Birth Name: Robert Oliver Reed
Born: 13 February 1937 Died: 2 May 1999
Country of origin: United Kingdom
Height: 5' 11"
Ethnicity: White / Caucasian
Relationship Status: Married
Partner: Josephine Burge
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About: After time in the British Army, serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps, Reed commenced his thespian career as an extra in films in the late 1950s. He had no acting training or theatrical experience. He appeared uncredited in two Norman Wisdom films, The Square Peg (1958) and The Bulldog Breed (1960), in which Reed played the leader of a gang of Teddy Boys roughing up Wisdom in a cinema. Uncredited television appearances during this period include episodes of The Invisible Man (1958) and The Fou After time in the British Army, serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps, Reed commenced his thespian career as an extra in films in the late 1950s. He had no acting training or theatrical experience. He appeared uncredited in two Norman Wisdom films, The Square Peg (1958) and The Bulldog Breed (1960), in which Reed played the leader of a gang of Teddy Boys roughing up Wisdom in a cinema. Uncredited television appearances during this period include episodes of The Invisible Man (1958) and The Four Just Men (1959).
Reed got his first significant roles in Hammer Films' Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960), The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960), Captain Clegg (1962), Pirates of Blood River (1962), and The Curse of the Werewolf (1961). Reed also starred in Paranoiac, and The Damned (1963). In 1964 he starred in the first of six films directed by Michael Winner, The System, (known as The Girl-Getters in the U.S.). More Hammer Films productions followed, such as The Brigand Of Kandahar (1965). He first collaborated with director Ken Russell in a TV biopic of Claude Debussy in 1965, and later played Dante Gabriel Rossetti in Russell's subsequent TV biopic Dante's Inferno (1967).
In 1966 Reed played a mountain fur trapper, with co-star Rita Tushingham, in an action-adventure film The Trap with a soundtrack by British film composer Ron Goodwin. Reed's presence could be seen in The Shuttered Room (1967). Reed played the role of Bill Sikes, alongside Ron Moody, Shani Wallis, Mark Lester, Jack Wild and Harry Secombe, in his uncle Carol Reed's screen version of the successful stage musical Oliver! (1968). The following year, Reed played the title role in Michael Winner's World War II action-comedy Hannibal Brooks (1969), alongside an elephant named Lucy.
His next project with Ken Russell, a film version of Women in Love, was first released during the same year, in which he wrestled naked with Alan Bates in front of a log fire. The controversial Russell film The Devils (1971) was followed in the summer of 1975 by the same director's musical film Tommy, based on The Who's 1969 concept album Tommy and starring its lead singer Roger Daltrey. Reed made another contribution to the horror genre, acting alongside Karen Black, Bette Davis, and Burgess Meredith in the Dan Curtis film Burnt Offerings (1976).
An anecdote holds that Reed could have been chosen to play James Bond. In 1969, Bond franchise producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were looking for a replacement for Sean Connery and Reed (who had recently played a resourceful killer in The Assassination Bureau) was mentioned as a possible choice for the role. Whatever the reason, Reed was never to play Bond. After Reed's death, the Guardian Unlimited called the casting decision, "One of the great missed opportunities of post-war British movie history".
Reed starred as Athos the musketeer in three films based on Alexandre Dumas's novels. First in The Three Musketeers (1973), followed by The Four Musketeers (1974), and The Return of the Musketeers (1989). He starred in a similarly historical themed film, Crossed Swords (UK Title "The Prince and the Pauper") (1977), as Miles Hendon alongside Raquel Welch and a grown up Mark Lester, who had worked with Reed in Oliver!. Reed returned to horror as Dr. Hal Raglan in David Cronenberg's 1979 film The Brood.
From the 1980s onwards Reed's films had less success, his more notable roles being General Rodolfo Graziani in Lion of the Desert (1981), which co-starred Anthony Quinn and chronicled the resistance to Italy's occupation of Libya; and in Castaway (1986) as the middle aged Gerald Kingsland, who advertises for a "wife" (played by Amanda Donohoe) to live on a desert island with him for a year.
He also starred as Lt-Col Gerard Leachman in the Iraqi historical film Al-Mas' Ala Al-Kubra (a.k.a. Clash of Loyalties) in 1982, which dealt with Leachman's exploits during the 1920 revolution in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq).
By the late 1980s, he was largely appearing in exploitation films produced by the impresario Harry Alan Towers, most of which were filmed in South Africa at the time of apartheid and released straight to video in the US and UK. These included Skeleton Coast (1987), Gor (1987), Dragonard (1987) and its filmed-back-to-back sequel Master Of Dragonard Hill, Hold My Hand I'm Dying (aka Blind Justice) (1988), House Of Usher (1988), Captive Rage (1988), and The Revenger (1989).
His last major successes were Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) (as the god Vulcan), Treasure Island (1990) (as Captain Billy Bones), and Peter Chelsom's Funny Bones (1995).
His final role was the elderly slave dealer Proximo in Gladiator (2000), in which he played alongside Richard Harris, an actor whom Reed admired greatly both on and off the screen. The film was released after his death with some footage filmed with a double, digitally mixed with outtake footage. The film was dedicated to him. He was posthumously nominated for a British Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in this film, and also for the Screen Actors Guild Award, along with the rest of the principal players for Best Ensemble Cast.
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