Who’s who in the Fox dynasty

    3 October 2020

    Self-styled anti-woke provocateur Laurence Fox has been back in the headlines after announcing that he is setting up a new political party in response to the culture wars.

    While Fox’s profile is still riding reasonably high from his ‘controversial’ Question Time appearance in January, the RADA alumnus is best known within the arts world as a member of a highly-influential family that’s been treading the boards for decades now.

    Here’s our guide to the Fox dynasty:

    The pioneer – Robin Fox (1913 – 71), Laurence’s grandfather

    Though generally regarded as the first member of the dynasty, the Military Cross-decorated Robin Fox was already drawn from cultured stock himself. His grandfather, Samson Fox, had been an admired philanthropist who set up the Royal College of Music, whereas his mother’s sister was a well-known stage actress.

    A pioneering theatrical agent after the second world war, Fox represented talent including Julie Christie, Marianne Faithfull, and Maggie Smith. He also married Angela Worthington, daughter of playwright Frederick Lonsdale. His new wife  had the honour of being the subject of Noel Coward’s rather sardonic ditty ‘Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington’.

    The thespian – Edward Fox (1937 – ), Laurence’s uncle

    Edward Fox acts alongside Maggie Smith in ‘Interpreters’, 1985 (Rex)

    Harrow-educated Edward Fox got started in the theatre in the 60s, before going on to make a bigger name for himself with his appearances in a number of era-defining British films – including Oh! What a Lovely War – in the late 60s and early 70s.

    After starring alongside Julie Christie and Alan Bates in The Go-Between, Fox was cast by High Noon director Fred Zinnemann as the assassin in his 1973 hit The Day of the Jackal – reportedly beating both Roger Moore and Michael Caine to the job.

    Even in his 70s, Fox remained a semi-regular in the West End, starring in a one man show – An Evening with Anthony Trollope – in 2010, taking on the role of Winston Churchill in Peter Morgan’s 2013 hit The Audience, and even joining his son Freddie in a 2018 production of An Ideal Husband.

    Rather interestingly, the older Fox has also carved a reputation as somewhat of a politico, palling up with early EU referendum enthusiast James Goldsmith, calling for the return of national service, and publicly backing the Countryside Alliance.

    The contemporaries – Emilia and Freddie Fox, Laurence’s cousins

    Laurence Fox with Emilia, Freddie and Jack (Rex)

    Edward Fox’s second marriage, to television actress Joanna David, gave issue to his third and fourth children, both of whom have emerged as famous actors in their own right.

    After making her debut – at age 28 – in Roman Polanski’s The Pianist, Emilia Fox became a regular face in British period dramas. Following in her father’s footsteps, she also led the billing in various West End plays, acting with Ralph Fiennes in Corolianus and opposite her then husband Jared Harris ( Valery Legasov in HBO’s Chernobyl) in Les Liaisons dangereuses.

    Meanwhile the impossibly-high-cheekboned Freddie Fox impressed in the West End as Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas – lover of Oscar Wilde – in The Judas Kiss. He was also very good as hedonistic love interest Freddie Baxter in Russell T Davies’ multigenerational gay comedy Cucumber.

    The eccentric – James Fox (1939 – ), Laurence’s dad

    James Fox with his family (Getty)

    Like his brother Robin, James Fox landed roles in a number of influential films in the 60s and 70s – including a controversial turn, starring opposite Mick Jagger, in provocative sexual thriller Performance.

    Shortly after shocking critics with admissions that he’d been experimenting with LSD around the time of the film, Fox decided to pack in acting altogether and dedicate his life to the pursuit of evangelical Christianity, developing a reputation as something of a theology geek.

    After returning to acting in the 80s, Fox went on to appear in both Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Marple, as well as an one-off role in a Downton Abbey Christmas special. In 2008, he made a cameo appearance in an episode of ITV’s Lewis – acting alongside his son Laurence.

    James Fox’s wife, Laurence’s mother and a former nurse, sadly passed away in April.

    The brainbox – Richard Ayoade, Laurence’s brother-in-law

    Richard Ayoade with wife Lydia Fox (Getty)

    Cambridge-educated renaissance man Ayoade is known to many as his role in The IT Crowd, and plenty of others via his work as a music video and film director, film-writer, and panel-show comedian.

    In 2007, Ayoade married Lydia Fox, Laurence’s younger sister, and has become very close to the wider family. In a recent spill-all interview with the Sunday Times, Laurence revealed he’d even reached out to Ayoade for advice after being branded ‘racist’ on Twitter for his Question Time comments.

    Ayoade – whose genial and funny musings have allowed him to stay out of Twitter’s pugilistic culture wars – is said to have communicated his disagreement with Fox’s outright dismissal of white privilege, but nonetheless advised his brother-in-law not to become too concerned with the anonymous tribes on social media. Probably good advice.

    The ex – Billie Piper, Laurence’s ex-wife

    Laurence Fox with ex-wife Billie Piper (Rex features)

    After nine years of marriage during which the couple produced two children, Laurence Fox and Billie Piper announced their separation in 2016.

    The acrimonious split was thrust into the spotlight a few months later, when Fox made headlines for loudly berating (in the strongest words possible) an ill-mannered audience member who interrupted a West End performance – an incident blamed partly on his stress from the divorce.

    Since then, Fox has been linked to fashion designer and photographer Sara McKinnon – and also his fellow Question Time panellist Madeline Grant. Billie Piper had her tattoo of Fox’s name removed in 2016.