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Also Known As: Died: December 16, 2011
Born: September 14, 1936 Cause of Death: Esophageal Cancer
Birth Place: Hamilton, Scotland, , GB Profession: actor, director, writer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Nicol Williamson never achieved the household name status of Brando or Olivier, but by many critics' appraisals, his talents equaled the greats of his own or any generation. A native of Scotland, Williamson established himself as a force of a new generation of British actors in 1964 as the star of West End production of "Inadmissable Evidence," going on to take the show to Broadway, a Tony nomination and the starring role in the 1968 film adaptation. He delivered what many regarded as the definitive "Hamlet" of his time in a U.K. restaging that went on to play Broadway. But his fortunes went offset by a reputation as an enfant terrible, earned in a series of dustups with dramatists and fellow actors. He again wowed live audiences and critics with his turns in "Macbeth," "Uncle Vanya" and "Rex" and shone in films such as "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution" (1976) and "The Human Factor" (1979), not to mention his signature turn as Merlin in the 1981 film adaptation of the Arthurian cycle, "Excalibur" (1981). He would find work in major television events, foremost ITV's 1986 Mountbatten biopic, and do two disparate Broadway and West End productions playing legendary, similarly tempestuous John Barrymore....

Nicol Williamson never achieved the household name status of Brando or Olivier, but by many critics' appraisals, his talents equaled the greats of his own or any generation. A native of Scotland, Williamson established himself as a force of a new generation of British actors in 1964 as the star of West End production of "Inadmissable Evidence," going on to take the show to Broadway, a Tony nomination and the starring role in the 1968 film adaptation. He delivered what many regarded as the definitive "Hamlet" of his time in a U.K. restaging that went on to play Broadway. But his fortunes went offset by a reputation as an enfant terrible, earned in a series of dustups with dramatists and fellow actors. He again wowed live audiences and critics with his turns in "Macbeth," "Uncle Vanya" and "Rex" and shone in films such as "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution" (1976) and "The Human Factor" (1979), not to mention his signature turn as Merlin in the 1981 film adaptation of the Arthurian cycle, "Excalibur" (1981). He would find work in major television events, foremost ITV's 1986 Mountbatten biopic, and do two disparate Broadway and West End productions playing legendary, similarly tempestuous John Barrymore. Still, dogged by his reputation as "difficult," Williamson became an archetypal example of a talent so raw and untamable as to never truly find its widest audience.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Spawn (1997) Cogliostro
2.
 Wind in the Willows, The (1997) Badger
3.
 Advocate, The (1994) Seigneur Jehan D'Auferre
4.
 Exorcist III, The (1989) Father Morning
5.
 Black Widow (1987) William Macauley
6.
 Passion Flower (1986) Albert Coskins
7.
 Return to Oz (1985) Doctor Worley; Nome King
8.
 Sakharov (1984) Malyarov
9.
 I'm Dancing As Fast As I Can (1982) Derek Bauer
10.
 Excalibur (1981) Merlin
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1960:
Theatrical debut with Dundee Repertory Company, Scotland
1961:
London debut, "That's Us"
1962:
Became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company
1963:
Short film acting debut in "The Six-Sided Triangle"
1965:
Made Broadway debut in John Osborne's "Inadmissable Evidence"; earned Tony nomination in 1966
1968:
Feature film acting debut in "Inadmissable Evidence"; released just days before second feature "The Bofors Gun"
1969:
Returned to Broadway as "Hamlet" in production directed by Tony Richardson; critic Martin Gottfried called it "the most unintelligible performance of the role I think I have ever seen"; play translated to film and released the same year
1969:
Acted in Richardson's feature "Laughter in the Dark"
1974:
Joined all-star cast including Lillian Gish, George C Scott and Julie Christie for Mike Nichols' Broadway production of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya"
1975:
Directed "Uncle Vanya" for Royal Shakespeare Company
1976:
Played Little John to Sean Connery's Robin Hood and Audrey Hepburn's Lady Marian in "Robin and Marian"
1976:
Received enthusiastic notices for his portrayal of a cocaine-snifffing Sherlock Holmes in "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution"
1976:
Slapped a fellow cast member one night during curtain call while appearing on Broadway as Henry VIII in the short-lived Richard Rodgers musical "Rex"
1978:
Reprised "Inadmissible Evidence" in London and NYC
1981:
Portrayed Merlin in John Boorman's "Excalibur"
1982:
Directed and starred in "Macbeth" at NYC's Circle in the Square
1985:
Played Doctor Worley and the Nome King in Walter Murch's "Return to Oz"
1990:
Cast as Father Morning in horror sequel "The Exorcist III"
1991:
Portrayed the ghost of John Barrymore in "I Hate Hamlet" on Broadway; swatted his co-star one night during performance on the backside with a sword, producing a three-inch long, black-and-blue mark
1996:
Essayed Barrymore again on Broadway, this time in one-man show "Jack ¿ A Night on the Town with John Barrymore"; created show with director Leslie Megahey
1996:
Played Badger in Terry Jones' live-action "The Wind in the Willows"
1997:
Final film appearance, as Cogliostro in fantasy action feature "Spawn"
2001:
Landed starring role in stage production of "King Lear"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Birmingham School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art: - 1953 - 1956

Notes

In 1965, during the Philadelphia tryout of John Osborne's "Inadmissible Evidence", he punched David Merrick in the face after the producer fired the play's director, Anthony Page. Legend has it that Williamson then picked up the stunned producer and stuffed him into a garbage can.

"I'm afraid people in America are going to remember me only as the bloke who pinned one on Merrick," he said at the time.

About John Barrrymore: "He did what no other actor, living or dead, has ever done. He was a vaudeville man, a light comedian, a matinee idol [and] a silent star who then became a talking picture star.

"And in the middle of all this, he became the greatest classical actor in America and the Hamlet of his generation. Not bad. Nobody else has ever done that. Olivier didn't come near it." -- Nicol Williamson, LOS ANGELES TIMES, March 12, 1996

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Jill Townsend. Actor. Married on July 17, 1971; divorced in 1977.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Hugh Williamson. Norwegian Scot.
mother:
Mary Williamson. Norwegian Scot.

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