Harry Bernard Cross (born 16 December 1947), known professionally as Ben Cross, is an English stage and film actor, best known for his portrayal of the British Olympic athlete Harold Abrahams in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire and as Sarek in the 2009 reboot film Star Trek.
Year Title Role Notes
1977 A Bridge Too Far Trooper Binns
1981 Chariots of Fire Harold Abrahams
1985 The Assisi Underground Rufino Niccacci
1988 The Unholy Father Michael
La bottega dell’orefice Stephane
1991 Eye of the Widow Nassiri
1992 Live Wire Mikhail Rashid
1993 Cold Sweat Mark Cahill
1995 First Knight Prince Malagant
Hellfire Marius Carnot
1997 Turbulence Captain Samuel Bowen
The Invader Renn
1999 Tower of the Firstborn Michael Shannon / Zadick
The Venice Project Rudy Mestry / Bishop Orsini
2001 The Order Ben Ner
2004 Exorcist: The Beginning Semelier
2005 The Mechanik William Burton
2006 Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil Commander Tim Mackey Direct to video
Wicked Little Things Aaron Hanks
2007 Nietzsche szenvedései – When Nietzsche Wept Josef Breuer
Finding Rin Tin Tin Nikolaus
2005 Hero Wanted Cosmo Jackson Direct to video
War, Inc. Medusa Hair
2009 Star Trek Sarek
2013 Jack the Giant Killer Agent Hinton Direct to video
A Common Man Morris Da Silva
2018 The Hurricane Heist Sheriff Jimmy Dixon
Year Title Role Notes
1979 ITV Playhouse Terry Jones 1 episode
1980 The Professionals Stuart 1 episode
1981 The Flame Trees of Thika Ian Crawford 4 episodes
1982 Coming Out of the Ice General Tuchachevsky Television film
1983 The Citadel Dr. Andrew Mason Miniseries
1986 The Twilight Zone Frederick 1 episode (Segment: “Devil’s Alphabet”)
1988 Steal the Sky Munir Redfa Television film
1991 Dark Shadows Barnabas Collins Main cast, 12 episodes
1992 The Ray Bradbury Theater Ettil Vyre 1 episode
1992 Tales from the Crypt Benjamin A. Polosky 1 episode
1996 Poltergeist: The Legacy Samuel Warden 1 episode
1997 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Captain Nemo Television film
1997 Salamon, a zsidók királya (1997) (TV)Television film
2003 Trial & Retribution D.S. Taylor Matthews 2 episodes
2004 Spartacus Titus Glabrus Miniseries
2005Ikon..Icon.. Anatoly Grishin Television film
2006 S.S. Doomtrooper Doctor Ullman Television film
2006 Hannibal – Rome’s Worst Nightmare Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Television film
2006 Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial Rudolf Hess Miniseries
2007 Grendel King Hrothgar Television film
2007 Species – The Awakening Tom Hollander Television film
2008 Lost City Raiders Nicholas Filiminov Television film
2009 Hellhounds King Leander Television film
2010 Ben Hur Emperor Tiberius Miniseries
2011 William & Kate: The Movie Prince Charles Television film
2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Dr. Mindstrong (voice) 2 episodes
2013-14 Banshee Mr. Rabbit Main cast, 20 episodes
2014-15 Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja The Sorcerer (voice) Main cast, 14 episodes
2018 12 Monkeys Nicodemus 2 episodes
Cross was born Harry Bernard Cross, in London, to a working class Catholic family, with Irish ancestry.His mother was a cleaning woman and his father a doorman and nurse.
Cross was educated at Bishop Thomas Grant Secondary Modern School in Streatham, South London.
Cross initially worked in various jobs including work as a window cleaner, waiter and joiner. He was master carpenter for the Welsh National Opera and property master at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham.
