Born Laurence Kerr Olivier on May 22, 1907 in (I love British township names) Dorking, Surrey, "Larry" (as he insisted upon being called no matter his knighthood or other accolades) first came to prominence as a Shakespearean actor by alternating the roles of Romeo and Mercutio with Sir John Gielgud in Romeo and Juliet on the London stage in 1935, but his true breakout film role came in Alfred Hitchcock's film Rebecca, which earned him an Oscar nomination in 1940.
A true master of his craft, Olivier worked in almost every capacity of the entertainment business: actor, producer (he produced most of the filmed versions of Shakespearean plays in which he starred in the 40s and 50s), director (ditto), writer (yup!), and editor.
He didn't care what the medium was, stage, film, or television, he did it all, researching his roles "with all the thoroughness of Sherlock Holmes" (Charles C. Bennett).
In 1940 he married fellow actress Vivien Leigh and they starred together in many works until their divorce in 1960. Olivier often claimed his spouse regularly upstaged him, but also admitted he was never all that picky about the roles he took on--the man was Zeus in the hammy Clash of the Titans, remember!
Olivier's incredible ability to throw himself into a role gave him amazing breadth as an actor, giving him the ability to chillingly portray a Nazi in one film (Marathon Man) and an obssessed Nazi hunter in another (The Boys from Brazil; both roles were Oscar-nominated).
He was knighted in 1947, and became a member of the House of Lords in 1971. His health began to fail him in the 80s, and he died on July 11, 1989 at the age of 82, widely regarded as the finest actor of the twentieth century. The only acting advice he ever gave anyone was "Relax your feet".
Information contained herein adapted from The Internet Movie Database biographical entry.