Philip was born in Harrow, Middlesex, England and brought up in Hatch End in the London Borough of Harrow, north-west London. He is the son of the television director John Glenister and the brother of actor Robert Glenister.
Philip went to Hatch End Comprehensive School (now Hatch End High School) and the Central School of Speech and Drama. His interest in acting came from seeing his brother in a production about the Sex Pistols called Killing Time at the Soho Poly. Philip worked for the entertainment entrepreneur Robert Stigwood, then worked as a films publicist until he was 23.
The now former wife of his brother, the actress Amanda Redman, persuaded him to apply for the Central School of Speech and Drama, and coached him for his audition. At Central, he was a contemporary of Graham Norton and Rufus Sewell. He also shared a flat with the actor Jamie Glover.
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