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Nicol Williamson (1936-2011)

 

  1. Noel Coward, The Italian Job, 1969.    The script's  Mr Bridges was a real hard case.  Ah, yes, but Coward was director Peter Collinson's godfather.
  2. Robert Stephens, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, 1969.  Once he lost the two Peters - O’Toole and Sellers - as Holmes and Watson, Billy Wilder’’s most expensive movie just… collapsed. Wilder pal Jack Lemmon offered his services  and Billy dismissed any idea of Charlton Heston. Or even Rex Harrison, although he had been   Wilder’s choice for a 50s Broadway musical version anda 1963 filmusical. Stephens was terrible Holmes (he’d attempted suicide during the production, following the end of his marriage to Maggie Smith), Williamson would have been no better  - as poroved by his Holmes in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, 1976.
  3. Eric Porter, Antony and Cleopatra, 1972.   No fan of Charlton Heston (also directing), Porter refused a six-figure cheque to play Enobarbus.
  4. Richard Kiley, The Little  Prince,  1974.    Director  Stanley Donen scurried around after losing Frank Sinatra - just not far enough.
  5. Richard Burton, The Medusa Touch, 1977.The tall Scot was UK director Jack Gold’s choice for the telekinetic who literally thinks up plane crashes (and more). No, said his producers, Burton was hot again after Equus. Hardly. Nor was the film: the worst of 1978, according to Chicago critic Roger Ebert.
  6. Charles Durning, An Enemy of the People, 1978.    If Steve McQueen trying Ibsen sounded bizarre, Williamson, was a nightmare, according to director George Schaefer.  “He was going through one of his mental problems, I guess. He had many at the time.” Offered the sea captain, Durning became the mayor. McQueen freely admitted that he felt out of his depth but  told Durning: “For the first time  in my life, I really feel like I'm acting.”
  7. Stacy Keach, The Ninth Configuration, 1979.  Considered for Colonel Kane in what novelist andnow auteur William Peter Blatty felt was the true sequel to The Exorcist, 1973.    Oh really…so why bother making The Exorcist III in1989 - which, ironically, featured Williamson
  8. Michael Gambon, The Singing Detective, 1986.   Another BBC-TV drama triumph (among the many) for  television's finest writer, Dennis Potter. Williamson refused the role of the detective fiction writer, lying in a hospital bed suffering from psoriatic arthropathy (like Potter, himself).
  9. Ian McKellen, Apt Pupil, 1997.    Eleven years before director Bryan Singer's take on Stephen King's “dark side of adolescent curiosity,” Alan Bridges' version - with Williamson and  Rick Schroder - was cancelled when the budget grew too high.
  10. Nigel Havers, Burke & WIIls, Australia, 1984.   B&W were the down-under equivalant of the historic US explorers Lewis and Clark. In August  1860, Irish cop Robert O’Hara Burke, an Irish cop, and English gent William John Wills, set out -  with 28 horses, 26 camels, 21 tons of equipment, 17 men and six wagons to become the first white men to cross Australia from South to North. Only one man, John King, survived...  In 1971, Nicol Williamson-Hywel Bennett were set for such a film, followed by Charlton Heston-Trevor Howard, before Aussie director Graeme Clifford got the job done with Jack Thompson, of course, and Nigel  Havers.

 

 

 






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