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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Jess Molyneux

Marvel, Netflix and Hollywood stars that are actually from Greater Manchester

With the cold winter weather still around and many of us still recovering from Christmas celebrations, it's the perfect time to stay in, binge a new series, stick on a favourite film or listen to a classic song.

But as you do so, it's likely you'll come across a famous star who hails from our region. Over the decades, Greater Manchester has produced a huge catalogue of talent - and continues to do so.

From stars of the stage to those catapulted to Hollywood fame, the region has never been short of local legends, The Manchester Evening News previously reported. Before they rose to stardom, they grew up in our towns, worked in the area and even started their careers on our doorstep.

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Some were born here, or spent a significant amount of time growing up in Greater Manchester before winning prestigious awards, having careers spanning decades or being catapulted to global fame . To celebrate, we take a look at 15 Marvel, Netflix and Hollywood stars that are actually from Greater Manchester.

The list below isn't intended to be comprehensive, we've selected a number of stars who hail from Greater Manchester. But, if you feel there is someone we should have included, let us know in the comments section.

1. Ian McShane

Ian McShane grew up in Davyhulme (Ian West/PA Wire)

Ian McShane is best known for his title role of Lovejoy in the BBC series and Al Swearengan in Deadwood, for which he won a Golden Globe. Born in Blackburn, but raised in Manchester, McShane grew up in Davyhulme and attended Stretford Grammar School before making California his home.

He’s an ardent Red, which is not surprising given his dad Harry played for United in the early 50s and was later a scout and PA announcer at Old Trafford. McShane has also starred in Dallas, Roots, Wuthering Heights as brooding anti-hero Heathcliff, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Last year, McShane turned 80 on September 29 and according to The Mirror, the British actor and his American wife, actress Gwen Humble, celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary together. He is also set to appear in John Wick franchise spinoff movie, Ballerina.

2. John Mahoney

John Mahoney later emigrated to the US at the age of 19 (Photo by Joey Foley/Getty Images)

John Mahoney is best-known for his roles in films such as Eight Men Out and Barton Fink and for his portrayal of Martin Crane on Frasier. And it is a little known fact that the late star discovered his love of acting at a small theatre group in Stretford. Mahoney was born in Blackpool, but spent much of his childhood in Manchester - and studied at Stretford Children’s Theatre and St. Joseph’s College.

Mahoney later emigrated to the US at the age of 19 where his older sister, Vera, a war bride living in rural Illinois, agreed to sponsor him. It wasn’t until his late thirties when Mahoney, dissatisfied with this career teaching English, started taking acting classes.

From there his acting career flourished and eventually led to him being cast by Paramount in Frasier. He won a Screen Actors Guild Award for the role in 2000 but passed away in 2018.

3. Sir Ben Kingsley

Sir Ben Kingsley has gone onto become one of Hollywood's most respected actors (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Salford-raised actor Sir Ben Kingsley won international acclaim and an Oscar for his role as the Indian statesman Mohandas Gandhi in the 1982 film of the same name. The former Manchester Grammar School student and Salford University graduate has gone onto become one of Hollywood's most respected actors, appearing in Schindler's List and Sexy Beast.

Brought up in Pendlebury, his career has spanned decades and in his long screen career he’s won a Grammy, a BAFTA, two Golden Globes, several Screen Actor Guild Awards and a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He has also starred in Death and The Maiden, House of Sand and Fog, Iron Man 3 and the live action adaptation of Disney’s The Jungle Book.

On New Year's Eve this year, Kingsley will celebrate his 80th birthday.

4. Robert Powell

Robert Powell hails from Salford (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

As far as roles go, they don’t come much bigger than Jesus Christ, who Powell played alongside the likes of Laurence Olivier and James Mason in Anthony Burgess’ 1977 miniseries Jesus of Nazareth. The Salfordian first took to the stage as an aspiring undergraduate legal student at what was then the Royal College of Advanced Technology, now University of Salford.

