John Neville RIP

Baron Munchausen star dies aged 86

John Neville, the man picked by Terry Gilliam to embody his Baron Munchausen, has died at the age of 86.

Neville was born in 1925 in Willesden and originally caught the acting bug on a church choir outing to watch Ralph Richardson and Vivien Leigh in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He won his first role as Brutus in a school production of Julius Caesar.

Though his first job after leaving school at 16 was as a sales clerk in a garage, he showed enough raw talent performing as Hamlet in a church drama group that he won a scholarship to Rada. But his stage ambitions had to wait until after his three-year stint in the Royal Navy, during which time he was part of the Normandy landings.

After the war, he acted in the West End and Regent’s Park before going on to the likes of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and the Bristol Old Vic, where he quickly became the leading man. When he shifted to the London Vic, he became stalwart friends with Richard Burton and the two even performed Othello staggering drunk.

Neville also became a respected theatre director, but became increasingly frustrated by the lack of opportunities. While he’d taken small roles in TV shows before, he began to seek more screen work in 1969, acting in the BBC’s The First Churchills.

In 1982, Neville moved to Canada where he continued to both act and direct for the stage. 1985 saw him playing Sherlock Holmes on the big screen in an adaptation of A Study In Terror. But his big cinematic break came when Terry Gilliam selected him to play the tall-tale-teller in The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen, what was to become an epic – but now cult – flop. Following that, he worked a little more sporadically in such films as Little Women and The Fifth Element.

Neville might have been better known for his stage work than his screen appearances, but he found time to bring several notable characters to life, including the mysterious Well-Manicured Man on The X-Files, a part he brought over to the series’ first movie. His last full-length film appearance was in 2005’s Separate Lies alongside Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson.

He had been suffering from Alzheimer’s in more recent years and died on Saturday. He’s survived by his wife of 62 years, Caroline, their six children and six grandchildren.

FONTE: Empire (UK)


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