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Williamson, Nicol (1938-2011)


Main image of Williamson, Nicol (1938-2011)

A charismatic purveyor of raw, truculent emotion, Nicol Williamson has remained an actor rather than a film star. Born in Hamilton, Scotland, on 14 September 1938, he began his career with Dundee Rep in 1960, then moved to London in 1961, going on to repeat two of his most famous stage roles on screen: Bill Maitland in John Osborne's Inadmissible Evidence (1964-65, film d. Anthony Page, 1968) and his memorably abrasive, anguished Hamlet, filmed 1969, by Tony Richardson from his own stage production at London's Roundhouse, where the film was shot. His may still be the most invincibly intelligent screen account of this most challenging role, and his edgy intelligence was also on display in his performance in The Reckoning (d. Jack Gold, 1969), as a businessman caught between two worlds.

He was an aggressive, genial Little John in Richard Lester's beautiful elegy to Robin and Marian (UK/US, 1976) and an eye-catching Merlin in Excalibur (US, d. John Boorman, 1981), but since then his films have been patchy, often US-made, like Black Widow (US, d. Bob Rafelson, 1987). Some notable TV has included the title role in Lord Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy (d. Tom Clegg, 1986) and he had a major stage success with his 1994 one-man show, Jack (Barrymore, that is). He married and divorced Jill Townsend (b.Los Angeles, 1945), who appeared in several British films, including Alfie Darling (d. Ken Hughes, 1975).

Brian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of British Film

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Excalibur (1981)Excalibur (1981)

John Boorman's visually stunning, ambitious Arthurian epic

Thumbnail image of Horror of Darkness (1965)Horror of Darkness (1965)

Bleak Wednesday Play about an uncomfortable love triangle

Thumbnail image of Macbeth (1983)Macbeth (1983)

BBC TV Shakespeare version with Nicol Williamson and Jane Lapotaire

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