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Whatever Happened To The Cast Of First Knight?

Jerry Zucker's "First Knight" (1995) tells the story of one of the world's most infamous love triangles. King Arthur (Sean Connery) is set to marry Guinevere (Julia Ormond) when the arrival of the carefree Lancelot (Richard Gere) throws a real wrench into things. Guinevere is torn between her passion for Lancelot and desire for Arthur's protection, while Arthur struggles to defend his kingdom from the threat of Malagant (Ben Cross), a knight with a love of power.

Zucker had been known as a comedy director with his work on "Airplane!" and "Top Secret!," but he started making a shift into more serious fare with "Ghost." "First Knight" was Zucker's first period piece and while it draws from the legends of King Arthur, it takes some liberties as well. While Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere have historically been shown as the same age, Zucker cast the older Sean Connery as Arthur, juxtaposing his stately experience with the risk-taking Lancelot, who doesn't care if he lives or dies. 

"First Knight" is more than a historical action film, as it's really about the romance. But of course, you can't tell the story of King Arthur without the Knights of the Round Table, so "First Knight" cast a number of actors to fill out these roles. Some of them were seasoned vets while others were just starting their careers and would go on to greater recognition. Here is what the cast of "First Knight" is up to today.

Richard Gere as Lancelot

While King Arthur offers Guinevere the promise of stability, Richard Gere's Lancelot is the wild card who stirs her heart (and then some). He's an existentialist who throws himself into danger's way without a second thought, not concerned with the possibility of his own death.

Gere's breakout role was as a sex worker in Paul Schrader's "American Gigolo," but the 90s brought a change of direction as Gere focused on romantic films and thrillers. He took roles in films like "Runaway Bride," which brought him back together with his "Pretty Woman" costar Julia Roberts, and "Primal Fear" opposite Edward Norton. Audiences saw a new side of Gere as a violently distraught husband in 2002's "Unfaithful" and then as sleazy tap-dancing lawyer Billy Flynn in "Chicago."

Gere has been a Buddhist since his 20s and a longtime advocate to free Tibet and boycott China. According to the Hollywood Reporter, he's been banned from China for life and turned to indie films after studios stopped hiring him due to his politics and their fear of losing the Chinese market (his last studio film was 2008's "Nights in Rodanthe").

Gere has continued to appear in smaller, indie films like Nicholas Jarecki's "Arbitrage," alongside Susan Sarandon and Brit Marling. His most recent turn was in the thriller miniseries "MotherFatherSon." As he told THR, he's always going to go for the "small, interesting, character-driven and narrative-driven stories," so we look forward to seeing what surprises he comes out with next.

Julia Ormond as Guinevere

It's hard to think of the Knights of the Round Table without considering Queen Guinevere. A woman caught between two very different men who love her, Julia Ormond's Guinevere in "First Knight" is torn between her heart and mind as she wants to pursue her desire for Lancelot while maintaining the security of staying with King Arthur.

When she appeared in "First Knight," Julia Ormond was hot off her star turns in her 1993 film debut, Peter Greenaway's "The Baby of Mâcon," and Edward Zwick's "Legends of the Fall," where she became the envy of women, gay men, and anyone with eyes everywhere after she snagged the hearts of Brad Pitt, Aidan Quinn, and Henry Thomas in the film.

Since "First Knight," Ormond has appeared in a number of film and TV roles. She starred in the thriller, "Smilla's Sense of Snow,"

as well as the 1995 remake of "Sabrina," opposite Harrison Ford. She's worked on crime shows like "CSI: NY" and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" and can currently be seen in "The Walking Dead: World Beyond."

Ormond formed her own production company, Indican Productions, and executive produced the 1997 documentary, "Calling the Ghosts: A Story about Rape, War and Women." A long-time activist, Ormond has focused her time on fighting human trafficking as well as raising awareness of AIDS in places like Russia and the Ukraine.

Sean Connery as King Arthur

The original James Bond traded in his three-piece suit for a suit of armor to play the role of King Arthur in "First Knight." Sean Connery portrays Arthur as a paternalistic ruler who finds his masculinity challenged by the younger and more carefree Lancelot. Connery was already a mega star, and it's not hard to picture him — an actor with equal amounts of charm and gravitas — as the once and future king. After his turn in "First Knight," Connery played alongside Uma Thurman in 1998's "The Avengers," which follows two British agents who team up to stop a villain from destroying the world with a weather-changing machine.

