Steven Berkoff

Steven Berkoff Biography

Steven Berkoff as General Orlov

Steven Berkoff is an accomplished English actor, author, playwright, theatre practitioner, and director. Born as Leslie Steven Berks on August 3, 1937, Berkoff’s family emigrated to the United States, but after a few months, they returned to England since Berkoff’s father struggled to find work.

Steven Berkoff studied drama at City Literary Institute in 1957-1958, and then trained at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in 1958-1959. He later enrolled at L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris, where he specialized in physical theatre and mime, and graduated in 1965. Berkoff’s career in theatre began in the Repertory Company at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Barrow-in-Furness.

Steven Berkoff is renowned for his contributions to theatre as an actor, playwright, and director. Some of his earliest plays include adaptations of Franz Kafka’s works such as The Metamorphosis (1969), In the Penal Colony (1969), and The Trial (1971). Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, he wrote a series of verse plays including East (1975), Greek (1980), and Decadence (1981), followed by West (1983), Harry’s Christmas (Lunch) (1983), Sink the Belgrano! (1986), Massage (1997), and The Secret Love Life of Ophelia (2001).


Steven Berkoff is recognized for his unique dramatic style, which drama critic Aleks Sierz calls “In-yer-face theatre.” This style is characterized by the use of vulgar language, explicit discussion of taboo subjects, nudity, violence, and uncomfortable emotions. Berkoff has directed several plays, including Salome by Oscar Wilde in 1988, Shakespeare’s Villains in 1998, and his solo play An Actor’s Lament in 2013.

Steven Berkoff has also made a name for himself in film, often playing villainous characters. He played Soviet General Orlov in the James Bond film Octopussy (1983), corrupt art dealer Victor Maitland in Beverly Hills Cop (1984), Soviet officer Colonel Podovsky in Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), and gangster George Cornell in The Krays (1990).

Steven Berkoff’s television credits include roles in The Avengers, UFO, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and the mini-series Children of Dune. He has also played Adolf Hitler in War and Remembrance, and Florentine preacher Girolamo Savonarola in A Season of Giants and The Borgias. He played the role of King Nikolaus in the second season of the Lifetime TV show Witches of East End in 2014 and made a guest appearance in the Doctor Who episode “The Power of Three” in 2012.

Steven Berkoff has been married twice and has two daughters from previous relationships. He currently resides in Limehouse, east London, with his wife Clara Fischer, a German pianist. Fischer appeared onscreen with Berkoff in his film Decadence.