Veteran British actor David Warner dies aged 80. The BBC reported that Warner died of a “cancer-related illness” and his family confirmed the news “with extremely heavy hearts”.
Warner’s varied career has spanned film, stage, television and radio. He was considered the best Hamlet of his generation on stage, then turned to film as a character actor, traveling from 1960s British cinema to the sci-fi worlds of Tron, Doctor Who and Star Trek. all the way to James Cameron’s Titanic, in which he played malevolent enforcer Spicer Lovejoy.
In a statement to the BBC, Warner’s family said: ‘Over the past 18 months he has approached his diagnosis with characteristic grace and dignity… He will be greatly missed by his family and friends, and we will will remember him as a good, generous heart. and compassionate man, partner and father, whose legacy of extraordinary work has touched the lives of so many over the years. We are heartbroken.
Warner was born in Manchester in 1941. His parents were unmarried and he spent time caring for both, describing his childhood as “troubled” and “messy”. His Russian Jewish father sent him to a succession of boarding schools. His mother disappeared from his life when he was a teenager, he revealed.
After school, he studied at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. From the start, Warner was unsure of his acting ability and appearance. Tall (6ft 2in) and lanky, he never imagined himself as a leading man. But after joining the Royal Shakespeare Company, aged 21, he was cast as the lead in Karel Reisz’s critically acclaimed Morgan, A Suitable Case for Treatment, and the RSC l chose as Hamlet in 1965.
Warner’s portrayal of Shakespeare’s Prince as a radical proto-student horrified mainstream critics, but resonated with young audiences. “When I was a kid and saw Shakespeare, I never heard the actors for all the postures and declamations,” he later said. “I thought kids today were probably the same as me, not wanting Shakespeare to shove their throats. I wanted to bring them back, of their own free will.
After a disastrous production of I, Claudius in 1973 Warner developed stage fright. He focused on film and often played villains, such as in Terry Gilliams’ Time Bandits, the science fiction Time After Time, and the pioneering computer adventure Tron. He worked with Sam Peckinpah on three films: The Ballad of Cable Hogue, Straw Dogs and Cross of Iron. Other prominent roles include The Omen and The Man With Two Brains.
Warner moved to Hollywood in 1987, where he lived for 15 years. During this time, in addition to Titanic, he was a regular on American television, appearing in everything from Star Trek (he played three different characters in the franchise) to Doctor Who, Twin Peaks and The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse. In his 70s, he was still in demand. He recently played Admiral Boon in Disney’s revamp, Mary Poppins Returns. In 2005, he also returned to the stage to play King Lear in Chichester.