In 1970 at the age of 22, he was accepted into London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) – the alma mater of actors such as John Gielgud, Glenda Jackson and Anthony Hopkins, but later expressed little interest in pursuing the classical route. He also appeared as a CI5 agent in an episode of The Professionals (‘Black Out’ S4E2)
After graduation from RADA, Cross performed in several stage plays at Duke’s Playhouse where he was seen in Macbeth, The Importance of Being Earnest and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. He then joined the Prospect Theatre Company and played roles in Pericles, Twelfth Night, and Royal Hunt of the Sun. Cross also joined the cast of the immensely popular musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and played leading roles in Sir Peter Shaffer’s Equus, Mind Your Head and the musical Irma La Douce – all at Leicester’s Haymarket Theatre.
Cross’s first big screen film appearance came in 1976 when he went on location to Deventer, Netherlands, to play Trooper Binns in Joseph E. Levine’s World War II epic A Bridge Too Far which starred an international cast, including Dirk Bogarde, Sean Connery, Michael Caine and James Caan.
In 1977, Cross became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and performed in the premier of Privates on Parade as “Kevin Cartwright” and played Rover in a revival of a Restoration play titled Wild Oats. Cross’s path to international stardom began in 1978 with his performance in the play Chicago in which he played Billy Flynn, the slick lawyer of murderess Roxie Hart.
During Cross’s performance in Chicago, he was recognised and recommended for a leading role in the multiple Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire. For their performances in the film, Cross and his co-star Ian Charleson both won “Most Promising Artiste of 1981” awards from the Variety Club Awards in February 1982.
Cross’s starring role in Chariots of Fire has been credited with continuing a transatlantic trend in elegant young English actors that had been set by Jeremy Irons in Brideshead Revisited, and was followed by Rupert Everett in Dance with a Stranger, Rupert Graves in A Room With a View, and Hugh Grant in Maurice.
Cross followed up Chariots of Fire with performances as a Scottish physician, Dr Andrew Manson, struggling with the politics of the British medical system during the 1920s, in The Citadel, a 10-part BBC dramatisation of A.J. Cronin’s novel, and as Ashton (Ash) Pelham-Martyn, a British cavalry officer torn between two cultures in the ITV miniseries The Far Pavilions.
In 1982, the U.S. union Actors’ Equity, in a landmark reversal of a previous ruling, allowed Cross to appear in John Guare’s off-Broadway play Lydie Breeze. The decision was tied to a joint effort by Actors’ Equity, the League of New York Theatres and the British union Equity to allow British and U.S. actors unrestricted opportunities to work in both countries. The agreement eventually led to regular equal exchange agreements for equivalent acting jobs between London and New York.
During the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, Cross appeared in a commercial for American Express (‘Don’t leave home without it’) with the 87-year-old Jackson Scholz, a sprinter for the 1924 American Olympic team whose character was featured in the film Chariots of Fire. When Cross says something about beating Scholz, the latter remarks, “You didn’t beat me!” with mock indignation. Proving he is ‘still pretty fast’, Scholz beats Cross to the draw in picking up the tab with his credit card.
He subsequently replaced James Garner as the featured actor endorsing the Polaroid Spectra camera in 1986. Cross was also featured in GQ Magazine as one of the annual “Manstyle” winners in January, 1985 followed by a featured photo shoot in March, 1985.
In 1985, he played Barney Greenwald in a hit revival of Herman Wouk’s courtroom drama The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial at the Queen’s Theatre, London.
In a 1985 interview the actor admitted he preferred American roles because of their emotionalism, saying of English acting: ‘Over here, people hide behind mannerism and technique and don’t come up with any soul. American actors are much freer with the emotions. It’s pretty hard in Europe not to have experience of Americans because we’re exposed to a lot of American product.’ Cross also said that he was sympathetic to the American dream of success: ‘I am ambitious. There’s no point of being ashamed of the fact that one has ambitions. Despite what a lot of people think in our profession, you can have ambitions and still turn in good work and still earn a living. There’s no clash there.’ Cross expressed the hope that his reputation would ‘span the Atlantic,’ and that those in the industry would not ignore him because he did not live in Los Angeles or New York City. ‘A prospective director would have to convince me that I could bring something new, fresh and exciting to a classical part that hundreds of other people have played,’ he said.
