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Nicol Williamson
1936 - 2011

 

Beaks here...

The son of Nicol Williamson announced today that the legendary Scottish actor passed away on December 16, 2011 after a two-year battle with esophageal cancer. He had been living in Amsterdam, and was working on a CD compilation of standards - which, according to his son, will be released posthumously. His official biography lists his last stage performance as JACK: A NIGHT ON THE TOWN WITH JOHN BARRYMORE in 1996; he had not appeared in a film since 1997's SPAWN.

My earliest memory of Williamson is also the most indelible: his Merlin in John Boorman's EXCALIBUR was my introduction to the backwards-living wizard of Arthurian lore, and I've never been able to shake his intense, occasionally flamboyant portrayal. It's a bold, non-traditional interpretation (matched by Helen Mirren's wicked, hot-as-blazes Morgana), which I later learned was Williamson's m.o. Whether reinterpreting Hamlet as a neurotic cynic in Tony Richardson's celebrated 1969 production or boldly tackling Nicolas Meyer's cocaine-addled Sherlock Holmes in THE SEVEN-PER-CENT SOLUTION, Williams was renowned for never playing it safe. 

This was an extension of his mercurial personality, which often made him a handful to deal with; he was notorious for walking off the stage mid-performance, going off-book or worse. During the 1965 Philadelphia tryout of John Osborne's INADMISSIBLE EVIDENCE (in which Williamson originated the role of Maitland), he socked the powerful theatrical producer David Merrick. Fortunately, Williamson was too talented to be fired; a year later, he'd win his first Tony Award in this critically-acclaimed production. There were other outbursts over the years, the most memorable being his erratic behavior during the Broadway run of Paul Rudnick's I HATE HAMLET. Perhaps going a bit method as the ghost of John Barrymore, Williamson criticized the writing of the play, improvised when he felt his fellow actors weren't performing with enough zest, and, during a bit of stage combat, struck the show's lead, Evan Handler, in the back with the flat part of his sword. This was perhaps accidental, but Handler didn't care; he promptly quit the show, leaving his understudy to finish the performance and the rest of the run.

Though ever unpredictable, casting Williamson was always worth the risk. When fully engaged, his performances are the stuff of constant discovery; moment to moment, you feel his restlessness, his desire to seek out emotionally precarious territory. This fervid approach occasionally invited accusations of camp, but there was nothing cheap or sensational about Williamson's choices; he could've been as ruthlessly precise as Olivier, but this would've bored him senseless. Williamson wanted to have fun; he wanted to locate the madness in his characters, and get a little crazy himself. It's a daredevil trait he shared with Brando (to whom Osborne once compared him).

Like Brando, Williamson ultimately tired of acting. Over the last fifteen years, he indulged his love for music and poetry, some of which you can sample on his official website. Williamson was evidently living in poverty, but his son says he "never gave up, never complained [and] maintained his wicked sense of humor to the end." I am glad that he found peace, but I am also grateful that it was the last thing he was looking for as an actor. He was a delightfully unsettling talent. We should all live and create with such abandon.

 

My Favorite Williamson
INADMISSIBLE EVIDENCE
HAMLET (1969)
EXCALIBUR
THE SEVEN-PER-CENT SOLUTION
ROBIN AND MARIAN
THE CHEAP DETECTIVE
VENOM
THE EXORCIST III
Readers Talkback
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  • Jan. 25, 2012, 3:22 p.m. CST

    by MrLongbaugh

    Loved EXCALIBUR.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 3:22 p.m. CST

    lame...

    by girugamesh

    Saw Excalibur dozens of times on ONTV back in the day. RIP Nicol

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 3:24 p.m. CST

    RIP Nicol Williamson

    by KilliK

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 3:25 p.m. CST

    RIP Theo Angelopoulos

    by KilliK

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 3:26 p.m. CST

    30 years later and..

    by Baron Von Penguin

    I still get a nob-on just thinking about Helen Mirren and her see through nightgown thing-a-ma-jig in Excalibur......right, off to youporn for a quick bout of Bellyboxing

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 3:28 p.m. CST

    find his one-man narration of the hobbit on youtube

    by sadclown

    It makes one appreciate the real craft of creating compelling characters and riveting storytelling. I had hoped he would have found his way into the films in some capacity. Alas...

