Movie News

John Neville
1925 - 2011
"Open The Gates!!!"

Published at: Nov. 22, 2011, 9:03 p.m. CST by mrbeaks

Beaks here...

A glorious life on the boards and in front of the camera has drawn to a close. John Neville, the rejuvenator of Canada's Stratford Shakespeare Festival and the star of Terry Gilliam's glorious THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN, has passed away at the age of eighty-six.

Aside from his brilliantly blustery performance as the fabulist Munchausen, Neville was probably best known to worldwide audiences as the Well-Manicured Man on THE X-FILES. But in reading up on his storied career, it's probable that his best work was viewed by the lucky few who saw him play Hamlet, Richard III and, in a landmark 1956 production at the Old Vic, alternating the roles of Othello and Iago with Richard Burton.

Personally, I am grateful for his tenure as the artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, where I saw a life-changing production of THE TEMPEST in 1992. The inventive integration of lighting and minimalist set design opened up the world-building possibilities of theater; you didn't need a huge rotating barracade or a plunging chandelier to awe the audience. Yet like those great shows in the '50s at the Old Vic, it lives only in memory.

Fortunately, Neville's work will long be remembered, and if Baron Munchausen is ultimately considered his career peak, so be it. It's a film and a performance that was undervalued in its day, but is still, at best, a cult favorite. Hopefully, with Mr. Neville's passing, it will now be appreciated as one of the great family films, a tribute to unfettered, unhinged imagination.

"Your reality, sir, is lies and balderdash, and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever."

Thank you, John Neville. Play him out, Mr. Kamen.

 

Readers Talkback

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  • Nov. 22, 2011, 9:06 p.m. CST

    R.I.P Sir

    by drompter

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 9:08 p.m. CST

    Class act.

    by logosicon

    Mr. Neville. Thank You.

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 9:19 p.m. CST

    John Neville was A Class Act

    by Ines5

    and A True Actor!

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 9:20 p.m. CST

    awwww man

    by sokitome

    that blows. RIP sir you were a magnificent actor.

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 9:25 p.m. CST

    A fine actor

    by malpaso

    He will be missed. R.I.P. Mr. Neville.

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 9:26 p.m. CST

    Fond memories of both of Baron Munchausen....

    by Joaquin_Ondamoon

    ....(which I belive introduced us to a naked 19 year old Uma Thurman as Venus), and the Well Manicured man, who seemed to be the counterpoint to X-Files Cigarette Smoking Man. A quick glance on IMDB also shows him as Sir Isaac Newton on Next Generation, and a role in 'Baby's Day Out', another fave of mine. A Gentlemen's gentlemen, no doubt. Godspeed, Mr. Neville.

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 9:27 p.m. CST

    And that was only of the many occasions that he met his death.

    by George Newman

    Fantastic performer

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 9:28 p.m. CST

    only One of

    by George Newman

    heck

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 9:36 p.m. CST

    RIP

    by Cindy

    I love The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, it was one of my favorites when I was a little kid. "Any famous last words?" "Not yet."

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 9:39 p.m. CST

    read about this yesterday

    by Bouncy X

    the link simply said "x-files actor dies" so i assumed it was William B. Davis since he was already old and i'd seen him recently and he didnt look too good. imagine my surprise to be wrong and not having thought about Neville as well. i used to love Munchausen as a kid, partly for the weirdness of it all and partly due to Uma's nakedness. and of course it features another canadian "icon" in the form of a 9yr old Sarah Polley before she hit it big (over here) with Avonlea. she isn't super sexy or anything but i gotta admit there's something about her that makes me go "yes please".

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 9:42 p.m. CST

    For years he and his wife would grab a pint...

    by WeylandYutani

    at a small pub on St Joseph Street and Bay Street in Toronto. By chance it was in the ground level of the condo complex where I used to own a unit. A very nice couple. Always pleasant and always chatty. I am sorry to see him go.

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 9:44 p.m. CST

    Never saw Baron VonCarpetmunchen

    by Mel

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 9:46 p.m. CST

    Mr. Beaks, well said...

    by Flippadippa

    ...I was also lucky enough to see Neville on stage. The Old Guard leaves us. The Stratford Festival does sell DVDs of their productions, but I don't think the '92 production is available right now. Christopher Plummer played Prospero last year at Stratford as well. He was magnificent.