The year 2000 found Connery in Gus Van Sant's "Finding Forrester," where he played a reclusive mentor to a young writing prodigy, while his last major film was 2003's "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen." Never one to mince words, Connery decided to retire from acting in 2005 because of the "idiots now making films in Hollywood." However, he came out of retirement one last time in 2012 to play the voice of Sir Billi in the animated film of the same name.

Sean Connery died in 2020 at the age of 90. He passed away in his home in the Bahamas where he was living with his wife, Michelle Roquebrune. Whether traveling the world as James Bond or crossing the British countryside as King Arthur, Connery will always be remembered as one of the great screen legends.

Ben Cross as Malagant

The threat to King Arthur's kingdom in "First Knight" comes in the form of Malagant, a rebel knight who wants the throne for himself. Ben Cross plays this villain to perfection in "First Knight," kidnapping Guinevere and seeking to impose his own moral code on others.

A musician as well as actor, Ben Cross starred as the original Billy Flynn in the 1978 West End Production of "Chicago," which led to a leading role in the Oscar-winning "Chariots of Fire." This launched him into fame, which he felt conflicted about, even telling the New York Times in 1985 that he wanted to "disillusion" fans by smoking cigarettes until they stopped associating him only with "Chariots of Fire." In the same interview, he noted that "these misfit roles seem to seek me out," which perhaps explains how he took on the part in "First Knight." 

Cross' career after "First Knight" mostly centered around TV shows and miniseries. He appeared as Emperor Tiberius in the miniseries "Ben Hur" (2010) and Prince Charles in the TV movie, "William & Kate" (2011). He also played the Ukrainian mob boss, Mr. Rabbit, in "Banshee." Cross' biggest film role after "First Knight" was as Spock's father, Sarek, in JJ Abrams' reboot of "Star Trek." More recently, Cross appeared in "The Last Letter from Your Lover" (2021) with Shailene Woodley. Sadly, Cross passed away in 2020 of cancer, just after wrapping his final film role in the horror film "The Devil's Light."

Liam Cunningham as Sir Agravain

Every king needs a right hand man and in "First Knight," it's Irish actor Liam Cunningham as Sir Agravain who occupies that position for King Arthur. Cunningham started out as an electrician and spent three years working for a safari park in Zimbabwe in the 1980s. Fed up with that job, he switched to acting and later made his feature film debut in "Into The West" (1992), starring Gabriel Byrne and Ellen Barkin.

Following "First Knight," Cunningham went on to a steady stream of fantasy and action roles. There was 2008's "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor;" 2010's "Clash of the Titans;" and 2012's "Safe House" with Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds. He's worked in TV as well, appearing in the sci-fi series "Outcasts" (2011) and the miniseries "Titanic: Blood and Steel" (2012).

Perhaps Cunningham's best-known role since "First Knight" is Ser Davos Seaworth in "Game of Thrones," a former smuggler who is the right hand to a different king as he counsels Stannis Baratheon. In Cunningham's hands, Davos stands out as a loyal and steadfast character, who keeps his head screwed on amidst the chaos and turmoil of Westeros. These days, Cunningham can be heard alongside "Game of Thrones'" alumnus Lena Headey in the animated series, "Masters of the Universe: Revelation." He will also reunite with "Game of Thrones" creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss in their new sci-fi series, "The Three-Body Problem."

Christopher Villiers as Sir Kay

British actor Christopher Villiers reunites with his old "Top Secret!" director, Jerry Zucker, to play Sir Kay in "First Knight." In the legends of King Arthur, Sir Kay is Arthur's foster brother and one of the original knights of the round table, who becomes a bit of a bully over time.

Before "First Knight," Villiers could be found in TV series like "Mansfield Park" (1983) and "We Are Seven" (1991). While Villiers has appeared in some film roles since "First Knight," such as "Sliding Doors" (1998) with Gwyneth Paltrow, and director Paul Greengrass' "Bloody Sunday" (2002), he's primarily found his space in the TV world, appearing in the British soap opera "Emmerdale Farm" and the period piece drama, "Hetty Feather."

Villiers' role in "First Knight" led to an unexpected opportunity as he met personal trainer Richard Smedley while on set. The two of them founded 2020 Casting (now Mad Dog 2020 Casting), which has found extras for films like "Gladiator," "Bridget Jones' Diary," and "Shakespeare in Love." Villiers continues to sit on the board of this agency, which has cast for films like "The Favourite" and "Sweeney Todd."

