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John Neville, 1925 – 2011

Baron Munchausen to cinephiles, John Neville was a towering figure on stage.

John Neville, who has died at the age of 86, was "perhaps best known to American audiences for playing the title role in [Terry Gilliam's] The Adventures of Baron Munchausen as well as the Well-Manicured Man on The X-Files," suggests Sean O'Neal at the AV Club.

But he was also "a leading light of the Old Vic, the charismatic artistic director of the Nottingham Playhouse in the early 1960s and, after emigrating to Canada in 1972, a renowned leader of that country's theatre," writes Michael Coveney in the Guardian. "He found huge matinee-idol success early on, in the [John] Gielgud roles of Hamlet and Richard II, though his patrician veneer and noble bearing could be easily discarded, as he showed to devastating effect in 1963, when he played Bill Naughton's Alfie at the Mermaid theatre, the role that became Michael Caine's calling card on film. This performance, in which Neville graduated from juvenile lead to juvenile leading delinquent – a totem of the swinging 60s, in pursuit of 'money and birds' — was described by the critic Harold Hobson as the highlight of his career; and he had already alternated as Othello and Iago with Richard Burton at the Old Vic (though Kenneth Tynan said that both actors were 'born Cassios'), and played an acclaimed Hamlet opposite Judi Dench (making her professional debut) as Ophelia."

"Peter Brook opened my eyes to the possibilities of the theatre as an art, but John Neville made me see the attractions of a life in the theatre," writes Richard Eyre, Neville's "drinking and theatre-going companion," also in the Guardian. And in the Edmonton Journal, Paula Simons reflects on 'how much this city owes to his legacy."

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Nice tribute for a well deserving chap.

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