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 9:51 p.m. CST

    My favorite movie

    by Mickster_Island

    Munchausen is my perfect movie - Neville got it.

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 10:01 p.m. CST

    "More amps, please!"

    by BurnHollywood

    Still LOL whenever I think of his hilarious turn as an elderly "patient" in THE ROAD TO WELLVILLE, who's fondness for the "electric bath" was pursued to excess... Great actor, great career. RIP.

  • It's a very Terry Gilliam like film of course, but there's also some very unique moments in that film that stand alone in the history of Films. RIP John Neville you wonderful Man!

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 10:10 p.m. CST

    RIP Sir

    by KilliK

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 10:19 p.m. CST

    No place for cucumber trees and oceans of wine. No place for me.

    by Billyeveryteen

    Wrong good Sir, you shall always have a home with me and mine.

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 10:28 p.m. CST

    X-files SD memories

    by Phategod2

    I remember thinking I can't see his damn fingers, how can I tell if he's well manicured or not? And did everyone in this show have some nasty ass fingers for that to stick out as a description.

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 10:32 p.m. CST

    He was also Sherlock Holmes...

    by John Semper Jr.

    ...in one of the best Holmes films ever made, A Study in Terror, in which Holmes confronted Jack the Ripper. That's my favorite John Neville film!

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 11:01 p.m. CST

    Godspeed, Mr. Neville

    by The Bicycle Sharer

    Rest in peace.

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 11:01 p.m. CST

    Anne McCaffrey, too, has passed on

    by The Bicycle Sharer

    The world is a sadder place today.

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 11:18 p.m. CST

    Another lion of the theatre goes down

    by MrMajestic

    Knew he was one of the "young guns" of the new era. Played to acclaim alongside Burton, good friend, Judi Dench and all the greats. Went on to become a respected theatre director and turned the Stratford into a major fest. Didn't know he was WW2 vet and took part in the Normandy landings or that he was married to the same woman for over 60 years. They don't make 'em like him anymore.

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 11:35 p.m. CST

    Classic i will watch it this weekend

    by bauerpowerhour24

    when i am not playing the SWTOR beta i will watch this Classic movie i have always enjoyed this film. a sad sad day Godspeed

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 11:40 p.m. CST

    RIP

    by disfigurehead

  • Nov. 22, 2011, 11:59 p.m. CST

    Is there a doctor in the fish?

    by Crobran

    Alas, it would do no good now. Man, this guy was diverse. He didn't get nominated for that many awards, but like Bill Paxton, he's just one of those guys that are fun to watch. If I had Munchausen, I'd watch it in his honor. What a great role.

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 2:38 a.m. CST

    he was awesome

    by newc0253

    RIP

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 2:50 a.m. CST

    Sorry to hear that.

    by Keith

  • I loved, love, will always love Munchausen, one of my favourite films growing up, remains close to heart. I have had it on VHS, DVD and Blu, also it resides in digital form on my server. No one, absolutely no one could have played the Baron, not a soul, the way Mr Neville did. I could have seen him, had he had the opportunity of reprising the style in Dr Parnassus instead of the equally talented Mr Plummer. I actually squealed with delight, seeing him in The Fifth Element, a wonderful turn from a wonderful actor. I am so so sorry I, no we didn't get to see more from him.

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 4:02 a.m. CST

    Such a great actor

    by kwisatzhaderach

    And Munchausen was his masterpiece. Will fire up the 2 disc 20th Anniversary DVD (which everyone should own) this weekend.

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 4:18 a.m. CST

    "This is precisely the sort of thing nobody ever believes."

    by romanxp47

    Hell and damn. Another great one, gone. R.I.P. Sir.

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 4:29 a.m. CST

    Rest in Peace John Neville

    by SisterSpooky

    He was a fine actor, and will sadly be missed by all. He was brilliant as WMM in The X-Files and have very fond memories of him as Baron Munchausen. Rest in Peace John Neville. The world has lost someone great and will sorely be missed by all who remember him in all of his roles he played.

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 4:41 a.m. CST

    Watched Munchausen on Blu-ray a couple of days ago

    by Gorgomel

    I'm so saddened by this news. Neville was magnificent in this. Munchausen is such an incredible film and looks glorious on blu-ray

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 4:54 a.m. CST

    Play It Grand

    by tensticks

    Obscure, completely unremembered, unlamented, and BRILLIANT sitcom from NBC, 90-91...and Mr. Neville was absolutely one of the best parts of it. Rest in peace, Well Manicured Man.