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 3:29 p.m. CST

    Sad way to begin the day

    by Randy_of_AFTimes

    His Merlin is what I judge all other versions. And none have matched it. "Be still. Sleep. Rest in the arms of the Dragon. Dream." RIP Mr. Williamson

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 3:29 p.m. CST

    Beautifully judged obituary

    by Wilfy Fredericks

    good work Beaks. Nicol Williamson put in some stellar performances in a huge array of roles and will be missed by many of us. And Kilik's right to also RIP Theo Angelopoulos - hope his work gets wider recognition and good to know he was working to the very end. Sad day's news.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 3:34 p.m. CST

    Angelopoulos

    by mrbeaks

    Sadly, I've only seen ULYSSES' GAZE, and that was back when I was in college when I was nowhere near ready to appreciate it. There are several beautifully-written appreciations of his work to be found online. I wish I knew his films well enough to write about him.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 3:35 p.m. CST

    Best Merlin Ever

    by vetepalapinga

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 3:37 p.m. CST

    OMG YOU...

    by Matt Goodman

    sucked in excorsist 3. rip man, I loved you in hamlet

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 3:38 p.m. CST

    The ONLY Merlin.

    by The Shropshire Slasher

    His episode of Columbo, where he trained the dogs to kill when they heard "Rosebud", is a favorite as well. Much respect.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 3:39 p.m. CST

    Say the words... say them with me:

    by Fah-Cue

    Anál nathrach, orth’ bháis’s bethad, do chél dénmha. Use the charm of making to bring him back.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 3:42 p.m. CST

    Rosebud!

    by tangcameo

    grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 3:44 p.m. CST

    Return to Oz...

    by romanxp47

    Might as well mention it. He's absolutely great in it.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 3:49 p.m. CST

    RIP Merlin

    by disfigurehead

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 3:50 p.m. CST

    Don't forget his role in...

    by Superponte

    SPAWN!

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 3:53 p.m. CST

    Fuck this cocksucker....Where's the RYAN DUNN obit ?!?!?

    by Dr. Francis B. Gross

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 3:53 p.m. CST

    RIP Little John

    by Dead_Geek

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 3:59 p.m. CST

    He is Merlin to me

    by FrodoFraggins

    Strange that an alternate take on the character is what I first connected with. The first Merlin I ever saw was from the Disney Film. I guess i like a little camp with my Merlin. RIP

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 4:01 p.m. CST

    Mesmerizing in Excalibur.

    by Brian Hopper

    That voice. The presence. I was completely spellbound by him in Excalibur, which I saw several times in high school. Met Williamson briefly one night at a bar in Westwood near UCLA in the 90s (he was appearing in a play nearby). Nice, but I was surprised that he seemed kind of shy. At this point I'm tempted to spout praise for the lush and magical Excalibur. I mean, everyone awesome is in it... Liam Neeson! Gabriel Byrne! Patrick Stewart! And Helen Mirren, yum. A hugely underappreciated gem.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 4:05 p.m. CST

    Are you the mother and the father of the baby now, Merlin?

    by Brian Hopper

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 4:08 p.m. CST

    A huge EXCALIBUR fan here

    by lv_426

    So sad to hear this news. =STAND BACK! Be silent! Be still! That's it... and look upon this moment. Savor it! Rejoice with great gladness! Great gladness! Remember it always, for you are joined by it. You are One, under the stars. Remember it well, then... this night, this great victory. So that in the years ahead, you can say, 'I was there that night, with Arthur, the King!' For it is the doom of men that they forget.=

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 4:11 p.m. CST

    Rest in the arms of the dragon... dreeeeaaaaaaam.

