Glorified actor, dramatist, singer and a gay, Ian Charleson was born on 11 August 1949 in Edinburgh, Scotland. All through his education, he continued his studies with scholarships. He studied at Edinburgh's Royal High School. In his childhood, he is a solo singer and a part of his school's choir. He won a scholarship and went to the University of Edinburgh and obtained a 3-year Scottish MA ordinary degree. Though he studied architecture, his passion towards drama made him spend more time in the voluntary student-run Edinburgh University Drama Society. After performing lead roles in numerous Shakespearean plays, he studied in London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA).
Later, because of his performance, he was taken by Frank Dunlop's Young Vic Theatre Company. His professional stage debut is in 1972 as one of the brothers in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He worked for a few more plays like Look Back in Anger, Much Ado About Nothing, etc. and appeared in a few abroad stage plays by Young Vic's in The Taming of the Shrew, Scapino, and French Without Tears. Though everyone praised for his performance as the crucial role in Hamlet at Cambridge Theatre Company, he said that he couldn't justify to the best of his performance. Ian Charleson's performed at different places like Queens Theatre, National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Aldwych Theatre, etc.
The makers of "Chariots of Fire", an inspirational movie, were impressed by his performance in "Piaf" and fixed him for the role of Scot Eric Lindell, an athlete. With this magnum opus, Ian Charleson raised to the level of international celebrity. And the role he played in the movie "
Gandhi" as the Anglican Priest and Mahatma Gandhi's friend Charlie Andrews, got him numerous Academy Awards, including the Best Picture. He has remarkable roles played in a number of movies to his credit, and Ian Charleson is famous for his performance in Shakespearean plays like Hamlet, All's Well That Ends Well, Antony & Cleopatra, etc. He was also noted for his singing works in Much Ado About Nothing, Piaf, Guys, and Dolls, etc.
Eight weeks after his most awaited performance in the title role in Hamlet, in Richard Eyre's production, he died in January 1990 because of AIDS, and he wanted it to be revealed after his demise to publicize the condition. Because of his outstanding performance in many of his stage plays, TV plays, telefilms, and Shakespearean plays, he was honored internationally. Ian Charleson Awards were established in 1991 to reward the best British classic stage performers under the age of 30. A few of Charleson's friends like
Ian McKellen contributed and compiled a book "For Ian Charleson: A Tribute." With his much-acclaimed performances, he managed to be on the top ten list of actors of his age group.