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 5:04 a.m. CST

    I love him as Holmes...

    by workshed

    ...as we've said, a class act all the way. I'd have loved to have seen him in/as Gilliam's Don Quixote.

  • Because whether you love the film, like it, or think it's just a bet of an excessive mess (personally I love it) you have to recognise just how fantastic John Neville was in the title role. It's a great shame that the role didn't lead to him being cast in larger and more notable roles across more quality projects, because the man had range for miles, but what he did get he always added a touch of class and quality to. As with others, I always enjoyed his 'Well Manicued Man' appearances on X-Files, and I loved his early Sherlock Holmes film A Study in Terror from way back in the day. He was also great in the aussie miniseries Stark (based on the Ben Elton book), as well as always delivering the goods in his often smaller supporting roles during his latter years across films like The Road to Wellville, The Fifth Element, Seperate Lies, Hollywood North, The Statement, and especially Cronenberg's Spider, another favourite of mine. Hell, he even added a touch of quality to otherwise disposable stuff like Urban Legend and Harvard Man. He'll definitely be missed, I'm just sorry that I never had the opportunity to see him on stage, where I have heard (many times) that he was truly at his best. Must have been amazing stuff.

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 5:29 a.m. CST

    Munchausen was Terry Gilliam's 'Wizzard of Oz'

    by FlandersBum

    I always thought there were a lot of parallels between the two films. Great, great film...my second favorite Gilliam film after 'Brazil'.

  • I mean, the 3 ladies in the theatre company, need I mention THE QUEEN OF THE MOON was hot for him! I can see him now, in the VIP up in heaven, living it large....

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 6:44 a.m. CST

    "Abandon ship!"

    by Shady Drifter

    "I think the ship's abandoning us..." Great quote from a great film. This is even more apt because it describes these sad days we live in: Baron Munchausen: Go away! I'm trying to die! Sally: Why? Baron Munchausen: Because I'm tired of the world and the world is evidently tired of me. Sally: But why? Why? Baron Munchausen: Why, why, why! Because it's all logic and reason now. Science, progress, laws of hydraulics, laws of social dynamics, laws of this, that, and the other. No place for three-legged cyclops in the South Seas. No place for cucumber trees and oceans of wine. No place for me.

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 7:59 a.m. CST

    I was always giddy to see Neville in a role...

    by Shut the Fuck up Donny

    just because you knew good things were coming, even in the smallest of parts. He always seemed to have a devilish twinkle in his eye, which instantly made every character he played seem more compelling, because you assumed the character knew something you didn't. And much applause to burnhollywood for remembering his role in the ever-so-bawdy Road to Wellville.

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 8:15 a.m. CST

    Sad to hear of John's passing

    by slave to the one

    Although I was aware of his career outside of Munchhausen, the role of the Baron is what I really know him from. The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen is one of my favorite films that I love to revisit, the blu-ray will be spinning this weekend in his honor!

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 8:18 a.m. CST

    "still, at best, a cult favorite."

    by Le Vicious Fishus

    Oh fuck you, Beaks. Couldn't you guys have chosen a mod who actually respects the film? RIP, msr. Neville. We'll miss you.

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 8:57 a.m. CST

    Has Anne McCaffrey's dragon gone between?

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    Haven't seen an obit yet, but sucks if it's true.

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 9:36 a.m. CST

    Great Family film with Uma Thurman nudity!

    by Sequitur

    Yeah...you can see them pretty clearly!

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 10:23 a.m. CST

    Check out "Study In Terror" and "Unearthly Stranger"

    by darthliquidator

    In "A Study In Terror" he played Sherlock Holmes on the trail of Jack the Ripper...he was the perfect Holmes..(you can get it on Warner Archive)..in "Unearthly Stranger"...(my memory's a little foggy on this one...)he's a doctor who discovers his wife(ultra hot Italian actress Gabrielle Licudi) is a disguised extraterrestrial....saw it on TV decades ago, have no idea if it's available anywhere...A brilliant "actor's actor" who'll be missed.

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 10:35 a.m. CST

    RIP Anne McCaffrey

    by Jaypeep

    She did indeed pass away today after a stroke. Sad.

