Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Nicol Williamson, R.I.P.

RIP indeed to one of the great acting talents of the British theatre and cinema. Nicol Williamson burst on the scene in the '60s - like the young David Warner he was a mesmerising Hamlet, he and Warner (whom I have been meaning to write about too, along with Alan Bates and Peter Finch) are together in the '68 drama THE BOFORS GUN, long unseen.
By all accounts a difficult man, as the respectful obituaries put it: "his prickly temperament helped derail what might have been one of the great theatrical careers" as he was "touched by genius" and "the greatest actor since Brando". Heady praise to live up to ...

He died aged 73 in December but his family have only released the information now. His 1968 HAMLET was filmed by Tony Richardson, with Marianne Faithfull as his Ophelia, and Richardson also directed him in his film of Nabokov's LAUGHTER IN THE DARK, where Williamson replaced another ailing hellraiser Richard Burton. This film is too little seen now, but I remember a tv showing if it ... His initial stage success was in John Osborne's INADMISSABLE EVIDENCE where his ranting solicitor (a rather more raging BUTLEY as played by Alan Bates) was a tour de force, he also played the role in the film. Other films included THE SEVEN PER CENT SOLUTION as Sherlock Holmes (above with Vanessa Redgrave), and as Little John with Connery and Audrey Hepburn in Richard Lester's smashing ROBIN AND MARIAN in 1976 - which also co-starred Robert Shaw - another of those actors like Stanley Baker, Laurence Harvey and Stephen Boyd who died too young. Williamson too had alcoholic problems, like Robert Stephens who also never became quite the star people thought he would and made too many dud movies, as did the hellraiser in chief Richard Burton. Peter O'Toole seems to have survived all that ... It seems now that a lot of the hellraisers of the 60s like Oliver Reed, Richard Harris, David Hemmings, Anthony Hopkins became, if they survived, old hams in dud movies. Nicol Williamson didn't quite go that route having got bored with acting eventually and turning to music. What a fascinating man. He is fun too in my favourite snake-on-the-loose-with-people-trapped-in-a-house-under-seige movie VENOM with his ex-lover Sarah Miles (review at Sarah Miles label), and then of course there was his Merlin in John Boorman's EXCALIBUR!

The actor, who was known as a straighforward, private man, leaves his son, Luke. "He was the most honest, funny and intelligent man I have ever had the pleasure of knowing," writes Luke on Williamson's official website. "He was my father and words cannot adequately express how proud I am of him."

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