Nicol Williamson

Active - 1963 - 2006  |   Born - Sep 14, 1938 in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, Scotland  |   Died - Dec 16, 2011   |   Genres - Drama, Fantasy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Trained at the RSC, Scottish actor Nicol Williamson made his professional bow with the Dundee rep in 1960. The following year, he performed with the Arts Theatre at Cambridge, and also made his London debut. His first major success came in 1964 with John Obsorne's Inadmissible Evidence. He won a Tony award for his performance in the Osborne play when it transferred to Broadway in 1965, and three years later repeated his characterization for the film version. Williamson's 1968 staging of Hamlet, which like Evidence played in both London and New York, was immensely popular and enormously controversial; some recall the night when, halfway through a soliloquy, Williamson brusquely apologized for his "bad" performance and stormed offstage. In films from 1964, Williamson played a cocaine-benumbed Sherlock Holmes in The 7 Percent Solution (1977), an introspective Little John in Robin and Marian (1978) and an eccentric Merlin in Excalibur (1981). His TV credits on both sides of the Atlantic included such roles as Lennie in Of Mice and Men, Lord Mountbatten in The Last Viceroy, King Ferdinand in the 1995 TV movie Christopher Columbus, and Richard Nixon in a 1974 dramatization of the White House Tapes. Williamson also appeared in a number of one-man shows, including the off-Broadway Nicol Williamson's Late Show and a 1994 play based on the life of John Barrymore. Nicol Williamson was married to actress Jill Townsend.

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  • Was a member of the Dundee Repertory Company during the early 1960s.
  • As part of his National Service, he was a gunner in the Airborne Division.
  • Broadway appearances included William Shakespeare's Hamlet and Macbeth, and Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing.
  • Described as "touched by genius" by dramatist Samuel Beckett in his autobiography.