Leonard was born in 1950 on a council estate in North London into a working-class family. At the age of 11, his beautiful voice was discovered while he was singing in a church choir and he was sent to audition for Lionel Bart’s Oliver. This launched Leonard’s career as he played the Artful Dodger for 18 months the West End. After seeing Leonard’s performance in Oliver, Walt Disney chose him to play Jimmy the Dip in The Legend of the Young Dick Turpin.
At 13, Leonard was the youngest member of Lawrence Olivier’s National Theatre Company. In Congreve’s Love for Love, he played The Singer at The Old Vic followed by Moscow and Berlin, sharing the stage with Sir Lawrence Olivier, Albert Finney, Lynn Redgrave and Sir Derek Jacobi. To this day, in Russia, Leonard is considered one of Artists of Special Merit. The young Cockney had several roles on television including: Albert Butch in Laughter from the Whitehall and The Page in A Poor Gentleman.
In 1968, Leonard was chosen from 300 hopefuls to star as Romeo in Franco Zeffirelli’s ROMEO AND JULIET. Zeffirelli said “Leonard has a magnificent face-gentle, melancholy and sweet- the kind of idealistic young man Romeo should be.” His Juliet was Olivia Hussey. To lose his Cockney accent for the role, Leonard was sent to live with one of London’s premier acting families (Anthony Nichols) for six months. ROMEO AND JULIET made him an international star for which he was awarded The Golden Globe and the David Di Donatello award.
Leonard met the Queen as well as being invited to The White House to meet Lyndon B. Johnson. He was celebrated around the world and met many dignitaries and famous personalities including Leonard Bernstein, Edward G. Robinson Fred Astaire, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton to name but a few. The Bee Gees even asked Leonard to record with them.
ROMEO AND JULIET led to other film and television opportunities including Young Martin in Royal Hunt of the Sun (1968), with Robert Shaw and Christopher Plummer; Casanova in Giacoma Casanova (1969); Boy in Say Hello to Yesterday, with Jean Simmons (1970); Franz Keller in War is Hell (1972); Jacob in Rachel’s Men, with Mickey Rooney (1975); and Father in Social Suicide, (2015) with Olivia Hussey. In 1973, Leonard played Nicholas Nickleby in Smike (BBC), Victor Frankenstein in Frankenstein (NBC); and Nicholas Miller in Love Story (BBC). Leonard was the voice of Urpgor in The Dreamstone (1990-1995).
In the theatre, Leonard played both Joseph (1975) and Pharaoh (1978-1979) opposite Tim Rice in productions of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. In 1976 he played Pip in Great Expectations; Baldo in A Touch of Spring, for which he won performance of the year in South Africa; and in The Bed Before Yesterday; These Foolish Things (1979) and Horatio in Hamlet at the Ludlow Festival with Leslie Anne Down.
Leonard is the author of two children’s books: Charlie’s Dream (2000) and A Hole in the Sky (2010), which have also been made into audiobooks. His vocal recordings are: “You Don’t Know Me” (1965); “What is a Youth” (Theme from ROMEO AND JULIET); Smike cast album (1973); The Raven (guest vocalist and narrator on “Tales of Mystery and Imagination” by the Alan Parsons Project; 1976. This achieved Platinum selling status); “Just With You” (Episode of “Rings on Their Fingers;” 1978); “Heaven in Your Eyes” (1979).
Leonard is also an accomplished artist. He has been invited to give Masterclasses in Shakespeare and performing in Hong Kong, Russia, USA, Africa, Italy and the UK. Franco Zeffirelli said of his masterclass; “from the boy who taught the world to love—let the man teach you to love Shakespeare” Leonard loves spending time with his family and grandchildren.