Simon Jones (actor)

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Simon Jones
Born (1950-07-27) 27 July 1950 (age 69)
Alma mater
Years active1976–present

Simon Jones (born 27 July 1950) is an English actor. He is best known for his multiple portrayals of Arthur Dent, protagonist of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Jones first portrayed the character on radio in 1978 and again on television in 1981. Jones also featured in the film The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) in a cameo role. He is also known for his portrayal of Donald Shellhammer in Miracle on 34th Street (1994), and for his multiple appearances on the Broadway stage. Jones is also well known for his role in Brideshead Revisited as Lord Brideshead. He appeared as King George V in the film Downton Abbey.

Life and career

Jones appeared in various TV series, including Brideshead Revisited (in which he played the Earl of Brideshead, or "Bridey", heir to the Marquess of Marchmain), and the second series of Blackadder (playing Sir Walter Raleigh). His films have included Club Paradise, Privates on Parade, Miracle on 34th Street and The Devil's Own.

Jones studied at King's College, Taunton, before going up to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he was a member of the Footlights and met Douglas Adams. This led to Jones' being cast in Out of the Trees and later The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The latter project, a 1978 radio broadcast, would be the first of Jones' several portrayals of Arthur Dent; Adams claimed to Jones that he wrote the part of Dent with Jones in mind.[1] In Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, Jones had a minor role as one of the guests at the dinner party. He has also appeared in some of the solo film projects of the members of Monty Python: American Friends, Brazil and 12 Monkeys.

Jones has appeared in many Broadway plays, including The Real Thing, as Max (1985), Benefactors, as Colin (1985), Getting Married, as Reginald Bridgenorth (1991), Private Lives, as Elyot Chase (1992), The Real Inspector Hound, as Moon, and The Fifteen Minute Hamlet, as Hamlet, which played together in (1992), The School for Scandal, as Joseph Surface (1995), Ring Round the Moon, as Romainville (1999) and Waiting in the Wings, as Perry Lascoe (1999). In 2009 he appeared in Blithe Spirit, as Dr. Bradman, with Angela Lansbury and Rupert Everett and in 2018 he portrayed John Rich, in Farinelli and the King starring Mark Rylance, from January through March. Off-Broadway he has a long list of credits, and was nominated for the 1990 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play for his role in Privates on Parade.

In regional theatre at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, Jones starred as Christopher Gore in the American premier of Brian Friel's The Home Place in late 2007. He returned there in late 2008 to portray C. S. Lewis in Shadowlands. In 2015 he played the Man in Chair in Drowsy Chaperone at Cape Playhouse, MA, and immediately afterwards went to Sag Harbor to be Major Bouvier and Norman Vincent Peale in Grey Gardens with Rachel York and Betty Buckley, again directed by Michael Wilson. This same production went to Los Angeles in 2016 at the Ahmanson Theatre.

Jones is also a voice actor and audiobook presenter, with more than 70 titles to his credit. Among them are:

In 2003, he reprised his role as Arthur Dent in a new radio series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The same year he was involved in the filming of the film version of the first novel, making a brief cameo appearance in the role of the holographic Magrathean answering machine/automated defence system.

He was heard in 2009 as master detective Sexton Blake on BBC Radio 2 in the six-part series, The Adventures of Sexton Blake!.

In addition to his work as an actor, Jones is also a co-artistic director at New York Off-Broadway company the Actors' Company Theatre (TACT), where he played the role of Jack in the play Home by David Storey.

Jones and his son Tim were hit by a car on 8 October 2010; though they suffered only bruises, he had to withdraw from the Actors' Company Theatre's production of Václav Havel’s Memorandum.[2]

He recovered enough to join in the Irish Repertory Theatre's production of A Child's Christmas in Wales, a concert version of the Dylan Thomas work. This ran from 8 December 2009 to 2 January 2010.

2011 took him to Hartford, Connecticut – the Hartford Stage Theatre – where he played Piero Soderini in Divine Rivalry — a new play by Michael Kramer, directed by Michael Wilson, and produced by the Shubert Organisation. Jones had played this part in several previous readings of the play, and was delighted to finally be in a real, full production.[citation needed] Later in the year, he was in a new musical version of Death Takes a Holiday, from the book by Tom Meehan and Peter Stone, with music by Maury Yeston. It ran in New York City, at the Roundabout's Laura Pels Theatre, from 7 July to 4 September. A CD was released shortly afterwards.

From there Jones returned to London where he attended the opening night of No Naughty Bits, at the Hampstead Theatre on 13 September. The play, by Steve Thompson, was the story of Jones's wife, Nancy Lewis, and the Monty Python team's lawsuit against ABC-TV in America.

2012 found Jones back in Minneapolis, where he played David Bliss, husband of Harriet Harris in Hay Fever at the Guthrie Theatre. The director this time was from London, Jones' friend Chris Luscombe. After that Jones returned to New York where he appeared (in the role of Sir Francis Beekman), with Megan Hilty starring in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the City Center's ENCORES! concert series, which also resulted in CD. Later in the year, he went to the UK, where he starred in a national stage tour of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy – Live!

In the summer of 2013, he went to East Hampton, New York, where Tony Walton directed him in a production of Tonight at 8:30, featuring three of Noël Coward's short plays. Blythe Danner was the co-star, and they performed "Hands Across the Sea", "Family Album" and "Red Peppers". This was followed by another UK stage tour of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy – Live!

The tour of Blithe Spirit, starring (newly titled) Dame Angela Lansbury, then went to London's West End in early 2014. This was accompanied by an appearance at a special cabaret (organised by co-star Janie Dee) at the Cafe de Paris, where Simon sang "Mad Dogs and Englishmen". When the West End performance ended, in June, he immediately went into the role of 'Emperor Joseph II' in "Amadeus", starring Rupert Everett. This was followed by BBC Radio appearances in Neil Gaiman and Terry Prachett's Good Omens, directed by Dirk Maggs and Doctor Who with Tom Baker.

The year ended with Blithe Spirit again – still with Lansbury – on a North American tour.

Once again playing Arthur Dent, he recorded the final radio series, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy – the Hexagonal Phase directed by Dirk Maggs for BBC Radio 4.

An August 2018 announcement indicated that Jones would be among the new cast to join the original actors in the Downton Abbey film, which started principal photography at about the same time.[3]

On December 20, 2019 his wife, Nancy Lewis, died in Manhattan of leukemia.[4]

Selected filmography


  1. ^ "Interview: Original Arthur Dent actor Simon Jones on Hitchhiker's writer Douglas Adams and performing live – Mancunian Matters".
  2. ^ Itzkoff, Dave. "Actor Withdraws From Havel Play After Car Accident". ArtsBeat.
  3. ^ Imelda Staunton, Geraldine James Join 'Downton Abbey' Movie
  4. ^

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