of his public support for LGBT+ rights and for the Union's report, the Union of UEA Students awarded him, on 18 October 2012, Honorary Life Membership of the Union. In March 2014 Fry beat David Attenborough and Davina McCall to win the Best Presenter award at the Royal Television Society Programme Awards. The award was given for his BBC2 programme Stephen Fry: Out There. In an episode of QI, "M-Merriment", originally broadcast in December 2015, Fry was awarded membership of The Magic Circle.
Fry is on cordial terms with Prince Charles, through his work with the Prince's Trust. He attended the Prince's wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005. Fry is a friend of comedian and actor (and Blackadder co-star) Rowan Atkinson and was best man at Atkinson's wedding to Sunetra Sastry at the Russian Tea Room in New York City. Fry was a friend of British actor John Mills. His best friend is Hugh Laurie, whom he met while both were at Cambridge and with whom he has collaborated many times over the years. He was best man at Laurie's wedding and is godfather to all three of his children.
A fan of cricket, Fry has stated that he is related to former England cricketer C.B. Fry, and was interviewed for the Ashes Fever DVD, reporting on England's victory over Australia in the 2005 Ashes series. Regarding football, he is a supporter of Norwich City, and is a regular visitor to Carrow Road. He has been described as "deeply dippy for all things digital", claims to have bought the third Macintosh computer sold in the UK (his friend Douglas Adams bought the first two) and jokes that he has never encountered a smartphone that he has not bought. He counts Wikipedia among his favourite websites "because I like to find out that I died, and that I'm currently in a ballet in China, and all the other very accurate and important things that Wikipedia brings us all."
Fry has a long-standing interest in Internet production, including having his own website since 1997. His current site, The New Adventures of Mr Stephen Fry, has existed since 2002 and has attracted many visitors following his first blog in September 2007, which comprised a 6,500-word "blessay" on smartphones. In February 2008, Fry launched his private podcast series, Stephen Fry's Podgrams (now discontinued), and a forum, including discussions on depression and activities in which Fry is involved. The website content is created by Fry and produced by Andrew Sampson. Fry's weekly gadget column Dork Talk appeared in The Guardian from November 2007 to October 2008. Fry is also a supporter of GNU and the Free Software Foundation. For the 25th anniversary of the GNU operating system, Fry appeared in a video explaining some of the philosophy behind GNU by likening it to the sharing found in science. When in London, he drives a dark green TX4 London cab. This vehicle has been featured in Fry's production Stephen Fry in America.
Fry struggled to keep his homosexuality secret during his teenage years at public school, and by his own account did not engage in sexual activity for 16 years from 1979 until 1995. When asked when he first acknowledged his sexuality, Fry quipped: "I suppose it all began when I came out of the womb. I looked back up at my mother and thought to myself, 'That's the last time I'm going up one of those'." Fry was in a 15-year relationship with Daniel Cohen, which ended in 2010. In 2014, Fry was listed number 4 on the World Pride Power list.
On 6 January 2015, The Sun reported that Fry would marry his partner, stand-up comedian Elliott Spencer. Fry wrote on Twitter: "It looks as though a certain cat is out of a certain bag. I'm very very happy of course but had hoped for a private wedding. Fat chance!" Fry married Spencer on 17 January 2015 in the Norfolk town of Dereham.
Fry was an active supporter of the Labour Party for many years and appeared in a party political broadcast on its behalf with Hugh Laurie and Michelle Collins in November 1993. He did not vote in the 2005 General Election because of the stance of both the Labour and Conservative parties with regard to the Iraq War. Despite his praise of the Blair/Brown government's work on social reform, Fry has been critical of the Labour Party's "Third Way" concept. Fry appeared in literature to support changing the British electoral system from first-past-the-post to alternative vote for electing members of parliament to the House of Commons in the Alternative Vote referendum in 2011.
On 30 April 2008, Fry signed an open letter, published in The Guardian newspaper by some well-known Jewish personalities, stating their opposition to celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. Furthermore, he is a signatory member of the British Jews for Justice for Palestinians organisation, which campaigns for Palestinian rights. Fry was among over 100 signatories to a statement published by Sense About Science on 4 June 2009, condemning British libel laws and their use to "severely curtail the right to free speech on a matter of public interest".
In August 2013, Fry published an "Open Letter to David Cameron and the IOC" calling for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, due to concerns over the state-sanctioned persecution of LGBT persons in Russia. Cameron however stated on Twitter he believed "we can better challenge prejudice as we attend, rather than boycotting the Winter Olympics". Adrian Hilton, writing in the Daily Mail, criticised Fry for not calling for a boycott of all Russian performing arts. Fry responded by accusing the Daily Mail of being "against progress, the liberalising of attitudes, modern art and strangers (whether by race, gender or sexuality)".
In March 2014, Fry publicly backed "Hacked Off" and its campaign towards press self-regulation by "safeguarding the press from political interference while also giving vital protection to the vulnerable."
On 6 October 2009, Fry was interviewed by Jon Snow on Channel 4 News as a signatory of a letter to British Conservative Party leader David Cameron expressing concern about the party's relationship with the Polish national conservative Law and Justice party in the European Parliament. During the interview, he stated:
There has been a history, let's face it, in Poland of a right-wing Catholicism which has been deeply disturbing for those of us who know a little history, and remember which side of the border Auschwitz was on and know the stories, and know much of the anti-semitic, and homophobic and nationalistic elements in countries like Poland.
