Alun Armstrong

About Alun Armstrong

Bushy-eyebrowed Alun Armstrong is one of the most recognisable character actors in the business, but did you know the ‘New Tricks’ star started out as a gravedigger?

Background info

Born in South Yorkshire on 17 July 1946, Alun Armstrong grew up with an interest in the arts and actually studied fine arts for a time at Newcastle University. However, he dropped out after a few years because he found the course ‘too poncey’. He moved to London and began a resolutely unponcey career as a gravedigger – a job he landed after striking up a conversation with a gravedigger in a pub!

The big break

While a gravedigger, Alun casually mentioned to his boss that he’d always had an interest in acting. Just a few weeks later he received an interview offer from the Cambridge Arts Theatre. Alun was amazed, and then realised his boss had forwarded his CV onto them in secret! A grateful Alun passed the interview and started working behind the scenes at the theatre, eventually getting small acting parts and working his way up to bigger roles.

Career highs

Since making his screen debut in the classic 1971 gangster film ‘Get Carter’, Alun has appeared in blockbusters like ‘Braveheart’ and ‘Sleepy Hollow’. Yet it’s TV that’s given Alun has enjoyed his meatiest roles, such as in the epic 1996 series ‘Our Friends in the North’. More recently he combined comedy with pathos when he starred as one of a team of grizzled detectives in the 2003 crime series ‘New Tricks’.

Career lows

Alun’s appeared in his share of Hollywood stinkers. After all, in the year 2000 he turned up in the Meg Ryan-meets-Russell Crowe megaflop ‘Proof of Life’. And, when it comes to TV, his CV is so long that black spots are inevitable. Who now remembers programmes like ‘Brazen Hussies’ or ‘Underworld’?

Did you know?

Alun helped make theatrical history in 1985, when he took to the stage as part of the first ever London cast of ‘Les Miserables’ – which has run and run as one of the most popular and enduring musicals of all time.

The final word

Alun’s very happy to be a supporting, rather than leading, actor. ‘There are more parts for older women than older men, but I’m one of the lucky ones because I’m a character actor and there’ll always be parts for me,’ he said. ‘I’m more concerned about losing my marbles than losing parts – especially when it comes to learning lines!’