Welsh native Jonathan Pryce switched from art studies to acting after winning a RADA scholarship, and quickly became both a critically viable and immediately recognizable screen presence. In numerous screen assignments, Pryce's subtle intensity and mania - deftly but not deeply buried beneath a placid exterior - could be parlayed with equal aplomb into roles as an angst-ridden everyman or a manipulative sociopath. In the majority of Pryce's characterizations, he projected a frightening degree of intelligence and sophistication almost by default.
After a few seasons with the Liverpool Everyman Theatre, Pryce scored a London theatrical success in Comedians, winning a Tony award when the play moved to Broadway in 1976. Thereafter, he starred in the Broadway musicals Miss Saigon and Oliver!. Pryce's subsequent effectiveness in villainous roles threatened to typecast him as Machiavellian heavies, such as his icewater-veined personification of "reason and logic" in Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989). As time rolled on, however, Pryce began to demonstrate his ability to add layers of offbeat and intriguing eccentricity to roles that, in other hands, could easily become caricatures or stock parts - a gift apparent as early as Pryce's leading turn in Gilliam's Brazil (1985), as a beleaguered everyman enmeshed in a Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare. The actor was particularly arresting, for example, as James Lingk, a bar patron with not-so-subtle homosexual inclinations, who falls prey to the machinations of hotshot salesman Ricky Roma (Al Pacino), in James Foley's 1992 screen adaptation of the David Mamet play Glengarry Glen Ross. He commanded equally powerful screen presence as Henry Kravis, a cunning entrepreneur and the "master of the leveraged buyout" (who bilks corporate giant F. Ross Johnson for a fortune) in the Glenn Jordan-directed, Larry Gelbart-scripted boardroom comedy Barbarians at the Gate (1993). In 1995, Jonathan Pryce won a Cannes Film Festival best actor award for his portrayal of homosexual writer Lytton Strachey in Carrington, opposite Emma Thompson.