Peter Vaughan

For other people named Peter Vaughan, see Peter Vaughan (disambiguation).
Peter Vaughan
Born Peter Ohm
(1923-04-04) 4 April 1923
Wem, Shropshire, England, UK
Occupation Actor
Years active 1954–present
Spouse(s) Billie Whitelaw (1952–1966)
Lillias Walker

Peter Vaughan (born 4 April 1923) is an English character actor, known for many supporting roles in a variety of British film and television productions.[1] He has also worked extensively on the stage.

He is best known for his role as Grouty in the sitcom Porridge (despite appearing in only three episodes and the 1979 movie) and also had a recurring role alongside Robert Lindsay in Citizen Smith, written by John Sullivan. He also had major parts as Tom Franklin in Chancer (1990–1991) which ran for 20 episodes, and as Maester Aemon in HBO's Game of Thrones (2011-2015).

Personal life

He was born Peter Ohm in Wem, Shropshire,[2] the son of a bank clerk and a nurse. He moved with them later to Wellington in the same county, where he began schooling; he later claimed it was while reciting a poem at infant school in Wellington that he experienced the applause and admiration coming from a good performance.[3] He was brought up from the age of seven in Staffordshire[4] where he attended Uttoxeter Grammar School. After leaving school he joined Wolverhampton Repertory theatre and gained experience in other repertory theatres before army service in the Second World War, where he served in Normandy, Belgium and the Far East.

Vaughan has been married twice, on the first occasion (1952 to 1966) to Billie Whitelaw. His second wife is actress Lillias Walker, with whom he lives in the village of Mannings Heath, in West Sussex, having previously lived in Crawley. He is partially blind.



In film, he made his debut in 1959 and continued to play small roles for several years, before gaining his first starring role in a minor picture called Smokescreen (1964).

In 1967, he got second billing opposite Frank Sinatra in the film 'The Naked Runner'. However, his performance was not well received by critics who accused him of overacting in his role as a British agent.[5]

He played Mr. Freeman in Karel Reisz's 1980 The French Lieutenant's Woman, the first star billing for Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons.

Perhaps his highest-profile film performance was as the father of Anthony Hopkins's character in The Remains of the Day (1993).[6] He was also cast in Terry Gilliam's The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, but had not shot any material before that project was abandoned. He had previously appeared for Gilliam in Time Bandits and Brazil. He also appeared as a memorably menacing character in Straw Dogs (1971), with Bill Murray in a film of W. Somerset Maugham's novel The Razor's Edge. In 1996, he appeared as Giles Corey in The Crucible, and in 1997 he appeared alongside Robert Carlyle and Ray Winstone in Face. In 1998, he appeared as Bishop Myriel in Les Misérables alongside Liam Neeson. Possibly his most unusual role was as SS Obergruppenführer Arthur Nebe in the 1994 film of Robert Harris's novel Fatherland.


He became known for his performances on television, including supporting roles in Porridge (as "Genial" Harry Grout) and Citizen Smith (although his role in the latter series was taken over by Tony Steedman). Vaughan's role in Porridge brought him a great deal of public recognition, despite the fact that his character appeared in only three episodes and the film of the series.[7]

Harry Grout as portrayed by Peter Vaughan in Porridge

In 1969, he appeared in Randall and Hopkirk in the episode "Never Trust a Ghost". The same year he starred in the thirteen-part LWT TV series The Gold Robbers. In December 1972, he appeared as Mr. Paxton in the BBC television adaptation of the M.R. James ghost story A Warning to the Curious, shown as part of their annual series A Ghost Story for Christmas.

Peter Vaughan starred as Billy Fox in the groundbreaking and high budget 13-part Thames Television saga, Fox (1980), shot during 10 months in 1979. The saga was written by Trevor Preston, directed by Jim Godard, and produced by Verity Lambert. As other Fox family members it also starred Elizabeth Spriggs, Ray Winstone, Larry Lamb and Bernard Hill.

Historical roles that Vaughan has played include the role of Russian ambassador Alexander Izvolsky in the mini-series Fall of Eagles (1974), British politician Thomas Inskip in the mini-series Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (1981), and German Nazi figures Kurt Zeitzler in the miniseries War and Remembrance (1988) and Hermann Göring in the docu-drama Countdown to War (1989).

He has also appeared in many literary adaptations, such as Bleak House (BBC, 1985), in which he played the sinister lawyer, Mr Tulkinghorn and Our Mutual Friend (BBC Two, 1998). Other television work includes the espionage thriller Codename: Kyril (1988), in a lead role as the head of the KGB.

In 1986, he appeared in the promotional video for Kate Bush's "Experiment IV" single. In 1991, he played John Turner in an episode of the Granada Television's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes titled 'The Boscombe Valley Mystery', with a convincing Australian accent.

Vaughan later attained particular acclaim for his supporting role as the eventual Alzheimer's sufferer Felix Hutchinson across thirty years of his life in Our Friends in the North (BBC Two, 1996), a role which gained him a Best Actor nomination at the 1997 British Academy Television Awards.[8]

In 2007, he starred in the television serial Mobile and as Uncle Alfie in the film Death at a Funeral.[9] In 2011, Vaughan starred as Michael Dodd in the BBC courtroom drama Silk.[10] He also plays the role of Maester Aemon Targaryen in the HBO series Game of Thrones.[11][12]


Vaughan was heard as Denethor in the 1981 BBC Radio production of The Lord of the Rings.



  1. "Peter Vaughan". BFI.
  2. Peter Vaughan Biography (1923–)
  3. "Thrones star, 93, launches memoirs. County-born actor tells how performing bug bit him at school". Shropshire Star. 4 July 2016. p. 16.Report by Mat Growcott.
  4. "Peter Vaughan: Acting Clever", Shropshire Magazine, November 2007. Accessed 22 December 2014
  5. Review: “The Naked Runner”. Variety. Retrieved 30 June 2013
  6. "'There are unfortunately a lot of us old guys around' | The Spectator". 31 October 2007. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  7. "Game of Thrones star Peter Vaughan is still best known for being Porridge's Grouty - Sunday Post". 22 June 2016. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  8. "A hard act to follow". The Independent.
  9. Berardinelli, James. "Death at a Funeral | Reelviews Movie Reviews". Reelviews Movie Reviews. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  10. "PBS Masterpiece Review: Silk Episode One". Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  11. "Shropshire's Game of Thrones star Peter Vaughan still game « Shropshire Star". Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  12. "Game of Thrones? 'It's a hard act to follow' ...". Retrieved 29 September 2016.

External links

Preceded by
Artro Morris
as Charles Jones
Charles Johnson Actor
from Citizen Smith

1977 - 1979
Succeeded by
Tony Steedman
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