Over the years, Cross has played Iraqi pilot Munir Redfa blackmailed into flying a MiG from Iraq to Israel in the 1988 HBO spy film Steal the Sky, and in Ian Sharp’s 1989 NBC-TV miniseries, Twist of Fate, a German Nazi SS colonel and war criminal Helmut von Schraeder, who has his face and voice surgically changed to pose as a Jew in a concentration camp to avoid post-war capture and war crime punishment by the approaching Allies, then after his liberation at the war’s end by twist of fate becomes a Zionist and ends up becoming one of the state of Israel’s founders and military generals, a vampire in the 1989 USA Network film Nightlife, another vampire, Barnabas Collins, in the 1991 MGM miniseries remake of the cult classic TV soap opera, Dark Shadows, Sir Harold Pearson in the 1994 Italian production “Caro Dolce Amore (Honey Sweet Love)”, Solomon in the 1997 Trimark Pictures production Solomon and Captain Nemo in the 1997 CBS film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
2000 to present
Cross played Ikey Solomon in the Australian production The Potato Factory in 2000. In 2005, Cross, an anti-death penalty campaigner, starred as a death-row prisoner in Bruce Graham’s play Coyote on a Fence, at the Duchess Theatre. He played Rudolf Hess in the 2006 BBC production Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial.
In November 2007, Cross was cast in the role of Sarek, in the then-new Star Trek film directed and produced by J.J. Abrams. Cross spoke to Star Trek magazine following the film’s release, saying, ‘My agent put me forward for Star Trek, and he sent a couple of films to J.J. I’m sure he was too busy to watch the whole of Species, but when we were on the set, he mentioned to me that there was one particular shot in it where I turned to the camera, and in that moment, it came to him how perfect it would be for me to play Sarek.'[ In order to prepare for the role, Cross drew on his experience as a parent as well as Sarek’s previous on-screen appearances. Having been present when his daughter was born, he was able to ‘call on all sorts of things’ in the scene where Amanda has baby Spock, a scene which did not make it into the theatrical cut of the film. While he found the emotionless trait of a Vulcan a challenge to play, he found the father/son relationship between Sarek and Spock easier to play. ‘As Sarek, I had to be true to the Vulcan cultural ethic, which in the beginning, I found very difficult. I got a lot of help with that from J.J. Dealing with the adult Spock (played by Zachary Quinto) was a much more mature relationship, and I found the father/son aspect one of the easier things to play.’
In 2012, Cross was cast as Rabbit, the main antagonist on the Cinemax original series Banshee. Rabbit is “a ruthless Ukrainian gangster who has been hunting down two of his former top thieves for 15 years.”
Cross is a director, writer and musician. He has written music, screenplays and articles for English-language publications and has written the lyrics for an album with Bulgarian singer Vasil Petrov, which was released in late 2007. He sang two Sinatra songs with Petrov in the Apollonia Festival at the Black Sea in September 2007.
Among his works is the musical Rage about Ruth Ellis, which was performed in the London area. He starred in it and played the part of the hangman.
Cross’s first single as a lyricist was released by Polydor Records in the late 1970s and was titled Mickey Moonshine. The nom de guerre for the performance had occurred to Ben when he recalled an earlier involvement with the music industry as a session singer for Decca between 1972 and 1974. At this time, he had recorded a song called ‘Name it, You Got it’, which achieved some play on the British Northern soul scene. Other works include The Best We’ve Ever Had and Nearly Midnight, both written by Cross and directed by his son Theo.
In addition, the original soundtrack for Nearly Midnight was written, produced and performed by his daughter Lauren. These works were performed in Edinburgh in 2002 and 2003 respectively. Square One, directed by Cross, was performed at the Etcetera Theatre in London in 2004.
Cross has lived in London, Los Angeles, New York City, southern Spain, Vienna, and most recently, Sofia, Bulgaria.
He has been married three times: first to Penny, from 1977 to 1992, with whom he has two children; then to Michelle until 2005, and on 18 August 2018 wearing Bulgarian folk dress, a traditional wedding in front of many thousands spectators during the folklore festival in Zheravna, Bulgaria to the Bulgarian Deyana. In October 2014 he became a grandfather.