Edward Woodward (1930-2009) b. Croydon, Surrey, England.
Edward Albert Arthur Woodward was born in Croydon on June 1 1930, the only child of a factory worker. He went to Elmwood School in Wallington, Surrey, and educated at Kingston College. He made his stage debut aged five in a talent contest. His initial ambition was to become a journalist, but he settled for working briefly in a sanitary engineer’s office. When he was only 16 he managed to gain a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He made his first professional appearance at the Castle Theatre, Farnham in 1946.
Following wide experience touring throughout England and Scotland, and a tour of India and Ceylon in Shakespeare and Shaw, Woodward arrived in London in 1955 with R. F. Delderfield’s Where There’s a Will at the Garrick. Woodward subsequently joined the Memorial Theatre Company at Stratford-on-Avon, for which his roles included Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, Laertes to Michael Redgrave‘s Hamlet, and Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing.
Back in the West End, Woodward had one of his greatest successes in Charles Dyer’s study of loneliness, Rattle of a Simple Man. When the play reached Broadway in 1963, Noël Coward, who was preparing a musical version of his own wartime success Blithe Spirit, found Woodward’s acting “marvellous” and cast him as the husband, Charles Condomine, in High Spirits.
Woodward rose to fame in the 1960s and early 1970s as a cynical secret service agent spy in the ITV television series Callan (1967-1972). Woodward’s eponymous hero cut a lonely and unglamorous figure as a murky outsider whose life as a professional killer was solitary and bleak. In 1970 Woodward won a Bafta award for best actor for his role in Callan In 1974 he starred in a feature film about Callan (1974).
He became a cult figure after The Wicker Man (1973) saw him play a devout Christian police officer drawn to investigating the disappearance of a young girl in a sinister community. The Scottish islanders don’t take kindly to strangers, especially policemen, poking their noses into their pagan rituals. The Robin Hardy directed film, written by Anthony Shaffer and also starring Christopher Lee and Britt Ekland, had a slow-burning success, eventually becoming a cult classic.
He was appointed OBE in 1978.
In the 1980s played a former CIA agent turned gun-for-hire in the US TV series The Equalizer (1985-1989). Set in Manhattan, his majestic portrayal of the avenging Robert McCall, the upright figure in the long overcoat driving a Jaguar, turned him into an unlikely cult figure in the United States.
In 1990 Woodward presented the ITV true crime drama documentary series In Suspicious Circumstances, in which he guided viewers through some of the most celebrated British crimes of the 20th century. He also found success in a very different role from his previous tough-guy parts as the binman Nev in the popular BBC comedy drama Common as Muck.
In 1996 Woodward underwent triple heart bypass surgery, and in 2003 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
In 2009 he joined the long-running BBC soap opera East Enders for a short stint playing the character of Tommy Clifford.
He married first, in 1952, Venetia Mary Collett, with whom he had two sons and a daughter. The marriage was dissolved in 1986, and in 1987 he married Michelle Dotrice, daughter of the actor Roy Dotrice and best known for her role as Betty Spencer in Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em; they had a daughter.