-> ''And though I'm no Olivier. If he fought Sugar Ray...He would say that the thing ain't the ring, it's the play...And though I could fight, I'd much rather recite...that's entertainment.''
-->-- '''Film/RagingBull''', [[Creator/RobertDeNiro Jake La Motta]]

Laurence Kerr Olivier, [[UsefulNotes/KnightFever Baron Olivier of Brighton]] (May 22, 1907 – July 11, 1989) was an English actor and director, considered, in his lifetime, to be the greatest actor of his generation. On stage he was unanimously seen as a genius actor and director. In cinema, he hit a peak in his early films, including an UsefulNotes/AcademyAward-winning title role of ''Theatre/{{Hamlet}}'', which he also directed. ''Hamlet'' also won Best Picture (the ''only'' movie spoken in Shakespeare's dialogue to win to date) and earned Olivier a Best Director nomination (making him the only person to direct ''himself'' to an Oscar until Roberto Benigni won an Oscar for acting in ''Film/LifeIsBeautiful'' 50 years later).

As a film director, he's best known for his three Creator/WilliamShakespeare adaptations. In addition to Hamlet, there's ''Film/HenryV'' (1944) and ''Theatre/RichardIII'' (1955), both of which were shot in Technicolor, featuring impressive cinematic spectacle for its time, and still considered [[Creator/OrsonWelles among]] [[Creator/RomanPolanski the]] [[Creator/AkiraKurosawa best]] Shakespeare films. His turn as Richard III in particular proved to be one of his most iconic and much parodied roles, famous for his BreakingTheFourthWall monologues to the camera. He was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar each time and it more or less cemented him in PopCulturalOsmosis as [[TheBardOnBoard "the" Shakespearean actor]].

He also received two honorary Academy Awards: the first in 1947 for Outstanding Achievement for his ''Film/HenryV'', which he produced, directed and starred in; and a Lifetime Achievement award in 1979. Other roles that attracted Academy Award nominations but not wins included Heathcliff in ''Literature/WutheringHeights'' (1939), Maxim de Winter in ''Film/{{Rebecca}}'' (1940),[[note]]which won Best Picture[[/note]] the title role in ''The Entertainer'' (1960), the title role in ''Theatre/{{Othello}}'' (1965), Andrew Wyke in ''Theatre/{{Sleuth}}'' (1972), Dr Christian Szell in ''Film/MarathonMan'' (1976), and Ezra Lieberman in ''Film/TheBoysFromBrazil'' (1978).

In what was perhaps the logical extreme to both their careers, Creator/KennethBranagh netted an UsefulNotes/AcademyAward nomination for playing Olivier in ''Film/MyWeekWithMarilyn''.

[[http://www.laurenceolivier.com/ Official site]]

!!Tropes associated with Laurence Olivier include:

