John Marwood Cleese is the actor who portrayed Nearly Headless Nick in the first two Harry Potter films. (Although the character has appeared in most of the novels, on screen the ghost appears only in the first two films).
John Cleese was born on 27 October 1939 in Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset, He attended Cambridge to study Law, but spent most of his time writing and performing with the university's legendary Footlights group.
Cleese is best known for his work as a member of the comedy troupe Monty Python, which was formed for the BBC series Monty Python's Flying Circus, which ran for four seasons (although Cleese left after three series, he contributed some writing for the fourth). After leaving the series, he co-created the sitcom Fawlty Towers, which is often listed among the best comedy series ever. He never completely left Monty Python, however, and continued to appear in theatrical films made by the troupe up to 1983.
In the 1980s, Cleese's career was boosted by an Emmy-winning guest appearance on the US sitcom Cheers, and an Academy Award nomination for his screenplay for A Fish Called Wanda (in which he also co-starred). He also received acclaim for a rare dramatic turn in the Kevin Costner western Silverado.
In 1999, Cleese joined the James Bond film franchise, initially playing "R", Q's assistant; after the death of the actor who played Q, Cleese's character was promoted to the new Q for 2002's Die Another Day. Following the reboot film Casino Royale in 2006, Cleese's character was cut, and later a younger version of the character was used in 2012's Skyfall. Cleese's appearances in both the Potter and Bond film series makes him one of the few actors to have played major roles in the two biggest-grossing UK film series of all time, other than Ralph Fiennes.
He also provided voiceover work as "King Harold" for Shrek 2, Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After.
Cleese continues to perform and in 2009 reunited with the surviving members of Monty Python to celebrate the troupe's 40th anniversary.
A species of lemur, Avahi cleesei, was named after him, in honour of his working in protecting these endangered primates.