The Info List - Nicol Williamson

Nicol Williamson
Nicol Williamson
(14 September 1936 – 16 December 2011) was a British[3] actor and singer, once described by John Osborne
John Osborne
as "the greatest actor since Marlon Brando". He was also described by Samuel Beckett as "touched by genius" and viewed by many critics as "the Hamlet
of his generation" during the late 1960s.


1 Early life 2 Career

2.1 Stage and screen 2.2 Other work

3 Personal life 4 Death 5 Filmography 6 Awards

6.1 BAFTA Awards 6.2 Drama Desk Awards 6.3 Saturn Awards 6.4 Tony Awards

7 References 8 Further reading 9 External links

Early life[edit] Thomas[1] Nicol Williamson
Nicol Williamson
was born in 1936 (he would later claim 1938 in Who's Who)[1] in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, the son of a factory owner. At age two, his family moved south to England, and Williamson was educated at the Central Grammar School for Boys, Birmingham. He left school at 16 to begin work in his father's factory and later attended the Birmingham School of Speech & Drama. He recalled his time there as "a disaster" and claimed "it was nothing more than a finishing school for the daughters of local businessmen".[4] Career[edit] Stage and screen[edit] After his national service as a gunner in the Airborne Division, Williamson made his professional debut with the Dundee Repertory Theatre in 1960 and the following year appeared with the Arts Theatre in Cambridge. In 1962 he made his London
debut as Flute in Tony Richardson's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream
A Midsummer Night's Dream
at the Royal Court Theatre. His first major success came in 1964 with John Osborne's Inadmissible Evidence for which he was nominated for a Tony Award when it transferred to Broadway in 1965. 1964 also saw him appearing as Vladimir in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot
Waiting for Godot
at the Royal Court Theatre. In 1968, he starred in the film version. Williamson's Hamlet
for Tony Richardson
Tony Richardson
at the Roundhouse caused a sensation and was later transferred to New York and made into a film, with a cast including Anthony Hopkins
Anthony Hopkins
and Marianne Faithfull. Faithfull later stated in her autobiography Faithfull that she and Williamson had had an affair while filming Hamlet. His most celebrated film role was as Merlin
the magician in the King Arthur epic Excalibur in 1981. Director John Boorman
John Boorman
cast him as Merlin
opposite Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren
as Morgana over the protests of both actors; the two had previously appeared together on stage in Macbeth, with disastrous results, and disliked each other intensely. It was Boorman's hope that the very real animosity that they had towards each other would generate more tension between them on screen, as is evident from their scenes together.[5] Williamson gained recognition from a much wider fanbase for his performance as Merlin. A review of Excalibur in the London
Times in 1981 said, "The actors are led by Williamson's witty, perceptive Merlin, missed every time he's off the screen." According to Mirren, she and Williamson, free from the problems with Macbeth, "wound up becoming very good friends" during Excalibur.[6] Some of his other notable cinematic performances are as a deeply troubled Irish soldier in the 1968 Jack Gold film The Bofors Gun; in 1975 as an intelligence officer in apartheid South Africa
South Africa
in The Wilby Conspiracy (starring Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poitier
and Michael Caine); Sherlock Holmes in the 1976 Herbert Ross film The Seven-Per-Cent Solution; and Little John