The remark prompted a complaint from the Polish Embassy in London, an editorial in The Economist and criticism from British Jewish historian David Cesarani. Fry has since posted an apology in a six-page post on his personal blog, in which he stated:
I offer no excuse. I seemed to imply that the Polish people had been responsible for the most infamous of all the death factories of the Third Reich. I didn't even really at the time notice the import of what I had said, so gave myself no opportunity instantly to retract the statement. It was a rubbishy, cheap and offensive remark that I have been regretting ever since. I take this opportunity to apologise now. I said a stupid, thoughtless and fatuous thing. It detracted from and devalued my argument, such as it was, and it outraged and offended a large group of people for no very good reason. I am sorry in all directions, and all the more sorry because it is no one's fault but my own, which always makes it so much worse.
Fry has bipolar disorder. His first diagnosis was cyclothymia, which he refers to as "bipolar lite". Fry has spoken publicly about his experience with bipolar disorder, which was depicted in the documentary Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. In the programme, he interviewed other sufferers of the illness including Robbie Williams, Carrie Fisher, Richard Dreyfuss and Tony Slattery. He is involved with the mental health charity Stand to Reason and is president of Mind. In 2013 he revealed that, in the previous year, he had started taking medication for the first time, in an attempt to control his condition.
In 1995, while appearing in the West End Cell Mates, Fry suffered an acute episode of mental illness and walked out of the production, causing its early closure and incurring the displeasure of co-star Rik Mayall and playwright Simon Gray. Fry went missing for several days and contemplated suicide. He later said that he would have killed himself if he had not had "the option of disappearing". He abandoned the idea and left the United Kingdom by ferry, eventually resurfacing in Belgium. Fry has attempted suicide on a number of occasions, most recently in 2012. In an interview with Richard Herring in 2013, Fry revealed that he had attempted suicide the previous year while filming abroad. He said that he took a "huge number of pills and a huge [amount] of vodka" and had to be brought back to the UK to be "looked after".
In January 2008, Fry broke his arm while filming Last Chance to See in Brazil. While climbing aboard a boat, he slipped between it and the dock, and, stopping himself from falling into the water, his body weight snapped his right humerus. The resulting vulnerability to his radial nerve – which affects use of the arm – was not diagnosed until he saw a consultant in the UK.
Appearing on the BBC's Top Gear in 2009, Fry had lost a significant amount of weight, and explained that he had shed a total of 6 stone (84 lb; 38 kg), attributing the weight loss to doing a lot of walking while listening to downloaded audiobooks. Fry is between 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m) and 6 feet 5 inches (1.96 m) in height. Fry has stated that he is allergic to champagne and bumble bee stings. Fry has prosopagnosia.
Views on religion
Fry has repeatedly expressed opposition to organised religion, and has identified himself as an atheist and humanist, while declaring some sympathy for the ancient Greek belief in capricious gods. In his first autobiography he described how he once considered ordination to the Anglican priesthood, but came to the conclusion that he "couldn't believe in God, because [he] was fundamentally Hellenic in [his] outlook." He has stated that religion can have positive effects: "Sometimes belief means credulity, sometimes an expression of faith and hope which even the most sceptical atheist such as myself cannot but find inspiring."
In 2009, The Guardian published a letter from Fry addressing his younger self, explaining how his future is soon to unfold, reflecting on the positive progression towards gay acceptance and openness around him, and yet not everywhere, while warning on how "the cruel, hypocritical and loveless hand of religion and absolutism has fallen on the world once more." Later that year, he and Christopher Hitchens participated in an "Intelligence Squared" debate in which they argued against Ann Widdecombe and Archbishop John Onaiyekan, who supported the view that the Catholic Church was a force for good. Fry and Hitchens argued that the church did more harm than good. Fry attacked the Catholic Church's teachings on sexuality and denounced its wealth.
In 2010 Fry was made a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association, stating: "it is essential to nail one’s colours to the mast as a humanist." Later that year, Fry, joined 54 other public figures in signing an open letter published in The Guardian stating their opposition to Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United Kingdom being a state visit. On 22 February 2011, Fry was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism by the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University.
Interviewed in 2015 by veteran Irish broadcaster Gay Byrne, Fry was asked what he would say if he came face-to-face with God. Fry said: "Bone cancer in children, what’s that about? How dare you? How dare you create a world where there is such misery that’s not our fault? It’s utterly, utterly evil." Within days, the video was viewed over five million times. Fry later stated he did not refer to any specific religion, and said: "I said quite a few things that were angry at this supposed God. I was merely saying things that Bertrand Russell and many finer heads of the mind have said for many thousands of years, going all the way back to the Greeks."
In 2008, Fry formed SamFry Ltd, with long-term collaborator Andrew Sampson to produce and fund new material and manage his official website. Fry is the co-owner, with Gina Carter and Sandi Toksvig, of Sprout Pictures, an independent film and television company.
Computing and software freedom
Fry uses Ubuntu as his desktop operating system. In 2008 he appeared in a film made by the Free Software Foundation to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the GNU Project to create a completely free operating system. In the film Fry explains the principles of software freedom central to the development of the Linux and GNU software projects.
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