Valentine Pelka as Sir Patrise

Valentine Pelka plays Sir Patrise, one of the knights of the round table, although this certainly wasn't the first or last time Pelka would play a medieval or historical character. He previously had a recurring role in the 1987 series "Crossbow" and also played young Freud in the 1989 TV movie "A Beginner's Guide to Freud."

But "First Knight" opened up bigger doors in the medieval and fantasy world as Pelka met Bob Anderson, who did the fight choreography for the film. Pelka recalled in an interview with Michelle Erika Green that Anderson was working on "Highlander" and recommended Pelka to the show's casting director. Pelka appeared as the evil Kronos in "Highlander" from 1997 to 1998 and this role, combined with his work on the miniseries "Ivanhoe" (1997), made him anxious about typecasting. Noting the danger of taking roles that put him in costume or on a horse, Pelka made the conscious decision to play more modern characters, such as Graham in "What Rats Won't Do" opposite Parker Posey. 

But Pelka also admitted to enjoying period pieces as "it does appeal to the boy in one, getting onto a horse prancing around with armor and a sword." He took on a role in the series "Queen of Swords," set in 19th-century California, and more recently appeared in the 2018 feature adaptation of "Macbeth" with Mark Rowley.

Colin McCormack as Sir Mador

British actor Colin McCormack portrayed Sir Mador, a more minor knight of the round table. McCormack began acting in theater, working with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1960s. He first appeared on screen in the late '60s and early '70s with bit roles in series like "Villains" and "The Guardians." His first major role was in 1972 as Colin Eastwood on the soap "General Hospital," and he continued working in TV with turns in the friendly alien series "Chocky" (1984) and the long-running British soap opera, "Eastenders," for which he appeared in six episodes in 1991.

McCormack was known for his desire to give back to other actors. He taught young actors at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where some of his pupils included Ewan McGregor, Daniel Craig, and Damien Lewis. McCormack's last TV role was as Ray Parker in the British crime series, "The Knock," where he appeared on and off from 1994 through 1997. His final film role was in "Longitude" (2000), starring Jeremy Irons. Sadly, McCormack passed away in 2004 after a short struggle with cancer.

Ralph Ineson as Ralf

Every villain needs their henchman and "First Knight" bad guy Malagant finds his in the form of Ralf, played by Ralph Michael Ineson. Ineson plays the role of this second-in-command with the authority and darkness needed as he gives orders in Malagant's name and joins the attack on Arthur.

Ineson first made a name for himself on TV shows like "The Cinder Path" (1994). After "First Knight," Ineson starred in the soccer (or football, for the non-American folks) series, "Playing the Field." He played Chris Finch in the original "The Office," where he often clashed with Ricky Gervais' David Brent. Known for his distinctive voice, Ineson has also frequently worked in the voiceover world, narrating series like "Salvage Hunters: The Restorers" and providing the voice of the Hunter on "The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance."

Ineson took on a different right-hand-man role in "Game of Thrones" as Dagmer Cleftjaw, who pushes Theon Greyjoy to take control of Winterfell. He portrayed real-life general Nikolai Tarakanov in HBO's miniseries, "Chernobyl," leading the "liquidation" process of the Chernobyl site and receiving high doses of radiation as a result. Ineson also wowed audiences with his role as the Puritan patriarch in director Robert Eggers' debut, "The Witch," and played Amycus Carrow in the last three "Harry Potter" films. Ineson most recently returned to the world of King Arthur as the title character in "The Green Knight," starring Dev Patel.

John Gielgud as Oswald

"First Knight" benefits from having an actual knight in the mix: Sir John Gielgud, who plays Oswald, the aging advisor to Queen Guinevere. A legendary actor whose career spanned eight decades, Gielgud was one of the three actors to dominate British theater in the 20th century alongside Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson. 

Gielgud got his start in theater and rose to prominence on the West End during the 1930s as a top Shakespearean actor, due to his voice and ability to articulate Shakespeare's verse. He was initially uninterested in film, as he appeared in his first movie in 1924 when he was just 20 but didn't pursue film work more seriously until he was in his 50s. By the time of the release of "First Knight," Gielgud was already an EGOT winner after earning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in "Arthur" (1981) and a Best Actor Emmy for his role in the miniseries "Summer's Lease" (1991).

