By his own admission to, ‘a driving lack of ambition’ David Warner should have had a far higher profile career but nonetheless he always added gravitas to films he appeared in which were as diverse as ‘The Omen’ and ‘Tron’
Born 29th July 1941 in Manchester to parents who owned a nursing home but separated when he was a child and he found himself moved around eight boarding schools never really attaining anything academically. Torn between his parents it would be years before he saw his mother again and when he did it was on her deathbed. But acquiring an interest in acting in the school plays he attained a place at RADA alongside John Hurt.
He appeared in a several TV series and short films before landing a role in the bawdy 1963 film ‘Tom Jones’ for director Tony Richardson who he had worked for previously in a Shakespeare comedy and would go on to work in several RSC productions before Peter Hall cast him as Hamlet. It was a role that bought him to the public’s attention as did his lead role in ‘Morgan : A Suitable case for Treatment’ something of a social comment on the British class system as well as a challenge to people conforming. The film saw him nominated for a BAFTA which would be his only BAFTA nomination in his career. 1968 had seen him marry Harriet Lindgren but it would only last for seven years though they remained friends with him even stepping in as the best man when she remarried.
He made three films for Sam Peckinpah including the notorious Straw Dogs in 1971 that saw his character with a limp. The limp was real having fallen off a balcony in Rome where tests in later life revealed that he suffered from both vertigo and panic attacks. It had led to him leaving the theatre behind him for 30 years due to stage fright. By 1975 he was divorced and would appear in one of a string of films that he would be remembered for and here it was The Omen a huge hit that saw him memorably decapitated in a supporting role to Gregory Peck. He would work further with emerging Hollywood royalty with a fledgling Meryl Streep firstly in TV mini series ‘Holocaust’ that saw him Emmy nominated and he would later appear with Streep in The French Lieutenants Woman. He would win an Emmy in 1981 for TV film ‘Masada’.
The end of the 1970’s saw him appear in one of his best and most underrated roles as Jack the Ripper in the excellent Time after Time. The same year he would marry his second wife Sheilah Kent with whom he would have two children.
David Warner took on an eclectic number of roles throughout his career in vastly differing films that included Steve Martin’s ‘The Man with two Brains’ in 1983 to the brilliantly surreal children’s film ‘Time Bandits’ and even appearing in pop culture nonsense ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II’ in 1992 before making his stage comeback in 2001 on Broadway followed by a number of other stage productions. Work was plentiful for an actor of his range but his personal life would see him again divorced in 2005. He worked consistently throughout his career in a huge array of TV dramas series including Dr Who and whilst never the lead he provided stalwart support in films that included the blockbuster Titanic, horror sequel Scream 2, Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes remake and belated sequel Mary Poppins Returns which would be his last appearance in a film. By the end of his career he had appeared far in excess of over 200 films and TV series
David Warner died on 24th July aged 80 from a cancer related illness.