Last Updated: May 13, 2024
Richest CelebritiesActors
Net Worth:
$20 Million
May 22, 1907 - Jul 11, 1989 (82 years old)
5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Actor, Film Producer, Film director, Screenwriter, Television producer, Voice Actor
United Kingdom
💰 Compare Laurence Olivier's Net Worth
Table of ContentsExpand
  1. Early Life
  2. Career
  3. Personal Life

What was Laurence Olivier's Net Worth?

Laurence Olivier was an English actor, director, and producer who had a net worth equal to $20 million at the time of his death after adjusting for inflation. Laurence Olivier is considered one of the greatest actors of the 20th century. Though he was based in England, Olivier made a significant number of Hollywood films. He was nominated for Academy Awards as either an actor, producer, or director twelve times, winning twice, and was also honored with two special Oscars. Olivier appeared in more than 120 stage roles, nearly 60 films, and more than 15 television productions. Olivier, the son of a clergyman, was well-educated and introduced to the arts at an early age. He made his acting debut at 15 at All Saints Choir School. He performed in Shakespearean and other classical roles while in training. Olivier joined The Birmingham Repertory Company in 1926 and also acted on Broadway, where he was recognized by the American film industry. By the time Olivier appeared in Fire Over England, he was a hot commodity, made even hotter by his well-publicized affair with his costar, Vivien Leigh. Both Olivier and Leigh were married to other people at the time but later freed themselves to marry each other, a union that lasted over 20 years. Olivier went on to star as Heathcliff in the unconventional romantic story Wuthering Heights (1939) and became an international matinee idol. Olivier's most productive period came from directing and producing, which he did while also starring in Henry V (1944) and Hamlet (1948). He won Best Film and Best Actor awards for Hamlet from the Academy. Burdened by ill health issues for more than a decade, Olivier fought cancer and other ailments while still working at a furious pace. He was knighted in 1947, and in 1970, he was made Baron Olivier of Brighton for services to the theater. Additionally, in 1981, he was given the Order of Merit. In America, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences bestowed its version of knighthood on Lord Larry, awarding him a special Oscar "for the full body of his work, the unique achievement of his entire career, and his lifetime of contribution to the art of film." Sir Laurence Olivier passed away in Ashurst, West Sussex, England, of renal failure on July 11, 1989, at the age of 82.

Early Life

Laurence Olivier was born May 22, 1907, in Dorking, United Kingdom, to parents Gerard Olivier and Agnes Crookenden. He grew up with these two older siblings. His father was an ordained priest in the Church of England but practiced very ritualistic Anglicanism, which was generally disfavored in England. This meant that he was unable to find permanent postings in churches but rather moved around often, meaning Olivier had a nomadic existence during his early years. However, in 1912, his father secured a permanent post, and the family was able to live in Pimlico for six years.

In 1916, at the age of 9, Olivier passed a singing examination for admission to the choir school of All Saints, Margaret Street, in central London. It was there that he also began acting in school productions of "Julius Caesar," "The Taming of the Shrew," and "Twelfth Night." He then enrolled at St. Edwards School in Oxford, where he continued acting. After completing school in 1924, he enrolled for one year at the Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art.


After leaving school, Olivier joined a small touring company and then joined the Birmingham Repertory Company in 1926. He had a number of notable roles in the years that followed, including in "Journey's End" and "Beau Geste." He also landed two small film roles in 1930 in the films "The Temporary Widow" and "Too Many Crooks." He was also cast in the play "Private Lives," which opened at the Phoenix Theater in London. He moved to Hollywood in 1931 after RKO Pictures offered him a two-film contract at $1000 a week.

Olivier continued his work on stage as well. In 1935, he played in "Romeo and Juliet," which helped catapult him into stardom by the end of the decade. He also notably acted in the film "Wuthering Heights" in 1939. By the 1940s, he was firmly established as one of the best stage actors in England. He became a co-director of the Old Vic, one of the famous theaters in Waterloo, London. It was there that he performed in some of his most highly celebrated roles, including "Richard III" and "Oedipus."

His stage career took a downward turn in the 1950s until he joined the avant-garde English Stage Company in 1957 to play the title role in "The Entertainer," a part which he later reprised in film. He also was the founding director of Britain's National Theatre from 1963 until 1973.

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During this time, it was his film career that really took off. He appeared in "Spartacus," "The Shoes of the Fisherman," "Sleuth," "Marathon Man," and "The Boys from Brazil." He also made television appearances in "The Moon and Sixpence," "Long Day's Journey into Night," "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," and "King Lear." "King Lear" was made in 1983, and Olivier had experienced a number of illnesses over the previous two decades. This resulted in obvious frailty in his physicality and his speech, which critics agreed added much to his depiction of the title character. This was also his last time performing Shakespeare.

Olivier developed a reputation in his work for being able to transform completely for different characters. He was known for changing his appearance considerably from role to role and began using extravagant makeup, especially in the later years of his career. He also excelled at using different voices and accents and was obsessive over making sure each detail of his character seemed authentic.

Over the course of his long career on stage and onscreen, Olivier received numerous awards and accolades. In 1947, he was granted knighthood in England. He also received the Order of Merit in 1981. For his work in film, he received four Academy Awards, two British Film Academy Awards, five Emmy Awards, and three Golden Globe Awards. The National Theatre in London named its largest auditorium in his honor, and his memory is commemorated in the Laurence Oliver Awards. These awards are given annually by the Society of London Theatre.

He also received honorary doctorate degrees from Tufts University, Oxford University, and Edinburgh University. He was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in February of 1960.

Personal Life

Olivier married Jill Esmond in July of 1930. The couple realized within a few weeks that the marriage had been a mistake, as Esmond was in love with someone else. However, they remained married until 1940. Following their divorce, Olivier married actress Vivien Leigh in 1940. The couple was married for 20 years before divorcing in 1960. He then began a relationship with Joan Plowright, and the two married in 1961. They remained married until Olivier's death in 1989.

The last couple decades of Olivier's life were plagued with illness. He died of kidney failure in July of 1989 at the age of 82 at his home near West Sussex. He was cremated three days later, and his ashes were buried in Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey during a memorial service later that year. He is one of only two actors interred in Poets' Corner.

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