Although Gielgud was 90 by the time he appeared in "First Knight," he continued to act in film and television. He appeared in "Portrait of a Lady," starring Nicole Kidman, and his last major film appearance was as the Pope in "Elizabeth" (1998), with Cate Blanchett. His final screen role was in David Mamet's short film, "Catastrophe" (2000), based on a short Samuel Beckett play. Gielgud passed away in the year 2000, just a few weeks after making this film at the age of 96.

Stuart Bunce as Peter

A king's castle is only as good as its stables, and Stuart Bunce played the role of Peter, a sometimes cheeky stableboy in King Arthur's keep. "First Knight" marked Bunce's feature film debut, and while he's mostly appeared on television since then, he also had a supporting role in the World War I feature "Behind the Lines," starring Jonathan Pryce and Jonny Lee Miller. His first TV role after "First Knight" was as a guest star on the British sitcom "Babes in the Wood" in 1998. He later had a brief recurring role in the medical drama "Peak Practice" in 2000.

Bunce appeared on the first season of "The Jury" — which also starred Gerard Butler — where he played Charles Gore, a man who leaves the seminary to search for his lost love and winds up on the jury for a trial involving the killing of a teenage boy. He returned to the world of history and myth with a turn as Cornelius Lucius in the miniseries "Spartacus" (2002). Most recently, Bunce was seen as Baruch ben Neriah, the scribe and devoted friend of the prophet Jeremiah, in "The Bible Collection: Jeremiah," which starred Patrick Dempsey.

Paul Kynman as Mark

Paul Kynman made his feature debut in "First Knight" as Mark, a young knight who gets some "good" (and not at all questionable) advice from Lancelot: study your opponent to know how he moves and, oh yeah, don't care if you live or die.

Kynman started out on TV: his first appearance was in an episode of the sitcom "The Return of Shelley" in 1989. After continuing with roles in "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" and a recurring part on the prison show "The Governor," Kynman moved to the big screen for "First Knight." He returned to television after "First Knight," where he could be seen in the British crime show, "Trial and Retribution" for a four-episode stint. The crime drama world is where he hit his stride, as he also had recurring parts in "Blue Murder" and "Silent Witness."

He returned to the big screen as Hephaestus, the god of fire, in "Clash of the Titans" (2010), starring alongside Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes. Most recently, Kynman appeared in an episode of "The Witcher" and can soon be seen in the short film, "Sunny Life Farm."

John Blakey as Sir Tor

John Blakey plays Sir Tor, one of the knights of the round table, who — in Arthurian legend — is killed by Lancelot and his men when the latter saves Queen Guinevere from execution.

Blakey first appeared on screen as series regular Keith Chitty on the police drama, "Rockliffe's Babies" (1987), starring Ian Hogg. He continued with guest starring roles on series like "The Paradise Club" and "Law and Disorder" before snagging a small part in "Judge Dredd," which was released the same year as "First Knight."

Following his appearance in "First Knight," Blakey returned to the world of crime and police shows as he took on roles in the prison drama "The Governor" and "Keen Eddie," starring Mark Valley and Sienna Miller. Blakey was last seen in a 2010 episode of the crime drama "Missing" and since then, he's been working as a tour guide in London.

Alexis Denisof as Sir Gaheris

Sir Gaheris is one of the more prominent knights in the legends of the Knights of the Round Table as he often served as the conscience for his older brother, Sir Gawain. His role isn't very big in "First Knight," but viewers were introduced to Sir Gaheris in the form of a young Alexis Denisof.

Denisof first appeared in several TV roles in the early '90s, including a guest starring stint on "Shrinks" (1991) and a two-episode arc on the miniseries "Faith" (1994). His career took off when he memorably played the stuffy Watcher, Wesley, on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," which was then turned into a series regular role on "Angel." Denisof continued working with "Buffy" creator Joss Whedon when he played The Other in Marvel's "The Avengers," which Whedon wrote and directed.

Denisof switched to comedy in "How I Met Your Mother," alongside his former "Buffy" costar and current wife, Alyson Hannigan (they married in 2003), before returning back to the supernatural world with recurring roles in "Grimm" and "Legacies." More recently, Denisof starred in the series "I Love Bekka and Lucy," and can be seen in the indie LGBTQ film "Under My Skin," opposite Alex Russell and Bobbi Salvör Menuez.