Little John
in the 1976 Richard Lester
Richard Lester
film Robin and Marian. Additionally, he portrayed an alcoholic attorney in I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can; a colonel in the Cincinnati Gestapo in Neil Simon's The Cheap Detective; as Lord Louis Mountbatten
Lord Louis Mountbatten
in Lord Mountbatten
Lord Mountbatten
- The Last Viceroy (1985); the dual roles of Dr. Worley/The Nome King in Return To Oz
Return To Oz
(1985); Father Morning in The Exorcist III
The Exorcist III
(1990); Badger in the 1996 movie adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows; and Cogliostro
in the 1997 movie adaptation of Todd McFarlane's comic book Spawn. Williamson made a major contribution to the documentary John Osborne and the Gift of Friendship,[7] recalling episodes from his long professional relationship with Osborne. Recorded excerpts of his award-winning stage performance in Inadmissible Evidence also feature in the video. Williamson was known for several tantrums and on-stage antics. During the Philadelphia
tryout of Inadmissible Evidence, a play in which he delivered a performance that would win him a Tony Award
Tony Award
nomination in 1965,[8] he hit the equally mercurial producer David Merrick.[9] In 1968 he apologised to the audience for his performance one night while playing Hamlet
and then walked off the stage, announcing he was retiring.[9] In the early 1970s, Williamson left the Dick Cavett Show prior to a scheduled appearance, leaving the host and guest Nora Ephron to fill the remaining time.[10] In 1976, he slapped actor Jim Litten during the curtain call for the Broadway musical Rex.[11][12] In 1991, he hit co-star Evan Handler
Evan Handler
on the backside with a sword during a Broadway performance of I Hate Hamlet.[8] Other work[edit] Following a late-night chat show appearance in which he showcased his singing talents, Williamson released an album of songs in 1971. The album contained songs such as "Didn't We", "It's Impossible" and "Sunday Morning Come Down". In 1974, Williamson recorded an abridged reading of The Hobbit
The Hobbit
for Argo Records, with authorisation for abridgement provided by Tolkien's publisher. The recording was produced by Harley Usill.[13] According to his official website, he re-edited the original script himself, removing many occurrences of "he said", "she said", and so on, as he felt that an over-reliance on descriptive narrative would not give the desired effect; Williamson performed each character in a distinctive voice. In 1978 he portrayed a murderous behaviour expert in the Columbo episode "How To Dial A Murder". Personal life[edit] In 1971, Williamson married actress Jill Townsend, who played his daughter in the Broadway production of Inadmissible Evidence. They had a son, Luke, but divorced in 1977. Despite concerns over his health in the 1970s, Williamson admitted drinking heavily and claimed to smoke 80 cigarettes a day.[4] In an episode of The David Frost
David Frost
Show in the 1960s, during a discussion about death, which also involved poet John Betjeman, Williamson revealed that he was very much afraid of dying, saying that "I think of death constantly, throughout the day" and that "I don't think there is anything after this, except complete oblivion." Death[edit] On 25 January 2012, Luke Williamson announced on his father's official web site that Nicol Williamson
Nicol Williamson
had died on 16 December 2011, aged 75, after a two-year struggle with oesophageal cancer.[14] The news was released late as the actor did not want any fuss to be made over his death. According to Luke, Nicol Williamson
Nicol Williamson
died peacefully. Filmography[edit]

