Family & Companions
Famous for his rakish charm and easygoing manner, British actor Richard Johnson had a career that spanned seven decades. Born in Essex in 1927, Johnson attended Felsted School. He eventually made his professional debut at the age of 17, appearing in a production of "Hamlet" with John Gielgud's repertory theater in 1944. The next year, however, World War II compelled the young actor to join the Royal Navy in service of his country. When he completed his service in 1948, he attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Johnson began his career as an actor on the stage, starring in a number of productions with London's Shakespeare Memorial Theatre throughout the '50s and '60s, including "Romeo and Juliet," "As You Like It," and "Julius Caesar." When the troupe was renamed the Royal Shakespeare Company under the direction of Peter Hall, Johnson was named as an Associate Artist of the company.
In 1957, he married actress Sheila Sweet. Though the union lasted only five years, the couple produced a son and a daughter. Johnson was cast in his first credited film role, playing Captain Danny De Mortimer in "Never So Few" (1959). His performance persuaded the executives at MGM to grant him a contract. The studio even wrote a part for him into the biblical epic "King of Kings" (1961), though the role was eventually cut from the final film. Johnson remained a popular actor during this period, however, starring in films like the horror classic "The Haunting" (1963). By Johnson's own account, he was even offered the role of James Bond in the film "Dr. No" (1962), but turned the part down. A particularly memorable on-set experience came along for the actor in 1965, when he appeared in the historical comedy "The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders" (1965) with Kim Novak. A romance bloomed between Johnson and his co-star, and the two were married that same year, though they divorced a year later.
The '70s found Johnson appearing in films like the Italian film "Zombi 2" (1979) and the thriller "Hennessy" (1975), for which he wrote the original story. Johnson also served as a council member for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts during this period. In 1981, the enterprising performer decided to form his own production company, founding British United Artists. He would serve as CEO of the company for the following ten years, producing films like "Turtle Diary" (1985).
In 1982, he married Scandinavian beauty Marie-Louise Norlund, with whom he would have a daughter. Johnson's marriage to Norlund ended in 1989, but his acting career remained prolific. He starred in acclaimed mini-series like "The Chamomile Lawn" (Channel Four, 1992) and "Anglo-Saxon Attitudes" (ITV, 1992). The new millennium found Johnson playing the head of the Illuminati in the action blockbuster "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" (2001). He married Lynne Gurney in 2004, and continued acting in new projects like the Woody Allen comedy "Scoop" (2006) and the holocaust drama "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" (2008). Johnson's final film was the dark comedy "Radiator" (2015). Richard Johnson died on June 5, 2015 in London. He was 89 years old.
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Made his stage debut in a John Gielgud production of "Hamlet."
Appeared in John Sturges' World War II drama "Never So Few"
Became an Associate Artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Played Dimitri in "The Exorcist" spinoff "Beyond The Door"
Founded the production company United British Artists.
Played the head of the Illuminati in "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider."