Charles Dance was born 10 October 1946, in Redditch, Worcestershire, the son of Eleanor Marion (née Perks; 1911–1984), a cook, and Walter Dance (1874–1949), an electrical engineer, who had served as a sergeant in the 2nd Regular Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) during the Second Boer War in South Africa (having previously served in the 2nd Volunteer Battalion). Dance had two older half-sisters, Norah (1898–1993) and Mary (1903–1908), from his father’s previous marriage. When Dance was about three years old, his father died. He had always thought that his father had been in his early fifties when this happened, but later discovered that he was actually some 26 years older than he had believed. Dance disclosed in an interview that his mother had been arranged to a mental institute when he was a child. During filming of an episode for the genealogical series Who Do You Think You Are? in 2016, Dance also discovered that through his maternal line, he is of partial Belgian ancestry, descended from a family whose roots lay in Spa. His immigrant ancestor Charles François Futvoye (1777–1847) had been a pioneer in the art of Japanning during the early half of the 19th century, and a resident of Marylebone in London. Growing up in Plymouth, Devon, Dance attended Widey Technical School for Boys (it was closed in 1988, then known as Widey High School) in Crownhill. He later attended Plymouth College of Art and the Leicester College of Arts (now known as De Montfort University), where he studied graphic design and photography.
Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)
Dance was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company during the mid-to-late 1970s and was in many of their productions in London and Stratford-upon-Avon. Later he returned to the RSC to take the title role in Coriolanus at Stratford-upon-Avon and Newcastle in 1989, and at the Barbican Theatre in 1990. He received rave reviews and a Critics’ Circle Best Actor award for his performance as C. S. Lewis in William Nicholson’s Shadowlands, in the 2007 stage revival. Television and film
Dance made his screen debut in 1974, in the ITV series Father Brown as Commandant Neil O’Brien in “The Secret Garden”. Other small parts followed, including a 1983 cameo as a South African assassin in The Professionals, but his big break came the following year when he played the major role of Guy Perron in The Jewel in the Crown (Granada Television, Christopher Morahan 1984), an adaptation of Paul Scott’s novels that also made stars of Geraldine James and Art Malik. Dance made one of his earliest big-screen appearances in the 1981 James Bond film For Your Eyes Only as evil henchman Claus. Though he turned down the opportunity to screen test for the James Bond role, in 1989 he played Bond creator Ian Fleming in Anglia Television’s dramatised biography directed by Don Boyd, Goldeneye (the name of Fleming’s estate in Jamaica and a title later used for a James Bond film). He has also starred in many other British television dramas such as Edward the Seventh (as dissolute Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, Edward VII’s oldest son, and heir to the throne), Murder Rooms, Randall and Hopkirk, Rebecca, The Phantom of the Opera, Fingersmith and Bleak House (for which he received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie). He was name-checked in the British comedy series Absolutely Fabulous, as being slated to play the title character in The Life of Jesus Christ 2, which was filming in Morocco at the same time as the main characters of the series were there for a photo shoot. He also played Guy Spencer, the pro-Hitler propagandist, in the second instalment of Foyle’s War, and had an ongoing role as Dr. Maltravers in the ITV drama Trinity. Dance made a guest appearance on the BBC drama series Merlin as the Witchfinder Aredian, and as a vainglorious version of himself in the third series of Jam & Jerusalem. He played Lord Vetinari in the 2010 Sky adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, and as the Russian oligarch Aleksandr Borinski in Paris Connections. He played the role of Tywin Lannister in HBO’s Game of Thrones, based on the A Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R. R. Martin. Dance was wooed for the role by the producers while filming Your Highness in Belfast. Dance also played Conrad Knox on the British television series Strike Back: Vengeance as the primary villain in the series. On 30 June 2013, Dance appeared with other celebrities in an episode of the BBC’s Top Gear as a “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car” for the debut of the Vauxhall Astra. In summer 2018, Dance narrated a documentary entitled Spitfire, which featured the legendary Supermarine Spitfire and recounted the efforts of the RAF pilots who flew them during the Second World War. In 2019, he played an antagonist in Godzilla: King of the Monsters and appeared as Lord Mountbatten in series 3 of The Crown later in the same year. In 2020, Dance portrayed William Randolph Hearst in David Fincher’s Mank, co-starring alongside Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried. In January 2021, Dance was cast in the Netflix adaptation of The Sandman.
Screenwriting and directing
Dance’s debut film as a writer and director was Ladies in Lavender (2004), which starred Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. In 2009, he directed his own adaptation of Alice Thomas Ellis’s The Inn at the Edge of the World.
Dance married Joanna Haythorn in 1970. They have two children, Oliver Matthew (born 1974) and Rebecca (born 1980). Haythorn and Dance divorced in 2004. In 2012, Dance and his partner Eleanor Boorman had a daughter, Rose Boorman. The pair have since separated.
Dance was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) on 17 June 2006.