    by Brian Hopper

    http://www.the-ocean.com/excalibur/sounds/thedragon.wav

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 4:15 p.m. CST

    Could not have said it better than m6y

    by Jaka

    Also a huge Excalibur fan - easily in my personal top ten favorites. <p> Totally random; I own that 4 LP vinyl version of Nicol reading The Hobbit. Think I'll pull that out and listen in his honor today. <p> RIP

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 4:20 p.m. CST

    R.I.P Mr Williamson

    by alan_poon

    Brilliant as Holmes and Merlin also memorable in Columbo.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 4:21 p.m. CST

    I see Beaks has read Paul Rudnick's "I Shudder"...

    by Lenny Nero

    ...or at least the "New Yorker" essay that's in the book. It paints a brilliant picture of the trouble surrounding Rudnick's "I Hate Hamlet" in exquisite detail. Great backstage comedy material.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 4:23 p.m. CST

    Excalibur was a great movie. RIP Mr Williamson.

    by cameron

  • countless tv series and movies passed away today at 73.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 4:28 p.m. CST

    Its not Excalibur I remember him for.......

    by david starling

    At school, I studied Macbeth and Silas Marner for my English 'O' Level in English Literature. Nicol Williamson's titular role in the Shakespeare classic was utterly riveting - I remember the teacher pointing out how Nicol Williamson reacted at the banquet, going mad over the hallucination of Banquo, that only he could see - and no, there were no FX at all, it was just pure powerful acting. He scared the total shit out of me!! As much as I studied (and attained!!) an 'A' in English Literature, when I did the exams, it wasn't just my endless cramming that was in my head - I had the visualisation of the BBC adaptation too!! He didn't nearly exploit his brilliance as much as he should have, I think.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 4:30 p.m. CST

    Stories...He is just in the land of dreams.

    by Yamato

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 4:32 p.m. CST

    Father Morning

    by Essemtee

    "Come in Father Morning... enter night." His role in The Exorcist III was short, but riveting.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 4:35 p.m. CST

    oh and speaking of excalibur...

    by emeraldboy

    liam neeson is considering converting to islam.. rip liam neeson's career then. as he will never work in hollywood again if he does convert. even though kurun and the bible are the same book.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 4:38 p.m. CST

    neeson is making a film instanbul

    by emeraldboy

    http://www.independent.ie/entertainment/film-cinema/liam-neeson-admits-islam-has-got-into-his-spirit-and-hes-considering-converting-2999064.html

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 4:41 p.m. CST

    No love for his Cogliostro in the SPAWN abomination movie?

    by KilliK

    USE THE CHAINS !

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 4:43 p.m. CST

    Great cameo

    by Bill Binkelman

    He had a great cameo (uncredited) at the end of The Goodbye Girl with Richard Dreyfus (who played Elliott Garfield) as famous movie director, Oliver Fry: Fry: "We won't keep you. There was just one question that I wanted to ask. Would you be interested in a movie?" Elliott Garfield: "You mean making one?" Oliver Fry: "Or we could go to one, but I think working is so much more fun." His Merlin is an iconic interpretation of an iconic character. Sorry to read of his passing.

  • Forget that fucking Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe shit. In "Robin And Marion" you've got SEAN CONNERY, AUDREY HEPBURN, ROBERT SHAW, and of course NICOL WILLIAMSON. It's easily my favourite Robin Hood movie and the only one I have on DVD. Directed by Richard Lester, score by John Barry... it's just fuckin' great stuff. Yeah OK, it's a bit old now obviously... but you cannot argue with quality.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 4:53 p.m. CST

    Liam Neeson is about to become Muslim?

    by TresEquis

    Fool needs to watch Taken again.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 5:03 p.m. CST

    Neeson needs to go back home....

    by emeraldboy

    to ireland and do that Ian paisley biopic. the paisleys dont like liam neeson. when the dup got wind that liam was going to become a freeman of ballymena, the dup blocked the award. the dup stands for democratic unionist party but under paisley there was nothing democratic about them.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 5:08 p.m. CST

    Also Dick Tufeld, voice of 'Lost in Space" robot, dies RIP

    by Orionsangels

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 5:10 p.m. CST

    RIP Merlin...

    by carlotta_valdes

    Anil...NathraC...UsstHosS...BeTHud...cHoTiure...TeantHey. Anil...NathraC...UsstHosS...BeTHud...cHoTiure...TeantHey. Anil...NathraC...UsstHosS...BeTHud...cHoTiure...TeantHey. Anil...NathraC...

