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Max Pirkis (born 6 January 1989) is an English actor.
After appearing in two stage productions during the mid-2000s, Pirkis made his film debut in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003), after the film crew recruited him at his school, Eton College.
In a critically praised performance, he won the Evening Standard British Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer and the Young Artist Award for Best Young Actor in an International Film.
Two years later, he was cast in the BBC/HBO television series Rome as Gaius Octavian, a role he held until 2007.
Early life and education
Pirkis was born in London on 6 January 1989. His mother is a publisher, and he has a sister. After being educated at Eton College, Pirkis began attending St Catharine's College, Cambridge, where he read Theology and was captain of the college's football team, in 2009.
When attending Eton, Pirkis started acting in school plays, but he never considered them seriously. Pirkis was cast in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World in 2002, though he was uncertain what he wanted to do with his life. After production workers returned to Eton to recruit boys for the ship's teen crew, the recruiter was hired. Pirkis joked at a workshop and auditions, eventually securing the role of HMS Surprise's 13-year-old, eventually one-armed midshipman Lord Blakeney. Pirkis "stood out early on," director Peter Weir said, but not to the extent that you see in the film. "It was a complete surprise" to me. He was initially "nervous" about being around Russell Crowe, but he changed his mind when he discovered that Crowe was "a pretty normal guy," according to Pirkis.
Pirkis, one of four teenage actors chosen for the film, began researching the Royal Navy and the Napoleonic Wars to prepare himself for the role before spending six months shooting the film. Pirkis had "an old actor's soul in his body," Weir quickly discovered, giving him more acting opportunities. Pirkis wore a prosthetic stump on set; tucking his real arm to the side, he learned how to write and eat using only his left arm. Pirkis completed the amputation in two takes, using the example of a family friend's death.
Pirkis was hired by Hollywood talent agency ICM shortly after being cast in Master and Commander. He was put into a bank, putting him off until he turned eighteen. Pirkis received critical acclaim for his performance at the 25th Young Artist Awards, as well as the Evening Standard British Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer and Outstanding Young Actor. At the 4th Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards, Pirkis was also nominated for Best Performance by a Youth in a Lead or Supporting Role – Male. Pirkis' Jeremiah Kipp of Slant Magazine praised him, saying that he "makes a winning appearance as midshipman Lord Blakeney," a vivacious one-armed lad imitates Crowe and Bettany's bookish reserve.
Pirkis made his television debut in 2005. In the BBC/HBO television series Rome, Pirkis played Gaius Octavian (later to become Caesar Augustus). Many commentators lauded Pirkis and his character. "Played both knowingly and innocently by Max Pirkis, he gives the audience something it so desperately needs... a character to root for or at least care about." Pirkis was replaced by Simon Woods in order to show an older version of the character during the second series.
Pirkis was named head of acquisitions and distribution at Embankment Films in February 2016.