Ian Charleson


Actor

About

Birth Place
United Kingdom
Born
August 11, 1949
Died
January 06, 1990
Cause of Death
Complications Resulting From Aids

Biography

This tall, lithe Scottish actor won international recognition as Olympic hopeful Eric Lidell, the Presbyterian missionary who refused to compete on the Sabbath, in Hugh Hudson's Oscar-winning "Chariots of Fire" (1981). Although he only appeared in a handful of films, Ian Charleson had a distinguished stage career for close to two decades before his untimely death from AIDS complications ...

Biography

This tall, lithe Scottish actor won international recognition as Olympic hopeful Eric Lidell, the Presbyterian missionary who refused to compete on the Sabbath, in Hugh Hudson's Oscar-winning "Chariots of Fire" (1981). Although he only appeared in a handful of films, Ian Charleson had a distinguished stage career for close to two decades before his untimely death from AIDS complications in 1990.

The red-haired Edinburgh native began his career as a child performer in local productions, but it wasn't until 1972 that he burst onto the London scene with an acclaimed portrayal of Jimmy Porter in a revival of John Osborne's "Look Back in Anger." On stage, he received further attention as Guildenstern in Tom Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" (1974) with the Young Vic. As part of that company, Charleson traveled to Brooklyn, NY to appear in "The Taming of the Shrew," "Scapino" and "French without Tears" in 1974. He first tackled the Melancholy Dane in a 1975 production of "Hamlet" in Cambridge and went on to appear with the National Theatre in a number of Shakespearean productions. After supporting Jane Lapotaire as "Piaf" in 1978-79, Charleson returned to the National where he scored a triumph as Sky Masterston to Julie Covington's Sarah Brown in Richard Eyre's highly praised revival of "Guys and Dolls" (1982-83). He co-starred in Sam Shepard's "Fool for Love" in 1985, earned plaudits for his Brick in Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1988) and shortly before his death completed his second run as "Hamlet" (1989).

Charleson only appeared in seven films in his career. He debut in Derek Jarman's stylized "Jubilee" (1978) and after his success in "Chariots" followed as Charlie Andrews, an aide to Ben Kingsley "Gandhi" (1982), who is eventually asked to leave the independence movement so it can become an all-Indian affair. "Ascendancy" (1983) teamed him romantically with his "Guys and Dolls" co-star Julie Covington in a period drama set in 1920s Ireland. He reunited with Hugh Hudson for "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes" (1984). In the black comedy "Car Trouble" (1985), Charleson was the bickering husband of Julie Walters more interested in his new Jaguar than his wife, until she is responsible for the car's destruction. His final screen appearance was in Dario Argento's slasher "Opera" (1987).

On the small screen, Charleson began in a three 1980 BBC Shakespearean productions, playing Fortinbras in "Hamlet," starring Derek Jacobi, Octavius Caesar in support of Colin Blakely and Jane Lapotaire as "Antony and Cleopatra" and Bertram in "All's Well That Ends Well," co-starring Celia Johnson and Michael Hordern. He was in the Scottish TV production "Something's Got to Give" (1982) and made his US debut in the Cinemax miniseries "Louisiana" (1984). Also in 1984, Charleson had featured roles in the network miniseries "The Sun Also Rises" (NBC) and "Master of the Game" (CBS). His final small screen role was in the title role of the spy in "Codename: Kyril" (Showtime, 1988).

Charleson's death was the first show business death in the United Kingdom openly attributed to complications from AIDS.

Life Events

1972

Had early London stage success as Jimmy Porter in "Look Back in Anger"

1978

Feature film debut in Derek Jarman's "Jubilee"

1980

Early TV appearance, played Fortinbras in British TV production of "Hamlet", staring Derek Jacobi

1981

Played leading role as Eric Liddell in "Chariots of Fire"

1982

Co-starred in "Gandhi"

1982

Starred opposite Julie Covington in "Ascendancy"

1984

Network TV debut in the CBS miniseries, "Master of the Game"

1984

US TV debut in Cinemax miniseries, "Louisiana"

1987

Final feature film, "Opera", directed by Dario Argento

1988

Final TV appearance in the title role of the Showtime miniseries, "Codename: Kyril"

1989

Won rave reviews for his "Hamlet" on the London stage

Videos

Movie Clip

Gandhi (1982) - I Thought You'd Be Bigger South Africa circa 1913, priest Charles Freer Andrews (Ian Charleson) introduces himself to Indian lawyer Mohandas Gandhi (Ben Kingsley), whereupon they meet thug Colin (Daniel Day-Lewis, not a historical figure) in Gandhi, 1982.
Chariots Of Fire (1981) - A Muscular Christian Ian Charleson as Scot Eric Liddell, encouraged by his missionary father and brother (John Young, David John) to pursue athletics for the greater good, touring with his devoted sister (Cheryl Campbell), ending with a speech written by the actor, in director Hugh Hudson’s Chariots Of Fire, 1981.
Chariots Of Fire (1981) - May The Best Man Win After much build-up, the fictional first competitive meeting between between the missionary-athlete Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), arriving from Scotland, and Cambridge man Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross, with friends, Nicholas Farrell, Nigel Havers), in Chariots Of Fire, 1981.
Chariots Of Fire (1981) - Scotland's Finest Wing Beginning the back-story for Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), born to missionary parents in China, already a rugby star in Scotland, appearing at a highland fair, his sister (Cheryl Campbell) attending and friend Sandy (Struan Rodger) promoting an exhibition, in Chariots Of Fire, 1981.
Chariots Of Fire (1981) - Those Few Young Men The opening from director Hugh Hudson, Nigel Havers and Nicholas Farrell as the matured Lindsay and Montague, then the beach sequence, shot in Scotland, featuring leads Ben Cross and Ian Charleson, and the much-lauded theme by Vangelis, from Chariots Of Fire, 1981.

Trailer

Family

John Charleson
Father
Jane Charleson
Mother

Bibliography