Chris Barrie (born 28 March 1960) is a British actor. He first achieved success as a vocal impressionist, notably in the ITV sketch show Spitting Image. He is best known for his roles as Arnold J. Rimmer in the sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf, as Gordon Brittas in the BBC sitcom The Brittas Empire and as Lara Croft's butler Hillary in the Tomb Raider franchise films.
Barrie was born Christopher Jonathan Brown in Hanover, Lower Saxony, West Germany to a father who served in the British army, and boarded at Methodist College Belfast, in Northern Ireland. After dropping out of Brighton Polytechnic, he began his TV career as a sports personality impersonator on The David Essex Showcase; it was at this point that he adopted the surname "Barrie" for Equity reasons - as there was already an actor named Chris Brown on the Equity UK lists. He provided the voice of Ronald Reagan in the pop song "Two Tribes" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, as well as various vocalisations for other tracks by FGTH and Art of Noise. In addition to playing Arnold Rimmer in the sci-fi comedy television series Red Dwarf, he is also famous for his role as leisure centre manager Gordon Brittas in the BBC1 sitcom The Brittas Empire, which was broadcast from 1991-97 and ran for seven series, totalling 54 episodes. Due to the short season lengths of most UK series, coupled with the extended hiatus between Series VI and Series VII, it was possible for Barrie to star in this series concurrent with his appearances on Red Dwarf.
Barrie played the character Arnold Rimmer in nine series of Red Dwarf. A central character, Barrie appeared as Rimmer in almost every episode of the series, absent only for a brief period during series 7. For the majority of the series the character of Arnold Rimmer was a hologram, requiring Barrie to wear an "H" on his forehead during filming. The character is described as self-centred, neurotic, cowardly and luckless with the ladies. According to Barrie, during a DVD commentary for Red Dwarf, he is the only member of the Red Dwarf cast who was thought to be "legit" (i.e. an actual actor) by original Kryten actor, David Ross. Whether or not the remark was in jest is unclear, but, unlike the poet Craig Charles, dancer Danny John-Jules and stand-up comedian Norman Lovett, Barrie was the only cast member with prior TV experience.
When a pilot for an American version of the show was produced, Barrie was invited to reprise his role as Rimmer. He passed up the offer because of the constraint of the five series contract which is standard for American television. Robert Llewellyn was the only cast member of the British show to participate in the pilot. The pilot was not picked up and the series was never made.
Barrie was also cast for a movie version of Red Dwarf which has yet to be made. According to the official Red Dwarf website, the creators of the show are continuing to pursue funding for the project. However, many cast members have commented that they do not believe the film will be made.
Barrie reprised his role as Arnold Rimmer for three new Red Dwarf specials, Red Dwarf: Back to Earth, for the UK digital channel Dave, shown during Easter 2009, and again returned as Rimmer for Series X, broadcast in the late fall of 2012.
A skilled voice impressionist, Barrie recorded several audio books adapting the Red Dwarf novels, providing accurate impersonations of his co-stars; he repeats this in his narration of several unproduced storylines featured on DVD releases, and can be seen on camera impersonating both Kryten and Cat in the "Smeg Ups" of Series X. He is also fond of invoking an impression of British character actor Kenneth Williams of the Carry On... film series between takes; this can be seen in a number of Smeg Ups featurettes.
Roles in television and films
Chris Barrie's most recent TV work includes Britain's Greatest Machines with Chris Barrie, screened on the National Geographic Channel from 4 June 2009.
Barrie has also hosted the television series Chris Barrie's Massive Engines and Chris Barrie's Massive Machines on the Discovery Channel which was later shown on Channel 5 where both series received record viewing figures and are now on DVD. The latest in this series Massive Speed with Chris Barrie was shown on Discovery Channel from November 2006. In 2006, he appeared as a regular team captain in the BBC2 quiz show Petrolheads, and is the star of the British crime/comedy/drama film Back In Business, in which he plays Tom Marks.
Other roles include:
- Gordon Brittas in The Brittas Empire.
- Numerous voice impersonations for Spitting Image.
- The director of "Ooer, Sounds A Bit Rude" in episode two of Filthy, Rich & Catflap.
- The ship's captain in the wall-poster cut scene during The Young Ones episode "Nasty".
- The voice of Simon in the Adventure Soft computer games series Simon the Sorcerer (1993).
- Gary Prince in A Prince Among Men (1997-98).
- A French revolutionary/"ambassador" in the Blackadder The Third episode "Nob And Nobility".
- Hillary the Butler in the movies Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003).
- Doubting Thomas in a small series of television advertisements for Anglian Windows.
- The voice of Jif Micro Liquid.
- The voices of Captain Smollett and Ben Gunn in The Legends Of Treasure Island.
- Appearances on the BBC Radio 4 sketch show Son of Cliché.
- Voice impersonations on recordings by Frankie Goes to Hollywood:
- as Ronald Reagan on the 12-inch release of "Two Tribes".
- as Mike Read, banning the single "Relax", on the 12-inch release of "The Power of Love".
- as HRH Prince Charles on "Tag", from the album Welcome to the Pleasuredome.
- Voice impersonation of Robin Day on the Art Of Noise track "Close Up".
- An appearance as a postman on Midsomer Murders
He also enjoys a career as a popular after dinner speaker and awards host for the JLA agency where he "often appears in the guise of a close relative of Brittas."
Barrie's interests include vintage motorcycles and collecting fast cars. In 1995, he released a video called Chris Barrie's Motoring Wheel Nuts, a showcase for his personal car collection. His current classic car collection comprises a Triumph TR2, MGB-GT, Wolseley 1500 and a Jaguar XJ6 (his everyday car). He is a contributor to Practical Classics magazine. He has been married twice, first to Monica (1987-1990) then to Aleks (1997-present).