James Villiers

James Villiers Biography

James Villiers as Bill Tanner

James Villiers was a quintessential English character actor who left an indelible mark on the world of cinema and theater. He was born on 29 September 1933 in London to parents Eric Hyde Villiers and Joan Ankaret Talbot.

James Villiers was raised in an upper-class background and boasted an aristocratic lineage, which was reflected in the roles he played on stage and screen, such as King Charles II and the Earl of Warwick.

Villiers’ love for acting was evident from a young age. He was educated at Wellington College, Berkshire and later attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he honed his craft and graduated in 1953. He made his film debut in 1958 and went on to become a prominent figure in British cinema, appearing in many notable productions.


One of James Villiers’ standout performances was in Joseph Losey’s The Damned, a film that was shot in 1961 but not released until 1963. He also appeared in Seth Holt’s The Nanny, Joseph Andrews, For Your Eyes Only as MI6 Chief of Staff Bill Tanner, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Mountains of the Moon, The Tichborne Claimant, and he starred as the British Prime Minister in Hollywood film King Ralph among others.

Villiers was renowned for his ripe articulation, which made him a natural fit for playing cold, somewhat effete villains. He also lent his voice to several radio adaptations of P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories, where he played the role of Roderick Spode.

Apart from his work in films and radio, James Villiers was a seasoned stage actor. He played Lord Thurlow in The Madness of George III and was lauded for his portrayal of various characters in Shakespearean plays.

James Villiers was married twice. His first marriage was to Patricia Donovan in 1966, which ended in 1984. He then married Lucy Jex in 1994, and the couple remained together until his death. He and his first wife adopted a son, Alan Michael Hyde Villiers. James Villiers’ life came to an end on 18 January 1998 in Arundel, Sussex, after a long battle with cancer.