He was nominated for a BAFTA for his turn as Jesus and won Best Actor at the Paris Film Festival for his title-role in the 1980 Australian thriller, Harlequin. In more recent years, Powell has done extensive voice-over work for documentary series including World War II in Colour and Hitler’s Bodyguard.

5. Graham Nash

The life of Graham Nash is filled with success (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

The life of Graham Nash is filled with success – from the musical acclaim of his bands The Hollies and then supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and his photography. Nash was brought up in central Salford, on Skinner Street just around the corner from the Salford Lads Club - a favourite rehearsal spot for him and his Hollies band mate Allan Clarke - and has been an American citizen since the 1980s.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1997 and as a member of the Hollies in 2010, the same year also gaining an OBE. The international recording artist was also honoured with a doctorate for his services to music from Salford University, many years after he left a degree course in engineering there to concentrate on music.

6. Bernard Hill

Actor Bernard Hill has starred in major productions, such as Titanic (Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)

Born into a Catholic family of miners, Hill has starred in some of the biggest films ever made. Hill, who grew up in Blackley, got his first big role in seminal 80s TV drama Boys from the Blackstuff as Yosser Hughes.

The character became a popular figure with people protesting mass unemployment during the 1980s, particularly his catchphrase "Gizza job". But he is most-known for his roles as Captain Edward Smith in Titanic, King Théoden in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy and Luther Plunkitt, the Warden of San Quentin Prison in the Clint Eastwood film True Crime.

Hill was also the first actor to have starred in more than one film grossing more than $1 billion USD, namely: Titanic and The Return Of The King. More recently, he appeared as Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk in the 2015 BBC’s adaption of Wolf Hall.

Have you seen any of our stars around the city? Let us know in the comments.

7. Claire Foy

Claire Foy, from Stockport, rose to prominence in Netflix's The Crown (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)

Claire Foy rose to prominence after playing the Queen in hugely successful Netflix series The Crown, a role which she won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. But Foy has more humble roots than her on-screen character, hailing from Stockport.

Born in Stepping Hill Hospital, she grew up in Manchester and Leeds, before moving down south. She has also starred in mini-series' Wolf Hall and more recently A Very British Scandal, playing Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll.

In 2022, Foy made a guest appearance in The Crown.

8. Benedict Wong

Benedict Wong is loved in Marvel universe and beyond (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

Born in Eccles, Benedict Wong is no stranger to Hollywood action films. Wong spent two years studying performing arts at Pendleton Sixth Form College, before he was known for portraying Kublai Khan in Netflix’s Marco Polo and the character of Wong in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

He’s been in some big blockbuster Sci-Fi films, like The Martian, Prometheus - as well a superhero films Doctor Strange and Avengers: Infinity War. On television, he has also appeared in The IT Crowd, Law & Order: UK and Black Mirror.

He had a starring role in 2021 hit film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

9. Sir Ian McKellen

Sir Ian McKellen has been in the spotlight for decades (Matt Crossick/PA Wire)

Sir Ian McKellen is one of the most famous actors in the world, whose career spans genres ranging from Shakespearean and modern theatre to popular fantasy and science fiction With six Laurence Olivier Awards, a Golden Globe, a Tony Award and Critics’ Choice awards to his name, McKellen is about as good as they get in the world of theatre.

McKellen was born in Burnley, before his family moved to Wigan and then Bolton. After getting a scholarship to study at Cambridge University, he became an esteemed theatre actor. He has starred as Magneto in the X-Men films, and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies and in 2005, he achieved his life-time ambition of starring in Coronation Street, playing author Mel Hutchwright.

The Manchester Evening News recently reported how the West End production of panto Mother Goose starring comedian John Bishop and Hollywood star Sir Ian McKellen is heading to Salford.

10. Holliday Grainger

Holliday Grainger was born in Didsbury (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

Born in Didsbury, Holliday Grainger is perhaps best known for her roles as Lucrezia Borgia in The Borgias and Lady Chatterley in the BBC’s 2015 adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s classic novel. Her first acting role was at six years old in the BBC comedy drama series All Quiet on the Preston Front and roles followed in Casualty, Doctors, Dalziel and Pascoe, Where the Heart Is, and she played Stacey Appleyard in the Rochdale-based drama Waterloo Road.

