British character actor Nigel Davenport has died at the age 85. The magnetic, physically intimidating Davenport was a founding member of the English Stage Company, the resident theatrical company at London’s Royal Court. An obituary in The Guardian [http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2013/oct/29/nigel-davenport] notes that Davenport “was in every production” of the ESC’s inaugural season, except for its landmark premiere of John Osbourne’s Look Back In Anger. Ironically, three years later, Davenport made his movie debut in Tony Richardson’s 1959 film version of that same play. A year later, he also appeared in Richardson’s film version of Osbourne’s follow-up, The Entertainer, with Laurence Olivier.
Davenport’s other movie credits include Alexander Mackendrick’s High Wind In Jamaica (1965); Fred Zinneman’s A Man For All Seasons (1966), in which he played the Duke of Norfolk; Andre de Toth’s Play Dirty (1969) with Michael Caine; The Royal Hunt Of The Sun (1969); The Mind Of Mr. Soames (1970; Cornel Wilde’s apocalyptic sic-fi film No Blade Of Grass (1970); James Clavell’s The Last Valley (1971); Mary, Queen Of Scots (1971); the only film directed by the legendary graphic designer and opening-credits specialist Saul Bass, Phase IV (1974), in which he fails to save the human race from super-intelligent ants; the Sylvester Stallone vehicle Nighthawks (1981); Chariots Of Fire (1981), in which he played the Olympic committee’s Lord Birkenhead; Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan, Lord Of The Apes (1984); Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio (1986); and Without A Clue (1988).
In addition to his stage and TV work, Davenport also performed the lines of the computer, HAL 9000, during the filming of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Douglas Rain read the computer’s part in the finished film.) Davenport officially retired from acting after 2000, saying he could no longer memorize lines. He was the father of the actor Jack Arthur Davenport, who has appeared in the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies and the TV series Flashforward and Smash.
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