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Nicol Williamson

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  • Nicol Williamson

    I hope you'll forgive this shameless plug from an author, but I thought some of you may be interested in my new biography, Beware of the Actor! The Rise and Fall of Nicol Williamson.

    Here's the blurb:

    Nicol Williamson became famous overnight for his performance in John Osborne’s Inadmissible Evidence in 1964 at London’s Royal Court Theatre, going on to gain a reputation as perhaps the best – and most difficult – British actor of his generation and ending the ‘60s with a Hamlet which became as legendary as it was controversial. The following year he was invited to perform at the White House – the first actor ever to receive such an invitation – but Williamson’s spectacular early success was not to last. Despite a number of impressive leading roles, his film career was less successful, although his portrayal of Merlin in Excalibur remains a popular favourite. Later, his appearances dwindled and finally ceased altogether. Nicol Williamson was an incendiary talent who once burned brightly – did he simply burn himself out or were there other reasons for his downfall?

    Over the course of 4 years, Martin Dowsing interviewed and corresponded with more than 50 people who knew Williamson, including many of his colleagues, his family
    and his closest friends. The author was also granted exclusive access to an unbroadcast 4-hour career-spanning interview with Williamson filmed in 2005.

    This book reveals how Williamson’s bizarre career path was shaped by his unique outlook on life, his enormous personality
    and his own personal demons.

    The book includes an afterword by Nicol's son, Luke Williamson. Other contributors to the book include his first wife, Jill Townsend; actors Elaine Bromka, Michael Culver, Penny Fuller, Ian Hogg, Glenda Jackson, Jane Lapotaire, Paul Moriarty, Steffan Rhodri, Clive Swift and David Warner; directors Robert Bierman, the late Jack Gold, Piers Haggard, Terry Hands, Robert Knights, Richard Lester, Peter Levin, Walter Murch, John Tydeman; Tony Garnett, Nicholas Meyer and many more.

    "Superb. Thoroughly researched, very judicious on the films, and a sympathetic and sensitive appraisal of the man without ever being sentimental or sycophantic. A fine tribute to a remarkable talent and clearly a fascinating personality, it certainly made me want to re-view some of the movies, particularly The Bofors Gunand The Reckoning. An absorbing, mysterious tale; it reads almost like a novel in the way the narrative grips and holds you." Neil Sinyard, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Hull and author of twenty books on film

    "This biography of Nicol Williamson really gets to the heart of the man and made me love him all over again. It's not only informative but heart-breaking, and Martin Dowsing has done him proud." Paul Moriarty, actor and Nicol Williamson's understudy in the Royal Shakespeare Company, 1974-75

    "Martin Dowsing has written a compelling biography of Nicol Williamson which follows his extraordinary career to his self-imposed exile on Rhodes. I would very much like to recommend this book to all interested in the life of this most charismatic of actors with whom I worked in his early years." Michael Culver, actor

    “A welcome and well-researched account of the life and work of perhaps the greatest British actor of his generation.” Peter Gill, playwright and theatre director

    “Startlingly honest, balefully funny at times, and respectful of the huge talent that inspired it, this is an extraordinarily rich and detailed biography. Nicol was the most unforgettable character I knew and worked with, and this account vividly illuminates his genius and his demons.” Leslie Megahey, director
    on Nicol Williamson’s one-man show Jack – A Night on the Town with John Barrymore

    Thanks for reading.

    I've also begun a 'How to watch Nicol Williamson' guide on my blog here:

    The book can be found here:

  • #2
    The BFI are screening 2 films with Nicol Williamson in the lead this April. 'Hamlet' is showing on 15 & 27 April and 'Laughter in the Dark' on 6 & 22 April.
    Nicol Williamson’s neurotic, cynical, contemporary Hamlet is outstanding.


    • #3
      Chewed the scenery in Excalibur!