Chris Barrie is probably most famous for his role as Arnold Rimmer, the hologram in cult television show, Red Dwarf. Another role which is famous for in the UK was Gordon Brittas, an annoying accident-prone leisure centre manager in the BBC's The Brittas Empire.
Born in Hanover, Germany into an army family, on 28th March 1960, his full name is Christopher Jonathon Barrie. His father's military post was changed in Barrie's early years so the young Chris attended a school in Northern Ireland, with his later stage of education being completed in a Methodist boarding school in Belfast which he loved. His final year at the boarding school had peaks and troughs though, as even though he failed to achieve much, he was made the head boy. He was also friends with the cool kids at school through the use of his blossoming comedy skills.
Due to Barrie's final year at school being not quite as successful as he may have hoped, he looked for a job with High Wycombe Council where he got a job working in a graveyard. His daily chores were to clean headstones, lock the gates at night, and fill in graves. He wasn't allowed to dig the graves as they said he didn't have enough qualifications.
Becoming an Actor
Working at the graveyard was getting to be a bit of a chore for Barrie, so he decided to further his education by completing a business course at Brighton Polytechnic which he unfortunately dropped out of much to the dismay on his parents. He knew they were going to be annoyed and disappointed at his decision, so instead of telling them face to face, he wrote them a letter saying that he had already joined a drama group and had left college to become an actor. He did fail to mention though that he had already starred in his first lead role in Dial 'M' for Murder.
Whilst waiting for his big break, he did many jobs ranging from collecting shopping trolleys at Waitrose, working in The Reject Shop, driving a van, working as an import-export clerk and as a shop assistant in the sports department of Harrods. He also did a stint on the dole where he spent most of his time watching cricket. Barrie did this until he decided that he was going to become a impressionist.
He started off by working on the comedy club circuit including the infamous Comedy Store, a comedy club in London housed above a strip club. This experience helped him get a two-minute spot on The David Essex Showcase in 1982 for which he was paid £178.
Work seemed to start picking up for Barrie after his television appearance, and in the next few years, he worked on the Jasper Carrott Election Special, Pushing Up Daisies, and on Spitting Image, where he was the principal male character voice.
Characters he played on Spitting Image included,
Barrie's mimicry of Kenneth Williams is a particularly fine impression and can be seen on the Red Dwarf Smeg Ups video where when a scene from Red Dwarf went wrong, he turned Rimmer into Williams seamlessly to great comic effect.
Unfortunately, Barrie has decided that he is not going to do impressions again on television except on various chat shows when he is being interviewed due to the occasional audience member comparing the quality of one impression to another unfavourably.
1987 was a busy year for Barrie. As well as starring in Blackadder the Third as the Ambassador, a part in Filthy, Rich and Catflap and winning the part of Rimmer in Red Dwarf, he also met his first wife, an Italian by the name of Monica. They married the same year but three years later the marriage had fallen apart and they divorced. Barrie says that this was due to the marriage being based on passion as opposed to love.
Red Dwarf started being shown on BBC2 in 1988. Barrie starred as Arnold Judas Rimmer, BSc. SSc. who was in life the youngest of a space corps family who didn't inherit the success genes. He was a 1st Technician, however he failed his astronavigation exam over a dozen times.
He died aged 31, and was brought back in the form of a hologram as company for Lister, his ex room-mate, for whom he makes life hell due to his lying, cheating and his obsession with keeping his underwear on coathangers. Rimmer doesn't like being a hologram and sees being dead as an enormous handicap for himself.
Despite being dead, he has on several occasions been seen to cross-dress. The first time this happened was when he convinced Holly, the ship's computer, to make him him look like an ex girlfriend of a crewmate. The second time was when a computer virus left Rimmer convinced that he was a little girl who had a sock puppet called Mr Flibble who had super powers, and the final time was when the crew landed on Planet Rimmer where all the inhabitants, including the females, looked like Rimmer.
Red Dwarf: The Movie
Red Dwarf: The Movie is still trying to get funding, and has been for the last few years. In theory it is being made with cameo apperances from major celebrities including Madonna and Jackie Chan.
In 2002, Craig Charles, who plays Rimmer's room mate Lister says of the film,
"It's all sorted out, we can't wait to go and do it. It's taken a while because we had to wait for it to become a global hit, as at first people were saying, 'How is a quaint British TV show going to be a hit in the cinema?'... We've got a lot of American stars in it because we want to make it a hit - and to be honest it's something we always wanted and some of our celebrity fans have spoken about. Jackie Chan's in, he's coming in to bash us up! He'll only do a couple of scenes, but it'll be a giggle. There are others, but I'm sworn to secrecy - but they are big names."
The Brittas Empire
Three years after the start of Red Dwarf, in 1991, Barrie was given the title role in The Brittas Empire, a prime time sit-com on BBC1. Barrie plays a similar character to Rimmer in that they are both obnoxious irritating control freaks. Gordon Brittas is the manager of the Whitbury Newtown Leisure Centre, after being moved from his last job of a lesiure centre which had burnt down. The leisure centre has hardly any customers as Brittas either annoys the customers that do turn up, or bans them for a minor infringement of one of his strict policies. Brittas himself doesn't know that he is rude and blunt, and if he ever did find out, he would be very sad as his sole purpose in life is to help people. His attitude is so hard to cope with that his wife is on tablets for her depression, and Brittas himself has been attacked by many people, and even thrown out of heaven and reincarnated back into his old self as he annoyed God so much.
Despite being a big hit in the UK, The Brittas Empire is hardly heard of overseas.
A Prince Among Men
1997 was the start of a new role for Barrie. This was as Gary Prince in A Prince Among Men. This was a change from the usual roles Barrie had played in the past as Prince was a retired footballer with an ego the size of his professional footballers bank balance. Once his playing days were over, Prince was into money making schemes which seemed to contain publicity stunts which went awry. Prince also had an obsession with expensive gadgets which although being the latest in technology, never worked for Prince himself.
This show was not as popular as Red Dwarf and The Brittas Empire in the UK and wasn't shown in other countries.
More recently, Barrie has been seen in Tomb Raider as Hillary, Lara Croft's butler. Barrie says of this role,
"I'd forgotten about it, and I read somewhere that Tomb Raider was starting to shoot - it reminded me that I'd been to the casting! I thought, 'Oh well, bang goes another one. Hey-ho, such is life.' And lo and behold I get this call that they want me on board! So you don't really ask questions about what went before. You just get there, hit your marks and do your lines."
As for his future ambitions, Barrie would like to play a romantic role, however, due to playing characters like Rimmer and Brittas, he fears that he has little chance of ever achieveing this goal.
After his unsuccesful mariage to Monica, he met a fashion buyer called Aleks at a bus stop at Waterloo station during a bomb scare and eventually married on 3rd December 1997. They bought a home in a small village in Berkshire where they live together with their two dogs, a labrador called Cocoa, and an alsatian called Dexter.
At his home, Barrie keeps his prized collection of old motorvehicles. He once had around 42 exhibits, but has now reduced his collection to 9, although that does include an old lorry and the odd motocycle. His collection is a big part of his life, with automobile memorabilia also decorating his house. He also dresses up in clothes which are appropriate to the time each of the machines were made, for example, if he is using his 1939 wartime BSA, he wears his full 1939 outfit whch includes jodhpurs.
Television and Film Credits
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