Milo O’Shea, the Dublin-born, ferociously eyebrowed actor who helped bring James Joyce, William Shakespeare, and Barbarella to movie screens in the 1960s, has died at the age of 86. O’Shea started his career on the Irish stage, before getting his breakout movie role as Leo Bloom in Joseph Strick’s controversial 1967 adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses.
A year later, he scored with British audiences in the BBC sitcom Me Mammy, which ran for three seasons and 21 episodes from 1968 to 1971. That same year, he made his Broadway debut co-starring with Eli Wallach in Staircase, a then-daring serious play about an aging homosexual couple, for which he got a Tony nomination for Best Actor. Also in 1968, O’Shea played Friar Laurence in Franco Zefferelli’s film of Romeo And Juliet and the villainous Dr. Durand-Durand in Barbarella. (The band Duran Duran, which took their name from O’Shea’s character, later hired him to reprise the role in their concert video Arena.)
O’Shea’s other notable movie roles include a police inspector in the Vincent Prince horror-comedy Theatre Of Blood (1973), the judge in Sidney Lumet’s The Verdict (1982), a con man in Opportunity Knocks (1990), the head of a sanitarium in The Dream Team (1989), the titular matchmaker in The Matchmaker (1997), a priest in Neil Jordan’s The Butcher Boy (1998), an actor playing a priest in the movie-within-the-movie of Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose Of Cairo (1985), and, appropriately enough, an Irish theatrical ham in The Playboys (1992). On Broadway, he starred in the 1976 Trevor Griffiths play The Comedians, played Doolittle in a 1981 revival of My Fair Lady, and won another Tony nomination for the 1981 Mass Appeal. He also maintained his devotion to the modern gods of Irish literature by participating in the Beckett On Film project.
His many TV appearances include the 1974 miniseries QB VII, as well as guest spots on St. Elsewhere, The Golden Girls, Cheers, Frasier, Spin City, and Oz. His last screen performance was as a Supreme Court justice who has outlived his usefulness on The West Wing.