Barely three months after Inadmissible Evidence, the John Osborne play that made his name, was revived in London, Nicol Williamson has died, aged 73, in Holland.
The colourful Scot – who was described by Osborne as the greatest actor since Marlon Brando, and, by Samuel Beckett, as “touched by genius” – had not made a film since 1997’s superhero picture Spawn. He had, in recent years, been concentrating on music.
His son, Luke, by his former wife Jill Townsend, tells Mandrake that he died just before Christmas after a two-year fight with oesophageal cancer and was eager that no fuss should be made about his passing. To modern filmgoers, he is probably best known for The Exorcist III and for playing Merlin in Excalibur.
John Boorman, the director, cast him in the latter film opposite his former lover Helen Mirren, to the dismay of both actors. The pair had previously appeared together, disastrously, in Macbeth.
Williamson’s rise and fall had been startling. His performance in Inadmissible Evidence in 1964 won him superb reviews in London, and, later, a Tony award on Broadway. Playing the title role in Hamlet for Tony Richardson, he won an unlikely fan in Harold Wilson. Richard Nixon, as president, invited him to the White House on Wilson’s recommendation.
His son says he preferred the company of musicians in his later years after he moved to Amsterdam to escape media attention in the late Seventies. He says he was hoping to put up his father's new album - which may be called "Nine Slices" or "Kismet Once Again", but was undecided - on the website they had set up together. He adds that a cause that was particularly close to his father's heart was the Regional Youth Shakespeare Company of which he was the patron.
Another cherished project in his later years was narrating an audio version of J R R Tolkien's The Hobbit.
Ultimately, acting didn’t seem to mean all that much to Williamson, who died in relative poverty. As he once observed: “Actors act too much.”
Just as football managers become anxious when their boards pass resolutions of confidence, so a BBC director-general can be forgiven for sweating when he learns that his chairman has headhunters working on a “succession plan”.
Mark Thompson, the current D-G, normally responds to my questions in person. When I ask him what he thinks about what Lord Patten has done, he does not reply, but, chillingly, a BBC press officer responds on his behalf: “As has been made clear, this is sensible succession planning, which Mark fully supports. It does not mean there is a vacancy.”
Its sad news to find out about someone's passing. Nicol Williamson was a brilliant actor and will always be remembered for his role as Merlin in Excalibur. But to me I will always remember Nicol as the brilliant Dr. Worley and Nome King. Above I have made a desktop background in his memory.
He will me missed and remembered. I have the pipe he used in Return to Oz, as the Nome King, I will cherish it always.
Rest in peace my freind....
Below is an article publised today by Brent Lang
Stage and film star Nicol Williamson has died after a two-year battle with esophageal cancer. He was 75.
The unpredictable English actor earned raves for the intensity he brought to his roles, but his erratic behavior scared off many film and theater producers.
He is best known for his wild-eyed portrayal of Merlin in John Boorman's 1981 film "Excalibur."
Other roles of note include a Tony-winning role in John Osborne's "Inadmissible Evidence" and a highly acclaimed title role performance in "Hamlet" for director Tony Richardson.
Williamson also played Sherlock Holmes in Herbert Ross' "The Seven-Percent-Solution" (1976) and Little John in Richard Lester's "Robin and Marian" (1976).
Williamson came of age in the 1960s, when a group of mostly working class group of English actors like Peter O'Toole and Albert Finney ushered in a new and more rough-hewn style of acting. This style was at odds with the more florid performances of actors such as Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud.
Indeed Osborne, author of the signature kitchen-sink drama "Look Back in Anger," hailed Williamson as the best of that crop, calling him "the greatest actor since Marlon Brando."
Yet he never achieved the international stardom of Finney, O'Toole, Alan Bates and others. Part of the reason was that his boozing and off-stage carousing often spilled over into his work, leading to on-stage tantrums and blow-ups.
Among Williamson's more colorful antics: He hit producer David Merrick during a performance of "Inadmissible Evidence"; stormed off the stage and announced his retirement during a performance of "Hamlet"; and he hit his "I Hate Hamlet" co-star Evan Handler with a sword, creating a tabloid frenzy.
The latter was hilariously documented by Paul Rudnick in a 2007 piece for the New Yorker entitled "I Hit Hamlet." Rudnick said that Williamson was brilliant when sober, but as soon as he began drinking, he threw the entire production into chaos.
"After the final performance, I had no intention of talking to Nicol," Rudnick writes. "I was still too angry. As I was heading upstairs, to bid farewell to the more lucid actors, the door to Nicol’s dressing room swung open. He stood there, a soused, lunatic, fifty-two-year-old Hamlet. We stared at each other. Nicol finally spoke, and his tone was both kind and accusing. He said, 'You knew this was going to happen.' And then he smiled and shut the door."