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 10:43 a.m. CST

    RIP to both John and Anne

    by marineboy

    Very sad news :(

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 11:04 a.m. CST

    Rest in peace.

    by blackwood

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 12:27 p.m. CST

    RIP! One of my favorite leads in one of my favorite movies...

    by JustinSane

    ...The Baron always remind me to soldier on where my fantasist endeavors are concerned, and to not get too bogged down in "reality". John's performance was masterful. RIP!

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 12:37 p.m. CST

    He's not dead...

    by sapno_krei

    His death is just part of the autobiography he's re-enacting in a theater right now. "And that was only one of the many occasions on which I met my death."

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 12:42 p.m. CST

    Very disrespectful obit

    by Mattman

    "At best a cult favorite"? Nobody asked for your out-of-touch opinion in an obit, Beaks.

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 12:54 p.m. CST

    Look at that photo. That spark, that twinkle in his eye.

    by openthepodbaydoorshal

    What a joyous performance, and a wonderful actor.

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 2:18 p.m. CST

    Neptune Theatre

    by GeneralKael

    He was the Artistic Director of Neptune Theatre in Halifax Nova Scotia for several years. I remember when I lived there that the first thing I thought was "you mean the guy from Baron Munchausen?" as at the time I didn't really know of anything else he did other than Grand. He was great on Grand and he kept showing up in interesting places(like in The Fifth Element). I actually thought he would have made an interesting Gandalf.

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 2:18 p.m. CST

    Sad news indeed.

    by AsimovLives

    A verty good charismatic actor, and by all accounts an excelent person. He will be missed.

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 2:26 p.m. CST

    Strange

    by GeneralKael

    When you check Wikipedia it says he was at Neptune from 78-83 but I'm sure I remember him joining after that. Is it possible they meant 88-93? I was only a little kid in 78 and I'm pretty sure I didn't even know what Neptune Theatre was at that point... Methinks I found a factual error - either that or Wikipedia is infallible and I'm actually in a parallel universe. Although I hear if you drink enough Newfoundland Screech time starts to flow backwards...

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 2:33 p.m. CST

    My first choice to play Gandalf

    by Drath

    He would have been spectacular too, not to diminish the excellent work of Sir Ian at all. I agree, Munchausen is a favorite movie of mine though it was certainly a confounding first viewing. But Neville was a classic in that movie, iconic in the way only certain actors ever achieve like Gable playing Butler or F. Murray Abraham playing Salieri. Some performances are just transcendent like that. Sir John, well played and you will be missed!

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 2:36 p.m. CST

    Guess Death finally caught him

    by v1cious

    Too soon?

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 2:37 p.m. CST

    Nope, guess he was working in NS in the early 80s

    by GeneralKael

    However the stuff I found also says he got Tony Randall to play there in 1989(a big deal for a city as small as Halifax), so it looks like he left but still had influence at the theatre and that's probably what I'm remembering. That or the parallel universe thing...

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 2:42 p.m. CST

    RIP

    by veritasses

    A great actor leaves us...

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 3 p.m. CST

    Levicious, mattman...

    by Jon Forbing

    ... and anyone else who felt that line was disrespectful: Give it another read. I got that vibe from it too at first, but if you look over it again, he's saying it doesn't have the popularity it deserves. Hence the next line about it being "appreciated as one of the great family films". I think the "at best" was a poor choice of words, and the cause of the confusion.

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 3:35 p.m. CST

    Sir Isaac Newton!

    by murphworld

    in 'Descent pt1?' Playing poker with Data, Hawking and Einstein? CLASSIC

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 3:56 p.m. CST

    Baron Munchausen is an awesome movie,

    by frank

    and Neville was great in it. Really sorry to hear this news.

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 4:49 p.m. CST

    Even in his small roles he was great

    by tangcameo

    There was a short lived Canadian TV show (most of them are) called 'Eleventh Hour' that was like that film 'The Insider'. He played the (very) senior reporter like Plummer played Mike Wallace in the movie. When he was on screen you could tell the other actors were just in awe of him. Has Sarah Polley made any statement yet?

  • Nov. 23, 2011, 7:42 p.m. CST

    aww shit man....

    by The_guy_in_the_rated_R_movie

    to be honest, I didn't put a face to the name until I clicked on the link and was instantly saddened.....Munchausen and Well-Manicured Man were the roles I associated him with. RIP

  • Three possibilities: 1. Shitty, dismissive statement about a classic 2. Sloppy, nonsensical statement (i.e , poor writing) 3. All of the above. I choose door #3.