Actor Joop Admiraal was born in the Dutch town of Ophemert. He made his debut in 1959 with the Nederlandse Comedie, a theatre company based in The Hague and later he worked in Amsterdam. His career really started to take off in 1971, however, when he was a part of Werkteater, where he experimented with socially engaged performances on location. He won a Louis d'Or Prize for his solo performance U bent mijn moeder in 1981, in which he played a son as well as the son's 80-year-old mother suffering from dementia. This play was filmed in 1984 with Admiraal cast in the lead, and, in 1988, the actor was again the lead in a film adapation of J. Bernlef's book entitled Hersenschimmen, which was also about dementia.
In 1987 he joined the newly founded Toneelgroep Amsterdam where he played until his retirement in 1999. He continued to act thereafter, as well. In addition to playing in the films U bent mijn moeder and Hersenschimmen, Admiraal also acted in films such as Max Havelaar, Kort Amerikaans, Twee vrouwen and Eline Vere.
Admiraal had a relationship with the singer Ramses Shaffy. In the early 1960s, they traveled with actor Gerard Thoolen to Rome in search of interesting film work. A compilation of the letters they wrote to their mutual friend Shireen Strooker was published in 2004. For 22 years he was the life partner of Jaap Jansen, the former publisher/partner at Van Gennep, a well-known Dutch publishing house.
One of Admiraal's last films was Ober, by Alex van Warmerdam. On 25 March 2006, Joop Admiraal died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 68.