* ByronicHero: He played Heathcliff, Richard III, Maxim de Winter, Hamlet, and his take on Nelson in ''That Hamilton Woman'' was also quite Byronic, brooding, dark and intense. He was also a real-life one.
* CreatorCouple: He and Creator/VivienLeigh appeared in many stage productions together but only two films.[[note]] Leigh auditioned for the role of Mrs. de Winter in ''Film/{{Rebecca}}'' but was passed over; the footage of her screen test with Olivier still exists.[[/note]] ''Film/ThatHamiltonWoman'' is considered the best and it was UsefulNotes/WinstonChurchill's favorite film. He also worked several times with Joan Plowright, notably both the play and film of ''The Entertainer''.
* DoingItForTheArt: Nearly bankrupted himself helping to run the National Theatre. This is a major reason Olivier took so many subpar film roles in his later years.
* DramaticPause: This [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0RFGBjG35Q anecdote]] by Peter Ustinov, Olivier's ''Film/{{Spartacus}}'' co-star, on the Jack Paar Show demonstrates Olivier's tendencies toward this.
* DyeingForYourArt: Olivier occasionally did this, most famously his stage version of ''Theatre/{{Othello}}''. He wore full-body make-up, lifted weights and spent months working with a vocal coach to lower his voice an entire octave. More constoversially, he dyed himself again to play the Mahdi in ''Khartoum'', to look more Arab.
* LargeHam: Frequently labeled as such by detractors. Granted, Olivier was a classically trained stage actor, and it did become his default style in Shakespeare adaptations or his [[MoneyDearBoy paycheck roles]]. But anyone watching Olivier in, say, ''The Entertainer'' or ''Marathon Man'', or his own favorite, Wyler's ''Carrie'' [[note]]As in Theodore Dreiser's ''Sister Carrie'' and not Creator/StephenKing's prom-from-hell[[/note]] or in Creator/OttoPreminger's ''Bunny Lake is Missing'' would know he was capable of more nuanced performances. It should also be noted that Olivier was such a great stage actor that he found acting for films harder than many other Hollywood stars since he found it hard to [[DamnYouMuscleMemory dial down his instinctive stagecraft]] for the cameras, and as a constant touring stage actor with a film career, he had to shift and juggle registers, something that actors of later generation (and MethodActing) were able to do more easily. Olivier credited Creator/WilliamWyler for teaching him how to act for films and felt his films with him were his best.
* MeanCharacterNiceActor:
** Despite playing Nazis and cruel emperors, he was known as a very friendly, down to earth guy in real life to the point that he hated being called by any of his royal titles and preferred to be addressed as Larry. He was such a nice guy that even Creator/MarlonBrando, who was known as a big jerkass, couldn't bring himself to seduce Creator/VivienLeigh when they were married. Creator/DustinHoffman has said that, contrary to rumors that he and Olivier didn't get along while making ''Film/MarathonMan'', Olivier and wife Joan Plowright took Hoffman to dinner several times, and presented him with Olivier's personal copy of the Complete Works of Shakespeare once filming ended. Even when he was known for a HairTriggerTemper and was capable of [[SirSwearsALot swearing a blue streak]] when agitated, it was mostly when people insulted his friends and loved ones in his presence. One of Olivier's biographers records him unleashing a savage ClusterFBomb on Laurence Harvey for insulting John Gielgud in his presence.
** He could, however, also be quite mean to his female co-stars. He hated Merle Oberon, who was Cathy to his Heathcliff in the Samuel Goldwyn ''Wuthering Heights'', and treated her badly. He was also irritated with Creator/JoanFontaine on ''Rebecca'' and complained to Creator/AlfredHitchcock, "she can't act, old boy!" Likewise, Creator/StanleyKubrick ran into troubles in ''Spartacus'' when Olivier and his ArchEnemy Creator/CharlesLaughton were costars. Kubrick assigned Peter Ustinov to keep them from killing each other as they engaged in HamToHamCombat.
* MethodActing: He supposedly hated method acting or rather what came to pass for it. He actually was very good friends with Creator/MarlonBrando and Creator/EliaKazan and certainly did appreciate modern theatre (such as Stanislavsky, Chekhov, Peter Brook) but he found the exaggerated and headlines-grabbing nature of method acting odd.
