-> ''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 ''Theatre/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 ''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 ''{{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.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.