Idols

Oliver Reed

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.

Oliver Reed as Bill Sykes

One of Oliver’s best roles was as Bill Sykes in his Uncle’s brilliant musical version of Oliver Twist.

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.





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