  • RIP The best Merlin (Nicol Williamson) ever committed to Celluloid.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 5:24 p.m. CST

    Good Night, Sweet Prince.

    by Muaddib64

    I, too, remember Nicol in Excalibur! Amazing performance. All of the work that I have ever seen him in was simply amazing. One of the things that I remember about him most was his use of his voice. If you watch his lips and listen to his words they are almost seperate. What that shows me, as an actor myself, was Nicols total command of the English language and control of his instrument. A skill that all actors should attempt to master. And that is what he was a master of his craft. I am grateful that his work survives for all of us to appreciate.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 5:26 p.m. CST

    What a bummer

    by WONKABAR

    I love this dude in all the movies I've seen him in. Just got Excalibur on blu-ray last month, and watched Robin & Marian the other day...great flick. I'll have to check out Return to Oz again- haven't seen it in years. Bummer that the guy was in poverty...I might have to check out that album. Remember The Charm of Making!

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 5:29 p.m. CST

    I'll second the Robin and Marian love....

    by Jobacca

    Theres a scene near the end of that movie between Williamson and Hepburn that gets me EVERY SINGLE TIME!!!!! On a related note,anybody know where I can get one of those sweet Merlin helmets? Been looking for one for years.....

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 5:40 p.m. CST

    A voice second only to Lee's

    by Lao_Che_Air_Freight

    ...and some days, even tops it. You guys have already got most of his great Excalibur lines, but I also dearly love the [you never know until you've tasted it, and then its too late.......too late...] bit. Seven Percent Solution, the analysis of Freud's study - one of my favorite Sherlock moments ever on film, from Rathbone to RDJ. and the end of Robin and Marian when he comes in and sees what has transpired - another great moment.. I need to see more of his work, I've got those 3 and Return to Oz of course, but do I really have to check out Excorcist 3? Cheap Detective I could probably handle, if it's that Peter Falk comedy I'm thinking of..

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 5:52 p.m. CST

    Nooooooooooo! Merlin dead? One less reason to believe in a god

    by Stereotypical Evil Archer

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 5:54 p.m. CST

    No love for Cogliostro?

    by Phategod2

    Best part of the damn movie. That and Todd Mcfarlands cameo.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 5:56 p.m. CST

    A dream to some... A NIGHTMARE TO OTHERS!!!

    by Billyeveryteen

    Sleep. Rest in the arms of the Dragon.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 5:56 p.m. CST

    Frankly, how any actor can have nerve to play Merlin...

    by Gabba-UK

    When Williamson so nailed it is beyond me. According to John Boorman's audio commentary on Excalibur he turned down the role because him and Mirrian had a huge bust up in a play they were in and were barely on speaking terms. Boorman had to double dare the pair of them to be better than the other. Hence the bloody fine performances he got from the pair if them. RIP Merlin.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 6 p.m. CST

    Best Merlin ever...

    by tristeele

    I can't watch any other rubbish Camelot film or series now because of Excalibur. His portrayal of Merlin is a big part of that. RIP - PS - it would be nice to see an obit on Jame Farentino as well. The Final Countdown, Dead & Buried should be enough to get an obit written.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 6:08 p.m. CST

    @phategod2 i mentioned it,dont worry.

    by KilliK

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 6:16 p.m. CST

    Loved his Merlin

    by baronweazle

    It's one of the reasons Excalibur is one of my favorite films ever. He was great in everything he did. He was even great in a shitty movie like Spawn.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 6:16 p.m. CST

    He was awesome. Condolences to his friends and family.

    by Bedknobs and Boomsticks

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 6:18 p.m. CST

    BEST MERLIN EVER! (including the Spawn movie)

    by awardgiver

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 6:24 p.m. CST

    the story about neesons faith conversion is out there...