Year Film Role Notes

1956 The Iron Petticoat Man lighting Major Lockwood's distorted cigarette Uncredited

1963 The Six-Sided Triangle The Lover Short film

ITV Play of the Week Count Pierre Besukhov TV series, episode "War and Peace"

Z-Cars Jack Clark TV series, episode "By the Book"

Teletale Dr. Murke TV series, episode "Dr. Murke's Collection of Silences"

1965 Six

TV series, episode "The Day of Ragnarok"

The Wednesday Play Robin Fletcher TV series, episode "Horror of Darkness"

1968 Of Mice and Men Lennie TV film (Video)

The Bofors Gun O'Rourke Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role

Inadmissible Evidence Bill Maitland Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role

1969 The Reckoning Michael Marler

Laughter in the Dark Sir Edward More Won — Prize San Sebastián for Best Actor

Hamlet Prince Hamlet

1971 Thirty-Minute Theatre Jim Fitch TV series, episode "Terrible Jim Fitch"

1972 The Jerusalem File Professor Lang

The Monk The Duke of Talamur

The Gangster Show: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui Arturo Ui TV film Nominated — British Academy Television Award for Best Actor

1974 Late Night Drama President Nixon TV series, episode "I Know What I Meant"

1975 The Wilby Conspiracy Major Horn

1976 Robin and Marian Little John

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution Sherlock Holmes

1977 The Goodbye Girl Oliver Fry (uncredited Hollywood producer/director)

1978 Columbo Dr. Eric Mason TV series, episode "How to Dial a Murder"

The Cheap Detective Colonel Schlissel

The Word Maertin de Vroome TV mini-series

1979 The Human Factor Maurice Castle

1981 Excalibur Merlin Nominated — Saturn Award
Saturn Award
for Best Supporting Actor

Venom Commander William Bulloch

1982 I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can Derek Bauer

1983 Macbeth Macbeth BBC Television Shakespeare; videotaped TV drama

1984 Sakharov Malyarov TV film

1985 Christopher Columbus King Ferdinand TV mini-series

Return to Oz Dr. Worley/Nome King

1986 Lord Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten TV serial

1987 Black Widow William McCrory

Passion Flower Albert Coskin TV film

1990 The Exorcist III Father Morning


TV series, episode "A Curious Suicide"

1993 The Hour of the Pig Seigneur Jehan d'Auferre

1996 The Wind in the Willows Mr. Badger

1997 Spawn Cogliostro (final film role)

Awards[edit] Nicol Williamson
Nicol Williamson
was nominated for three BAFTA Awards, a Saturn Award, two Tony Awards,[15] and won the Silver Shell for the Best Actor from the San Sebastián International Film Festival
San Sebastián International Film Festival
in 1969 for his performance in Laughter in the Dark. BAFTA Awards[edit]

Year Nominee/work Award Result

1969 The Bofors Gun Best Actor in a Leading Role Nominated

1970 Inadmissible Evidence Best Actor in a Leading Role Nominated

1973 The Gangster Show: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui Television Award for Best Actor Nominated

Drama Desk Awards[edit]

Year Nominee/work Award Result

1969 Hamlet Outstanding Performance Won

1974 Uncle Vanya Outstanding Performance Won

1976 Rex Outstanding Actor in a Musical Nominated

Saturn Awards[edit]

Year Nominee/work Award Result

1982 Excalibur Best Supporting Actor Nominated

Tony Awards[edit]

Year Nominee/work Award Result

1966 Inadmissible Evidence Best Actor in a Play Nominated

1974 Uncle Vanya Best Actor in a Play Nominated


^ a b c Coveney, Michael (2015). ‘Williamson, (Thomas) Nicol (1936–2011)’ Archived 26 June 2015 at the Wayback Machine.. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 16 April 2015. ^ Weber, Bruce (25 January 2012). "Nicol Williamson, a Mercurial Actor, Is Dead at 75". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 April 2015. ^ "Nicol Williamson". nndb.com. Retrieved 27 November 2017.  ^ a b "Nicol Williamson". The Daily Telegraph. London. 25 January 2012.  ^ Comments from the audio commentary of Excalibur on DVD ^ Alex Simon (2005). The Hollywood Interview http://thehollywoodinterview.blogspot.com/2008/05/helen-mirren-hollywood-interview.html.  Missing or empty title= (help) ^ Tony Palmer (May 2006). John Osborne
John Osborne
and the Gift of Friendship (video documentary). Isolde Films/fivearts.  ^ a b " Nicol Williamson
Nicol Williamson
biography at Yahoo!". movies.yahoo.com. Retrieved 27 November 2017.  ^ a b Scott, A.O. (7 February 2005). "We're Sorry". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 May 2010.  ^ Vamping With Nora New York Times, 29 June 2012 ^ "This Slap Wasn't in the Script". Reading Eagle. AP. 13 May 1976. p. 38. Retrieved 10 November 2015.  ^ Wilson, Earl (20 May 1976). "Kissinger, Cosell: 2 Big Egos on 1 Small Stage". The Milwaukee Journal. p. 19, pt. 1. Retrieved 10 November 2015.  ^ The Hobbit, read by Nicol Williamson. 4 record boxed set, Argo Records, 1974, ZPL 1196/9 ^ Luke Williamson (25 January 2012). "To the fans of Nicol". nicolwilliamson.com. Retrieved 25 January 2012.  ^ Nicol Williamson
Nicol Williamson
Tony Awards Info. BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 15 December 2011.