The former Parrs Wood High School pupil, now 33, played Bonnie Parker in the History Channel’s Bonnie and Clyde and starred in Mike Newell’s big screen version of Great Expectations. She has also had roles in British drama film The Riot Club, Disney’s Cinderella remake.

Following an acclaimed performance as a detective in BBC surveillance thriller The Capture, last year Grainger landed a leading role in sci-fi film Kickey7, opposite Robert Pattinson. Grainger also recently starred in series finale of BBC drama Strike: Troubled Blood.

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11. Albert Finney

The late British actor Albert Finney grew up in Pendleton (Sean Dempsey/PA Wire)

Albert Finney was born in the Charlestown area of Pendleton, and went to Salford Grammar School, before getting a place at prestigious acting school RADA in London. He then made the transition to film and television, and won a BAFTA, Golden Globe, Emmy and Screen Actors Guild for his work.

He’s been in some hugely popular movies, like Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, Erin Brockovich, The Bourne Ultimatum and Skyfall. Finney died in 2019 at the age of 82.

12. Phoebe Dynevor

Phoebe Dynevor rose to fame after starring in Netflix's Bridgerton (Photo by Amy Sussman/WireImage)

Phoebe Dynevor's role in the Netflix hit as Daphne Bridgerton catapulted her to worldwide fame as people binged the series in their millions. The eldest daughter of Coronation Street's Sally Dynevor, she has also starred in Waterloo Road, Prisoner's Wives, Younger and Snatch.

Her role in Netflix's Bridgerton earned her a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series along with the main cast of the series Dynevor also recently made her feature film debut as Clarice Cliff in Sky Cinema's The Colour Room.

Dynevor returned to her role in Bridgerton last year for the second series of the hit show. Her next project is Netflix movie Bank of Dave, which will be released later this month.

13. Bert Kwouk

Born in Manchester in 1930, Bert Kwouk was raised in Shanghai, China, until he was 17, when he moved to the United States. Kwouk was best known for playing Cato Fong in the Pink Panther films and has three James Bond credits to his name, appearing in Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice and the 1967 spoof Casino Royale.

His best-known TV work includes shows like The Avengers and Danger Man and another of his film credits is Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun. He was honoured with an OBE for his services to drama in the 2011 New Year's Honours list. Kwouk died aged 85 in 2016.

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14. Agyness Deyn

Agyness Deyn, from Rossendale (Photo by Roy Rochlin/WireImage)

Agyness Deyn started her working life in a Rossendale chip shop at the age of 13, later making a name for herself as a highly successful model and actress. Born in Littleborough, she had her first taste of fame when she won the Rossendale Free Press ‘Face of ‘99’ competition at just 16 and went on to model for Dolce and Gabbana, Karl Lagerfeld and Armani.

In 2012, she announced that she had retired from modelling, and focused on her career as an actor. Since she's been in big hitters like Clash of the Titans, fantasy-horror film Patient Zero, and Electricity – about the journey of a young woman with epilepsy.

15. Max Beesley

Actor Max Beesley attends the 17th Annual British Academy of Film & Television Arts/Los Angeles Britannia Awards at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on November 6, 2008 in Los Angeles, California (Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images)

Burnage-born actor and musician Max Beesley, 50, has starred in numerous television shows, such as Bodies , The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling , Survivors , Mad Dogs , But Beesley gained more exposure with American audiences with a recurring role on Suits and later a recurring role in US spy drama Homeland opposite Claire Danes, as ex-British special forces bodyguard Mike Brown.

He is also known for playing Henry Sharrow in the Sky One series Jamestown, which follows the first English settlers as they establish a community in the New World. Also a session musician and solo artist, before becoming an actor he worked with Take That, Robbie Williams and Jamiroquai.

Last year, Beesley was on set for Apple TV thriller Hijack alongside Idris Elba.

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