    by emeraldboy

    and he has said that islam has entered his soul or some such thing. He is making a film in instanbul. neeson should clarify what he said and maybe he already has.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 6:25 p.m. CST

    Magnificent Actor

    by Samson_K

    All the mentioned films are great - or at least in the case of Spawn he makes small parts of it watchable. I would also recommend The Bofors Gun and his turn in The Cheap Detective. Williamson was a mesmerising talent and easily the equal and in some cases better of many of his British and Irish equivalents. However he seemed to want to go his own way and that was good - but sad for films and audiences. On an unrelated side note he came from a town about 11 miles away from where I live and never relied on the Scottish card like Connery did.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 6:29 p.m. CST

    Cogliostro was Merlin anyway.

    by awardgiver

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 6:38 p.m. CST

    Come on, easy on the great Ra's al Ghul. Taken took some heat

    by Brian Hopper

    (unfairly, I think) for a supposed anti-Muslim bias, and now its sequel is set in Turkey. Clearly, he and the filmmakers are looking for ways to inoculate themselves against the charge, and maybe this was an awkward PR attempt at that. Two days from now no one will be talking about this because the awesomeness of The Grey will be the subject of discussion. Neeson rules. Always, even in all those smaller parts back in the day. Which brings me to... Is there anyone here who doesn't think him a god? And now to be driven from us BY A WOMAN'S DESIRE!

  • -- It would be interesting to hear if Williamson was ever beaten up for one of his outbursts. Me and many others favorite Merlin.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 6:58 p.m. CST

    one of the greats

    by Darrell

    LOOK into the eyes of the DRAGON and despair! I destroy you and consign you to oblivion

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 6:58 p.m. CST

    A dream to some. A nightmare to others!

    by keltic1701

    One of the many great (and my favorite) lines delivered by Mr.Williamson in Excalibur. Also when he has tricked Morgana into calling The Dragon (the pic on this page is from that scene I believe) to meet her own doom, he exclaims, "Look into the eyes of The Dragon!" Great stuff! :) His Merlin ranks just second only with Mr. McKellen's Gandalf on one of the greatest wizards of the silver screen. RIP to a great legend.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 6:58 p.m. CST

    Thanks for not screeching "RIP" in headline.

    by MisterManReturns

    Love to see the proper, professional posting of a person's death. Now, if we can only avoid the "passed away", or even worse, "passed." "Death" and "died" are wholly functional words...

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 7 p.m. CST

    Ah nalna thrak uth vas bethod dochyel nyenvay

    by in6087

    not sure about the spelling, but unforgettable

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 7:31 p.m. CST

    Never heard of this guy.

    by Yelsaeb

    Is that bad?

  • Movie magic. My father took me to Excalibur, my first R-rated movie. Williamson carried the film. He took what could have been a stock character and elevated Merlin into something otherworldly. How fortunate I was to be able to see this performance on the big screen, for it was truly large than life. An actor for the ages.

  • --and the smoking hot Susan George! Can you imagine what it must have been like trying to direct this lot? I know Piers Haggard replaced Tobe Hooper early on. It's not a great film, but it's an obscure, entertaining film to check out as a tribute to Nicol Williamson if it's one you haven't seen.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 7:48 p.m. CST

    LOL! You forgot to mention, if you bugged him with stupidity...

    by LargoJr

    ... he would give you an irish handshake. He was FAMOUS for it.. and one of the ONE things everyone who has ever worked with him will testify to.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 7:51 p.m. CST

    PS: Michael Jai White was so intimidated by him in 'Spawn'...

    by LargoJr

    ... he would flub & forget his lines...funny shit.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 8:04 p.m. CST

    There are other worlds...This one is done with me

    by proevad

    Goodbye sir, and thank you.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 8:09 p.m. CST

    Gutted

    by Denty420

    Sad to hear this. I grew up watching Venom and his wonderful turn as the irascible cop was compelling, notwithstanding his genuinely creepy Merlin in Excalibur. Sadly missed, RIP Mr Williamson.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 8:31 p.m. CST

    Loving the Love for Excalibur and N.W.

    by sportsguy88

    Father took me to see this (underage, when they actually carded you still at movie theater). Best Sword & Sorcery movie, best Merlin to this day. Happy it was released on Blu-Ray last year! R.I.P. Nicol aka Merlin.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 8:34 p.m. CST

    What is that root?

    by picardsucks

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 8:39 p.m. CST

    fitting farewell

    by sportsguy88

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KveOVJWy3Ww&feature=related

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 9 p.m. CST

    Fuck, all the best Excalibur quotes are already taken.

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    It was the best adaptation of the Arthurian legends ever in no small part to Williamson.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 9:01 p.m. CST

    What's this? WHAT'S THIS?

    by Keith

    '...I never saw THIS!' Williamson is great in Excalibur. That film is one of those glorious affairs where they try to cram too much in, and ultimately it doesn't fully work, but it's done with such bravado that it's thoroughly enjoyable. And Merlin is a huge part of that.

  • Tony Richardson's adaptation of Nabokov's LAUGHTER IN THE DARK and Otto Preminger/Tom Stoppard's adaptation of Graham Greene's THE HUMAN FACTOR. I would love to see them.

  • Oh grammation cleric binks! There are so many still! We could go all night!

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 9:51 p.m. CST

    Your lust will hold you up!

    by WONKABAR

  • Even films that didn't deserve his talent. It's a shame that he was so difficult to work with that it severely damaged his career, as he always delivered the goods. I'd still have loved to have been on the set of early 80's schlock horror film Venom. Three of the most infamously difficult to work with actors of the past few decades (Klaus Kinski, Oliver Reed and Nicol Williamson), along with class acts like Susan George, Sarah Miles, Michael Gough, and Sterling Hayden (in his final film role) vs a killer snake, in a film that Tobe Hooper 'almost, kinda' directed. For the uninformed, legend has it that Tobe Hooper quickly discovered on set that he didn't get along with Klaus Kinski, Oliver Reed or Nicol Williamson, all for different reasons. And, as stated above, all of whom were notoriously difficult to work with to begin with, especially if they had taken a personal dislike to you for some reason. And, just to make things even better, all of whom pretty much hated each other from day one and routinely went to great lengths to make that fact known on set. Apparently one day, shortly into filming, and looking a little, shall we say 'worse for wear' anyhow, Hooper said something along the lines of 'fuck this' and just walked off the set, never to return. The next thing anyone knew was that stock director Piers Haggard, who mainly worked in British tv, was on the set and had taken over, and would go on to direct the vast majority of the film that we know today. Maybe that's just hollywood legend, but you know what they say, in the war between truth and legend, print the legend. And that's just what Nicol Williamson was. A Legend.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 10:08 p.m. CST

    The Merlin all others should live up to.

    by readyrr

    Will never forget Nicol Williamson's portrayal of Merlin in Excalibur. He was perfect. Enough said. "This World is done with me. It is time for men and their ways. I live now in your dreams!" The lines he uttered in Excalibur will always live with me. Goodnight Nicol.

  • Jan. 25, 2012, 11:21 p.m. CST

    The Goodbye Girl

    by Benovite1

    I believe Nicol was in 1977's The Goodbye Girl. But yeah he's the best Merlin. I met Gabriel Byrne a few years ago and the first thing I said to him was how much I love Excalibur.

  • Jan. 26, 2012, 1:25 a.m. CST

    RIP Nicol

    by HarveyManfrenjenson

    Excalibur is simply one of the greatest films ever made. I think part of why it works so well is Boorman's deep knowledge of Arthurian lore-- he'd clearly read Sir Thomas Malory, he'd read Chretien de Troyes, he was familiar with these characters in the same way that a medieval Englishman might have been. And he had probably walked around the ruins at Tintagel and had a sense of what Arthur's Britain ought to look/sound/smell like. And Nicol Williamson' turn as Merlin is something no other actor could have pulled off. It's tempting to call his performance "campy", but the term doesn't quite fit. He seems altogether too convincing, too possessed by the character. And you never get the sense that the actors are collapsing in fits of laughter between takes. Props to Beaks (and quite a few talkbackers) for the overview of Williamson's other career highlights. I'm off to try to rent/buy Hamlet and the Seven Percent Solution.

  • Jan. 26, 2012, 1:27 a.m. CST

    it's 2012.

    by believe_it

    see headline.

  • Jan. 26, 2012, 1:45 a.m. CST

    He died late last year

    by Stegman84

    See story.

  • Jan. 26, 2012, 4:20 a.m. CST

    A dream to some....a nightmare to others!!!

    by darthSaul666

    R.I.P. Mr Williamson...

  • Jan. 26, 2012, 5:54 a.m. CST

    RIP Dear Sir

    by BookhouseBoy

    Save your servant :(

  • Jan. 26, 2012, 7:56 a.m. CST

    Do nothing. Sleeeep.

    by phifty2

    RIP. True, I really only know him as Merlin but that was enough. He steals that movie.

  • Jan. 26, 2012, 9:33 a.m. CST

    "Utha."

    by Behemoth

    That line he utters as Merlin, as Utha Pendragon is being killed in Excalibur, always haunted me. He says that one line, and there is so much love and regret in his delivery. What a masterful performance that I will never, ever forget.

  • Jan. 26, 2012, 9:52 a.m. CST

    Ahnal Nethrak Uthvus Baethud Dorkal Daendae

    by Two

    RIP Merlin. You were the Charm of Making for that film, and many others.

  • Jan. 26, 2012, 9:55 a.m. CST

    This...

    by Phimseto

    ...really upsets me.

  • Jan. 26, 2012, 10:49 a.m. CST

    Macbeth

    by monorail77

    Sure I loved him in Excalibur, but it is his Macbeth that comes first to mind when I think of Nicol. Of all the Macbeths I have seen, and I have seen plenty, his is the one I always remember. I don't know if its the "best" (what does that even mean?) but it is certainly the most memorable. Made me a huge fan of his and of that play and started my life-long love affair with Shakespeare in general. We've lost a giant talent. May he rest in peace.

  • Jan. 26, 2012, 11:04 a.m. CST

    HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN LOTR. AWESOME ACTOR.

    by Darth Busey

  • Jan. 26, 2012, 11:15 a.m. CST

    He would have been an awesome addition to LOTR

    by Brian Hopper

    in some capacity.

  • Jan. 26, 2012, 12:10 p.m. CST

    First took note of him in The Wilby Conspiracy

    by Guy Grand

    Mukarjee could swear by the beard of the prophet or the nails of the true cross and it wouldn't mean a thing. Because Mukarjee is a goddamned, godless, atheist Marxist. And the only thing that he holds sacred is Che Guevara's foreskin.

  • Jan. 26, 2012, 12:28 p.m. CST

    Thanks for that video sportsguy88...

    by carlotta_valdes

    ...it was perfect. ...and so few things are.

  • Seems a shame he didn't, now that I think about it.

  • Jan. 26, 2012, 2:18 p.m. CST

    He really was an excellent and unique Merlin

    by alexander

    ... and i feel a little ashamed that i still haven't watched The Seven-Per-Cent Solution yet... ...RIP....

  • Jan. 26, 2012, 8:33 p.m. CST

    @carlotta_valdes - so true & you're welcome

    by sportsguy88

    in case anyone wishes to view this, here's link repost: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KveOVJWy3Ww&feature=related fitting farewell . . .

  • Jan. 27, 2012, 10:48 a.m. CST

    Absolutely the kind of actor...

    by Jon Forbing

    That every actor should aspire to be. I'm not, by any means, saying that you should just be a dick to everyone. That's unprofessional. I mean the fact that he was constantly searching for that emotional rawness and newness, and that he was willing to do anything for it. Rest In Peace, Nicol. Many of us will try to live on in your spirit.