( b. Jan 21, 1922 Hurstpierpoint, ENGLAND - d. Mar 19, 2008 ENGLAND ) Male
The acclaimed British actor who created the indelible role of Sir Thomas More in Robert Bolt’s play “A Man for All Seasons,” and then repeated it on film in 1966 in an Oscar-winning performance, has died. He was 86.
Paul Scofield was born David Scofield on Jan. 21, 1922 in the Sussex village of Hurstpierpoint. His big break came in 1944, when, at 22, he was asked by Sir Barry Jackson to join one of the Britain’s most important companies, the Birmingham Repertory Theater. In his first year, Mr. Scofield’s roles included Young Marlow in Goldsmith’s “She Stoops to Conquer” and Konstantin in Chekhov’s “The Seagull.” He was admired by the local critics for his “shaggy grace” as well as for his gift for the ironic and sardonic. The following year, a 20-year-old director and enfant terrible named Peter Brook arrived at Birmingham and a unique collaboration was struck.
It was the start of a partnership that was to culminate in Mr. Scofield’s memorable King Lear for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1962, a character that, as redefined by Mr. Brook and his leading actor, was far from the majestic victim of theatrical tradition. Here was a choleric, willfully arrogant, dangerously mercurial, semi-retired tyrant whose emotional re-education was excruciatingly painful.
In 1955 he made his screen debut, playing King Philip of Spain opposite Olivia de Havilland in a period movie called “That Lady.” His performance won him a British Film Academy Award. The role that brought Mr. Scofield international renown was that of Sir Thomas More in “A Man for All Seasons,” which opened in London in 1960. The mix of moral strength, intelligence, melancholy and wily grace he brought to Henry VIII’s principled but ultimately disgraced Lord Chancellor won him a Tony Award when he made his Broadway debut in the role in the 1961-62 season. That was followed by an Academy Award as best actor when Mr. Zinnemann directed him in the movie version of the play in 1966.
After “A Man for All Seasons,” Mr. Scofield’s film appearances were sporadic. In 1971, he played the title character in film version of Peter Brook’s “King Lear”; in 1973, he played opposite Katharine Hepburn in an adaptation of Edward Albee’s “Delicate Balance.” There were television movies like a 1985 rendering of “Anna Karenina” with Jacqueline Bisset and Christopher Reeve. But Mr. Scofield remained mainly a man of the stage.
In the 1980s and ’90s, he took fewer and fewer roles on the stage. But he did turn in some striking performances in both television and feature films, notably, opposite Mel Gibson, as the ghost in Franco Zefferelli’s version of “Hamlet”; as the American professor Mark Van Doren in Robert Redford’s “ Quiz Show” (1994); as Judge Thomas Danforth in “The Crucible” (1996), with Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder; and as both the wealthy grandfather and the amoral great-uncle of the title character in a 1994 television adaptation of Dickens’s “Martin Chuzzlewit.”
He served as a director of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1966 to 1968 and as an associate director of the National Theater from 1970 to 1972. He became a Commander of the British Empire in 1956 and, in 2001, was named a Companion of Honor, a title only about 65 living people now hold.
His last stage performance, in Ibsen’s “John Gabriel Borkman” at the National Theater in 1996, was a critical triumph.
Source: NY Times obit