— by BEN FOWLER —
Veteran actor Edward Woodward passed away yesterday at the age of 79. The British-born actor — who had been suffering from a number of illnesses, including pneumonia — passed away in hospital his agent, Janet Glass, confirmed.
Woodward was only 5 years old when he won his first “award” for his recital at a talent contest in Surrey. The award was believed to be a silver penknife, until later as it began peeling to reveal a dull, base metal. His next award proved more valuable, a place at the Royal Academy for Dramatic Art, whereupon acting became his full-time profession.
At the age of 16, Woodward became Rada’s youngest student and made his professional debut in repertory in 1946. Nine years later he finally took to the London stage in “Where There’s A Will.” His success continued as he made it to Broadway and even received an invitation from Laurence Olivier to perform at the National Theatre.
Edward made occasional appearance in motion pictures until taking the role of Police Sergeant Neil Howie in the 1973 thriller, “The Wicker Man,” an iconic film, which garnered fans from both sides of the Atlantic. He declined to appear in a cameo role in the 2005 remake.
He also appeared as Commander Powell in “Who Dares Wins” (1982) and played the title role in the Australian biographical drama “Breaker Morant” (1980).
Woodward will be remembered just as much for his TV work as he will be for his movie work. He played the title role in “Callan” in 1977 and then took on the role of Robert McCall in “The Equalizer” (1985-89).
In recent years, Woodward appeared in Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s 2007 action comedy, “Hot Fuzz,” and his final film was a role in “A Congregation Of Ghosts,” which is currently in post-production.
After news of Woodward’s death, Wright posted on his personal Web site in a tribute to him:
“I am deeply sad today as we’ve lost the great Edward Woodward. He was very dear to me and a dream to work with, as I hoped he’d be.”
Actor Simon Pegg, released a statement, saying that “Hot Fuzz” rehearsals “were often gleefully tossed aside just to hear him (Woodward) recount stories from his life and career”:
“Edgar Wright and myself sought him out because we were fans of his work, by the time the cameras stopped rolling, we were devoted fans of the man.”
Christopher Lee, Woodward’s co-star in “The Wicker Man” described Woodward as “a very good friend and a splendid actor.”
Robin Hardy, who directed “The Wicker Man,” said of the actor:
“He was one of the greatest actors of his generation, without any question, with a broad career on American television as well as British film. He was the absolute star of ‘The Wicker Man.’ He was an extremely nice human being.”
Woodward is survived by his second wife, the actress Michele Dotrice, and four children, three of them from his first marriage.
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