Actor Brian Cox played the role of John Landon in the 2011 movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Cox was born in Dundee, Scotland, the youngest of five children of Mary Ann Guillerline (née McCann), a spinner in the jute mills, and Charles Cox, a butcher and shopkeeper who died when Brian was eight years old. He was subsequently brought up by his elder sisters. He joined the Dundee Repertory Theatre at the age of fourteen and later trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, leaving in 1965 when he joined the Lyceum company in Edinburgh, followed in 1966 by two years with the Birmingham Rep, where his parts included the title role in Peer Gynt (1967) and Orlando in As You Like It (1967). He spent several seasons with both the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre in London in the 1980s and 1990s. His work with the RSC included a critically acclaimed performance as the title character in Titus Andronicus, as well as playing Petruchio in The Taming of The Shrew. Cox also portrayed Burgundy opposite Laurence Olivier's King Lear (1983). He later went on to play King Lear himself at the National Theatre. He was awarded Laurence Olivier Theatre Awards for Rat in the Skull (1984) and Titus Andronicus (1988) and London Critics Circle Theatre Awards for Rat in the Skull, Strange Interlude (both 1984), The Taming of the Shrew, Titus Andronicus and Fashion. In 2008 he appeared in Tom Stoppard's Rock & Roll and in 2011 in That Championship Season, both on Broadway.
Cox made his first television appearance as an extra in The Prisoner (1967) before taking a lead role in Nigel Kneale's The Year of the Sex Olympics (1968). His first film role was as Leon Trotsky in Nicholas and Alexandra (1971), alongside Laurence Olivier, Tom Baker, Julian Glover, Ian Holm and Timothy West. Later productions included playing King Henry II in the BBC drama serial The Devil's Crown (1978), being the first actor to portray serial killer Hannibal Lecktor in Manhunter (1986, later remade as Red Dragon), the BBC adaptation of David Leavitt's novel The Lost Language of Cranes (1991), BBC films Sharpe's Eagle and Sharpe's Rifles (both 1993), Rob Roy (1995), Braveheart (1995), Chain Reaction (1996), The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996), TV comedy series Red Dwarf (1997), Rushmore (1998), The Corruptor (1999), playing Hermann Göring in TV mini-series Nuremberg (2000, winning an Emmy Award), Super Troopers (2001), L.I.E. (2001), playing Daphne's father in TV series Frasier (2002), The Bourne Identity (2002), The Ring (2002), Adaptation (2002), 25th Hour (2002), playing William Stryker in X2 (2003), playing King Agamemnon in Troy (2004), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), Red Eye (2005), HBO TV series Deadwood (2006), Red (2008), playing an institutionalized convict in Rupert Wyatt's The Escapist (2008), Tell-Tale (2009), The Day of the Triffids (2009) and TV series The Big C (2010). In July 2010, Cox joined the cast of the upcoming science fiction film Rise of the Planet of the Apes, also directed by Rupert Wyatt.
Cox has also been involved in voice acting, including the BBC radio series McLevy (1999–2010), an audio book version of Sir Walter Scott's novel Ivanhoe, audio books of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún (2009), the voice of God in The 'Truth & Life Dramatized Audio' New Testament Bible, the voice of Carl Starkweather in the Sony PlayStation 2 video game Manhunt (2003), Scolar Visari in the video games Killzone (2004) and Killzone 2 (2009), Pariah Dark in the animated Danny Phantom TV series (2005) and the voice of the Ood Elder in Doctor Who (2009). A lifelong supporter of the Labour Party, in 2011 Cox instead endorsed the Scottish National Party. In the 2003 Queen's New Year's Honours List, Cox was appointed to the rank of C.B.E. (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) for his services to drama.