** This bias was confirmed and reinforced during the filming of ''Film/ThePrinceAndTheShowgirl'' (which he directed and played one of the title roles). Creator/MarilynMonroe proved difficult for Olivier, since Marilyn's coach Paula Strasberg would insist she employ all the Stanislavskian techniques even in a read-through. More or less every director who worked with Marilyn after she signed up with the Strasbergs admitted she was hard to work with.
** Also, a story goes that, when filming ''Film/MarathonMan'', Creator/DustinHoffman stayed up all night in order to appear tired for a scene. Olivier was unimpressed by the show and said "Why not try acting, dear boy? It's easier".[[note]]Hoffman, for his part, considered this a playful jab at him, rather than disparagement of Method acting per se. When mentioning this story, Hoffman made sure to remind people that, right after saying this, Olivier laughed and said, "''I'm'' one to talk."[[/note]] Incidentally, Creator/EliaKazan, one of the pioneers behind the method, defended Olivier's approach:
---> '''Creator/EliaKazan''': ''Larry needs to know first of all how the person he’s to play walks, stands, sits, dresses; he has to hear in his memory’s ear the voice of the man whom he’s going to imitate. I lived across the street from him at the time I was directing his wife, Creator/VivienLeigh, in the film of ''Film/AStreetcarNamedDesire'', and would often drop over to see him. Larry was working with [[Creator/WilliamWyler Willy Wyler]] on Sister Carrie and, as ever, concentrating on what might seem to “us” to be insignificant aspects of his characterization. I remember pausing outside a window late one Sunday morning and, undetected, watching Larry go through the pantomime of offering a visitor a chair. He’d try it this way, then that, looking at the guest, then at the chair, doing it with a hosts flourish, doing it with a graceless gesture, then thrusting it brusquely forward...always seeking the most revealing way to do what would be a quickly passing bit of stage business for any other actor...Which way is better? As in all art, both.''
* MoneyDearBoy: {{Trope Namer|s}} and page quote source. It was the reason he gave for appearing in ''Film/{{Inchon}}'' (which netted him the second of his two Razzies). His explicit reason for being less selective with his roles late in life and starting doing film roles like ''Inchon'' – which he hated making – just for the money was that after he was forced out of his job as director of the National Theatre, he was worried that he would die and his family would be left with nothing -- he was building an inheritance for them.
* OldShame: Olivier had many rotten films to choose from, but he seemed to particularly hate the musical ''The Beggar's Opera'', due to his contentious relationship with director Peter Brook, and ''The Jazz Singer'', which he said "oozes sentiment like pus," adding "I never saw anything, heard anything, read anything so absolutely awful." The only films he really liked were the ones he made with Creator/WilliamWyler who he noted taught him how to act for films.
* PlayingAgainstType: While it's hard to say Olivier, with his diverse selection of roles, had a "type," his appearance in Creator/JohnOsborne's ''The Entertainer'' counts. Besides playing a seedy musical hall comedian, Olivier's involvement gave credibility to Osborne and the Royal Court Theatre, who were considered disreputable outsiders among England's stage community. Afterwards, establishment actors like John Gielgud and Creator/AlecGuinness queued to appear at the Royal Court!
* PlayingGertrude: His film version of ''Hamlet'' is the TropeNamer.
* TheRival:
** John Gielgud. The two appeared in a stage production of ''Theatre/RomeoAndJuliet'' together in the '30s, clashed over acting styles and became the two preeminent Shakespearean actors of their day. The two initially disliked each other, but grew into VitriolicBestBuds later in life. By most accounts, he had a similar relationship with Ralph Richardson.
** {{Averted|Trope}} with Sir Creator/MichaelRedgrave, who was a good friend of Olivier's and even acted in Olivier's production of ''Theatre/UncleVanya''. Olivier, Redgrave, Richardson and Gielgud was considered the finest ShakespeareanActors of the time.
** On the other hand, he loathed Creator/CharlesLaughton and the feeling was mutual. The two ArchEnemies were costars on ''Film/{{Spartacus}}'' and filming them both on the set was too much even for Creator/StanleyKubrick to handle and so he delegated referee duty to Peter Ustinov.
* RomanceOnTheSet: Met Creator/VivienLeigh while filming ''Film/FireOverEngland'', and Joan Plowright during the stage production of ''The Entertainer''.
* SesquipedalianLoquaciousness: If his [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSgvp0l1n2s acceptance speech of an honorary Oscar at the 1979 Academy Awards ceremony]] is anything to go by. Actually, it is said that this speech was intended as a little dig at the American Academy over how they would applaud anything even if they didn't understand it. However, judging by some of his other interviews and comments, he really was that poetic.
* ShakespearianActors: He was considered to be the one of the greatest, and alongside Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud in acclaim as a "theatrical knight". Likewise, he attained fame for his Shakespeare films, and his take on Richard III was especially iconic.
* WhatTheHellIsThatAccent: He occasionally put on ridiculous accents for some of his roles. Like ''Film/FortyNinthParallel'' where he plays a Canadian trapper and has an accent that is supposed to sound like Canadian-French-English, and then his weird nasal accent for ''Khartoum'' where he plays the Mahdi. His portrayal of General [=MacArthur=] in ''Inchon'' has been likened to a bad impression of WCFields.