Further reading[edit]

Dowsing, Martin. Beware of the Actor! The Rise and Fall of Nicol Williamson. Createspace / Testudines, 2017. ISBN 9781978036253 Hershman, Gabriel. Black Sheep - The Authorised Biography of Nicol Williamson. The History Press, 2018. ISBN 9780750983457

External links[edit]

Official website Nicol Williamson
Nicol Williamson
on IMDb Nicol Williamson
Nicol Williamson
at the Internet Broadway Database
Internet Broadway Database
Nicol Williamson
Nicol Williamson
at Rotten Tomatoes Nicol Williamson
Nicol Williamson
at the Internet Off-Broadway Database Obituary, The Independent, 26 January 2012 Obituary, The Guardian, 26 January 2012 Obituary, Financial Times, 27 January 2012

Reading Samuel Beckett

Reading JRR Tolkein ("Riddles in the Dark")

v t e

Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actor


Richard Burton
Richard Burton
(1955) Paul Scofield
Paul Scofield
(1956) Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier
(1957) Michael Redgrave
Michael Redgrave
(1958) Eric Porter (1959)


Alec Guinness
Alec Guinness
(1960) Christopher Plummer
Christopher Plummer
(1961) Paul Scofield
Paul Scofield
(1962) Michael Redgrave
Michael Redgrave
(1963) Nicol Williamson
Nicol Williamson
(1964) Ian Holm
Ian Holm
(1965) Albert Finney
Albert Finney
(1966) Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier
(1967) Alec McCowen
Alec McCowen
(1968) Nicol Williamson
Nicol Williamson


John Gielgud
John Gielgud
(1970) Alan Bates
Alan Bates
(1971) Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier
(1972) Alec McCowen
Alec McCowen
(1973) John Wood (1974) John Gielgud
John Gielgud
(1975) Albert Finney
Albert Finney
(1976) Donald Sinden
Donald Sinden
(1977) Alan Howard (1978) Warren Mitchell
Warren Mitchell


Tom Courtenay
Tom Courtenay
(1980) Alan Howard (1981) Alec McCowen
Alec McCowen
(1982) Derek Jacobi
Derek Jacobi
(1983) Ian McKellen
Ian McKellen
(1984) Antony Sher (1985) Albert Finney
Albert Finney
(1986) Michael Gambon
Michael Gambon
(1987) Eric Porter (1988) Ian McKellen
Ian McKellen


Richard Harris
Richard Harris
(1990) John Wood (1991) Nigel Hawthorne (1992) Ian Holm
Ian Holm
(1993) Tom Courtenay
Tom Courtenay
(1994) Michael Gambon
Michael Gambon
(1995) Paul Scofield
Paul Scofield
(1996) Ian Holm
Ian Holm
(1997) Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey
(1998) Stephen Dillane
Stephen Dillane


Simon Russell Beale
Simon Russell Beale
(2000) Alex Jennings (2001) Simon Russell Beale
Simon Russell Beale
(2002) Michael Sheen
Michael Sheen
(2003) Richard Griffiths
Richard Griffiths
(2004) Simon Russell Beale
Simon Russell Beale
(2005) Rufus Sewell
Rufus Sewell
(2006) Patrick Stewart
Patrick Stewart
(2007) Chiwetel Ejiofor
Chiwetel Ejiofor
(2008) Mark Rylance
Mark Rylance


Rory Kinnear
Rory Kinnear
(2010) Benedict Cumberbatch
Benedict Cumberbatch
and Jonny Lee Miller
Jonny Lee Miller
(2011) Simon Russell Beale
Simon Russell Beale
(2012) Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear
Rory Kinnear
(2013) Tom Hiddleston
Tom Hiddleston
(2014) James McAvoy
James McAvoy
(2015) Ralph Fiennes
Ralph Fiennes
(2016) Andrew Garfield
Andrew Garfield

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 7580171 LCCN: n84016409 ISNI: 0000 0000 6308 6017 GND: 1014800439 SUDOC: 060794380 BNF: cb13951458t (data) BIBSYS: 5057420 SN