- (1936 - ) British actor, who became known forhis highly physical style of acting in the early 1960s. The son ofa Salford bookmaker, he studied at RADA and began his career in 1956at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. In 1958 he went to Stratford-upon-Avon,where he played Edgar to Charles Laughton's King Lear and took overas Coriolanus after Laurence Olivier was injured (see understudy).He also appeared in London with Charles Laughton in Jane Arden's TheParty (1958).
In 1960 Finney became widely known for creating the titlerole in Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall's Billy Liar. Thefollowing year he took the lead in John Osborne's Luther atthe Royal Court Theatre, later taking the play to the Théâtredes Nations in Paris and (in 1963) to New York. He joined the NationalTheatre in 1965, the year in which he created the role of John Armstrongin Arden's Armstrong's Last Goodnight.
In 1967 he co-starred in Peter Nichols's A Day in the Lifeof Joe Egg in London and New York. He was an associate artisticdirector at the Royal Court Theatre from 1972 to 1975 and performedas Hamlet, Macbeth, and Tamburlaine during the National Theatre'sfirst season on the South Bank (1975 - 76). In 1973 Finney had beenLaurence Olivier's first choice to succeed him as director of the National - an invitation he declined.
Finney directed and starred in a revival of Armstrong'sLast Goodnight at the Old Vic in 1983, and the following yeardirected and starred in Arden's Serjeant Musgrave's Dance atthe same theater. Later successes include major roles in Lyle Kessler'sOrphans (1986), the musical Chicago (1991), and YasminaReza's Art (1996), which brought him an Evening Standard Award.
Finney has also found success in films and on television.