Regretting that he played “a fake version” of a doctor instead of a becoming a real one like his father wanted, Laurie admitted that his “dad would have hated” the shortcut that he chose to follow.
Dr. William (Ran) Laurie had huge hopes for the youngest of his sons, Hugh Laurie who was born in June 1959.
The junior Laurie was following in the footsteps of his esteemed father, a physician who before starting his career was a 1948 Olympic gold medalist in coxless pairs (rowing) and a graduate of a college of the University of Cambridge.
When the British-born Laurie was studying at the same college as his dad, he too was a member of the rowing team with plans to train for the Olympics, and then go to medical school.
But then, the young man discovered a drama club, a sketch comedy troupe called the Cambridge Footlights where he met The Remains of the Day actor Emma Thompson and then his future comedy partner, Stephen Fry of the 1997 film Wilde.
Laurie’s fate was sealed
Through the 1980s and 1990s, the now 64-year-old actor appeared in several TV shows, like the BBC sitcom Blackadder, that he co-starred with Fry.
He can also be seen in 1995’s Sense and Sensibility with Thompson, who he was earlier involved in a relationship, Disney’s live-action film 101 Dalmatians (1996), and an episode of Friends.
In 2004, he was offered the opportunity to play a doctor in a new TV series called House, a medical drama that ran eight seasons.
In his Golden Globe winning role as the lead character, Dr. Gregory House, Laurie dropped his signature British accent and swapped it out to convincingly play the narcissistic genius who headed a teaching hospital in New Jersey.
During the show’s run, Laurie became Hollywood’s most popular doctor and attracted a massive global following. But life as a celebrity comes with its challenges.
“I had some pretty bleak times, dark days when it seemed like there was no escape,” Laurie said in a 2013 interview with Radio Times (via Daily Mail). “And having a very Presbyterian work ethic, I was determined never to be late, not to miss a single day’s filming. You wouldn’t catch me phoning in to say, ‘I think I may be coming down with the flu’. But there were times when I’d think, ‘If I were just to have an accident on the way to the studio and win a couple of days off to recover, how brilliant would that be?’”
The couple of days off didn’t come until 2012, with the final season of House.
Laurie again staring making his rounds, appearing in TV shows like Veep and the 2015 science fiction film Tomorrowland, which stars another famous TV doctor, George Clooney.
In 2016, the Maybe Baby star was drawn to a role where he would again star as a doctor, a neuropsychiatrist, Dr. Eldon Chance, in the TV series Chance.
“As a gambler, my instinct is to walk away from the table after even a modest win…Yet I find myself coming back, drawn by a wonderful project that was simply irresistible,” Laurie told the Los Angeles Daily News in 2016. Comparing his role as Dr. House to the doctor in Chance, which was canceled after two seasons in 2017, he adds, “The characters are massively different. Their practices are different. Their attitude to life is different.”
Despite his massive fame as a Hollywood celebrity, the star of 2018’s Holmes & Watson can’t shake the feeling that by not becoming a medical doctor, he failed his father, who died of Parkinson’s disease in 1998.
“My father was actually a doctor. And if it’s true that most men are sort of seeking to become versions of their father, and failing, by the way, it seemed appropriate that I wound up being a fake version of a doctor,” said Laurie, who also played a doctor in the 2005 film The Big Empty.
“My father had high hopes for me following him into medicine.” He continues, “I would have liked to have become a doctor myself and I still have doctor fantasies…We live in a world of shortcuts don’t we? And I took them. Dad would have hated that.”
Calling himself a “cop out,” the Blackadder star adds, “Seriously, this is a source of great guilt to me.”