Culture / Rachel Sumner

Creative Contribution: Stephen Fry

STEPHEN FRY

“I take the angels and the devils. It is part of who I am.”

Stephen Fry is one of Britain’s best known and most loved eccentrics. He is, or has been, an actor, comedian, screenwriter, author, journalist, playwright, poet, television presenter, film director, and a director of Norwich City Football Club.

He is best known currently for his role as host and quiz master in the television show Q.I. However, other well known roles include that of Jeeves in Jeeves and Wooster, in which he starred with friend Hugh Laurie, and their comedy double act A Bit of Fry and Laurie. He has also starred in Blackadder and V for Vendetta, and was he narrator in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Although he is known as a loveable gentleman, Fry lived a very troubled childhood and adolescence. He struggled to come to terms with his sexuality, and finally broke free from the restraints of discipline and parental expectations. He was expelled from a number of schools, and even spent three months in prison for credit card fraud.

Fry wrote a letter to his 16 year old self in 2009, where he confessed everything he had learnt since that young age, and gave advice that he should have listened to 35 years previously. He discussed the issues of gay rights, and offered himself an insight into why he was so arrogant and angry – and why he should change it. “Oh, lord love you, Stephen. How I admire your arrogance and rage and misery. How pure and righteous they are and how passionately storm-drenched was your adolescence.”

He managed to secure a place at Queen’s College, Cambridge, and it was there that he studied English Literature. He has since written columns and articles for magazines and newspapers, along with books and two volumes of autobiography: Moab is my Washpot, which is about his childhood and adolescence, and The Fry Chronicles which carries on from it.

Fry suffers from bipolar disorder, and gives a more realistic insight into depression than that which we get through the grapevine. He created, and starred in, a documentary called “Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive.” In this show, he met up with lots of different people to share their experiences of and views on depression. It ranged from how they dealt with it at work and home, to how their friends and families helped them through the rough times. He hoped that it would open peoples eyes to the truth behind the illness. “When we talk about depression we are not talking about being in a bit of a bad mood where a nice bit of poetry and nature can help, I am talking about being a de-energised lump”.

He is president of mental health charity Mind, and tries to open people up to the truth about depression and mental illness. He attended Hay Festival 2012 with Ruby Wax, and the pair of them discussed this topic. Ruby Wax said that if celebrities can talk openly about mental health issues, then it will help young people to feel more comfortable about asking for help themselves.

All in all, Stephen Fry is my hero. He is someone that I respect and aspire to be like, and someone that I believe is more than worthy of a place in this series of articles.

Interesting Facts:

  • Born 24 August 1957 in Hampstead, London

  • Full name Stephen John Fry

  • He is gay, although has also admitted to being attracted to a few women in the past

  • His father, Alan John Fry, was an English physicist and inventor

  • His maternal grandparents were Hungarian Jewish immigrants

  • His mother’s aunt and cousins died in Auschwitz

  • He has made, and starred in, a number of documentaries

  • He has starred in a number of radio series

  • He is a Virgo

  • Flies his own classic biplane

  • He has read for many audiobook recordings, including all seven Harry Potter novels.

  • Claims the UK record for saying ‘fuck’ on television most times in one live broadcast.

    Rachel Sumner

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