Ian Richardson was born on April 7, 1934 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Richardson studied at the College of Dramatic Art in Glasgow. He began to make a name for himself while playing Hamlet at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1960.
Richardson joined the Royal Shakespeare Company. He spent several years as a leading artist. He appeared in various roles honing his skills over time. During that time, he created the role of Jean Paul Marat in Marat/Sade, which he would reprise for the 1966 film version. He began to have more success on stage in several cities including Ontario, Stratford and New York.
Roles were coming Richardson’s way with a steady regularity. His Shakespearean roots served him well. He appeared as Oberon in Peter Hall’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He played Don John in the BBC’s Much Ado About Nothing in 1978.
The early part of the 1980s saw Richardson playing various roles in British television movies and series. One of the most successful roles was playing Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Sign of Four. Both appearances were in 1983. Richarson played a bureaucrat in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil in 1985. This role began to get him noticed around the world.
After “Brazil”, Richardson began to get regular film work, in such British films as Cry Freedom and The Fourth Protocol. He began to shift towards Hollywood. He made an appearance as Polonius in 1990, in Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
During the 1990s, the aging actor began to have trouble getting good roles. He began to accept a variety of supporting roles in bigger budget movies and television. He was still a mainstay in British television. Unfortunately, during the 1990s, Richardson had several flops, including “The Year of the Comet” and Robert Townsend’s widely detested B.A.P.S.
In 1998, Richardson made a small comeback with the role of Mr. Book in Alex Proyas’ “Dark City”. He played the part of Mr. Torte in “102 Dalmations” in the year 2000 and Sir Charles Warren in “From Hell” in 2001.
Ironically, the role most people would remember Richardson playing is not in television, the movies or on stage, but in a television commercial. He is remembered for playing the man in the limosine who asks the question, “Pardon Me, Do You Have Any Grey Poupon”?
On February 9, 2007 Richardson died of unknown causes at the age of 72.