The nephew of director Carol Reed, Oliver Reed left school at 17 and hustled as a strip-club bouncer and fairground boxer before joining the Royal Army Medical Corps.
Work as a film extra brought him a part in the BBC television serial The Golden Spur and he soon emerged as a lead in Hammer horror movies. Michael Winner took him under his wing for several films set during the Swinging Sixties.
Ken Russell then relied upon him to bring a sweaty reality into his own cinematic fantasy world: Reed was excellent as a hulking Gerald Crich in Women in Love (notoriously wrestling in the nude with Alan Bates), as the sensual priest Grandier in The Devils, and as the Teddy Boy holiday-camp greencoat who becomes the step-father of Tommy. He was a brilliant as Athos in the seventies Musketeers movies by Richard Lester.
From there it was a long bout of hell-raising and leads in big-budget but inconsequential films and unfortunately apart from the very odd occasion (such as Castaway) never unleashing his true potential.
The battered, bull-like Reed was a true original, especially good at playing upper-class yobs and costume heroes or villains, often with comic charm. He sadly died of a heart attack in 1999 whilst working on the movie Gladiator in Malta.