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Bruce Robinson

Bruce Robinson
Born (1946-05-02) 2 May 1946
North London, England
Occupation Actor, screenwriter, director
Years active 1968–present
Spouse(s) Sophie Windham (1984–)

Bruce Robinson (born 2 May 1946) is an English director, screenwriter, novelist and actor. He is arguably most famous for writing and directing the cult classic Withnail and I (1987), a film with comic and tragic elements set in London in the 1960s, which drew on his experiences as 'a chronic alcoholic and resting actor, living in squalor'[1] in Camden Town.

As an actor, he has worked with Franco Zeffirelli (on whom he based the character of Uncle Monty in Withnail and I), Ken Russell and François Truffaut.


  • Early life 1
  • Film career 2
  • Author 3
  • Personal life 4
  • Filmography 5
    • Acting 5.1
    • Directing 5.2
    • Screenwriting 5.3
  • Bibliography 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Bruce Robinson was born in London. He grew up in Broadstairs Kent, where he attended The Charles Dickens Secondary Modern School. His parents were Mabel Robinson and American lawyer Carl Casriel, who had a short-term relationship during the World War II. As a child, Robinson was constantly brutally abused by his step-father Rob (an ex-RAF Navigator and a wholesale newsagent), who knew the boy wan't his son.[2] He had an elder sister Elly, whom he asked to teach him some French which he grew to love since the early age.[3]

Film career

In his youth, Robinson aspired to be an actor and was admitted to the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. His first film role was as Benvolio in Franco Zeffirelli's film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet (1968). He then appeared in Ken Russell's The Music Lovers (1970), Barney Platts-Mills's Private Road (1971), and François Truffaut's The Story of Adele H. (1975). After spending several years out of work, and living on social security payments, he became disenchanted and began writing screenplays. He was soon commissioned by David Puttnam to write the screenplay for Roland Joffé's The Killing Fields (1984). Robinson was nominated for an Academy Award and won a BAFTA for his work. In 1989, Robinson wrote again for Joffé on Fat Man and Little Boy. He returned to acting briefly in 1998, taking a role in the film Still Crazy.

He is perhaps best known as the creative force behind the loosely autobiographical film Withnail and I (1987) which he based on his time as a struggling out-of-work actor.[4] The character 'Withnail' is reportedly based on his friend, Vivian MacKerrell, the character 'I' (Marwood), on himself. Though unsuccessful at the box office, due to its success on video it has since been described as "one of Britain's biggest cult films".[5] The film also launched the acting career of Richard E. Grant.

Robinson in 2011 at a premiere of The Rum Diary.

Robinson's next two outings as a director (How to Get Ahead in Advertising, teaming him again with Richard E. Grant, and Jennifer 8, a Hollywood thriller) were not as well received.[6] Robinson became disillusioned with the restrictive film-making practices of Hollywood and stopped directing to concentrate solely on writing. He wrote the screenplays for the films Return to Paradise (1998) and In Dreams (1999), but both were altered drastically by their producers, leaving Robinson once again disappointed.[7]

Robinson eventually returned to directing with an adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's novel The Rum Diary, with the main role performed by Johnny Depp.[8] With Aaron Eckhart and Richard Jenkins also on board, filming started on 25 March 2009 in Puerto Rico.[9] It was released in 2011.

In 2012, Robinson's comic novella Paranoia in the Launderette was substantially filled out and adapted for the screen as A Fantastic Fear of Everything starring Simon Pegg.

Robinson has completed a screenplay for his novel The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman and a book on Jack the Ripper, titled They All Love Jack, in which he names the real culprit as Michael Maybrick, otherwise best known as a composer of songs such as "The Holy City", and brother of another Ripper suspect, James Maybrick.


Robinson is also a successful author. His first published work was the semi-autobiographical novel, The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman in 1998. In 2000, Smoking in Bed: Conversations with Bruce Robinson, edited by Alistair Owen, was published, made up of a selection of interviews given by Robinson. Meanwhile, since becoming a father, Robinson has also written two children's books, The Obvious Elephant (2000) and Harold and the Duck (2005), both illustrated by his wife. The former is also available as an audiobook edition (2003), read by Lorelei King and Michael Maloney. He spent about 15 years collecting and researching the materials on the mystery of Jack the Ripper, which later became his book "They All Love Jack: Busting the Ripper" (2015).

Personal life

Robinson currently lives in Herefordshire with his wife, the artist Sophie Windham. He has two children, Lily India (b. 1986) and Willoughby Christian (b. 1993)

Robinson is a recovering alcoholic, having stopped drinking in 2003. He fell off the wagon during the filming of The Rum Diary, but stopped drinking again after the film was finished.[10]






  • Paranoia in the Launderette (1998)
  • The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman (1998)
  • The Obvious Elephant (2000)
  • Harold and the Duck (2005)
  • They All Love Jack: Busting the Ripper (2015)


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External links

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