Ian Richardson – Veteran classical actor who found his greatest commercial success on TV as the ruthless politician Francis Urquhart
April 7, 1934 – February 9, 2007 [TImes.co.uk]
Ian Richardson was a founder member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and during some 15 years at Stratford established himself as one of Britain’s leading Shakespearean actors, with among many others, memorable portrayals of Coriolanus, Prospero and the two Richards, II and III.
His performances were marked by extraordinary vocal precision, clipped and deliberate, physical elegance and a striking presence. After so many years as a company member he diversified into commercial theatre and built virtually a new career in television, crowned by his cynical, wheedling and ruthlessly ambitious politician, Francis Urquhart, in House of Cards.
Urquhart is first seen as a government chief whip but with his eye firmly on the top job. The drama, which went out in 1990 at the time of Mrs Thatcher’s demise, was adapted from Michael Dobbs’s novel by Andrew Davies, who gave Richardson, in one of his frequent asides to camera, a catchphrase which resonated long afterwards: “You may think that: I couldn’t possibly comment”.
Having schemed his way into No 10, murdering his mistress along the way, Urquhart reappeared in To Play the King (1993), where he found himself at odds with a liberal monarch, played by Michael Kitchen with the voice and mannerisms of the Prince of Wales. In a third tale, The Final Cut (1995), Urquhart’s dishonourable past finally undermines and destroys him.
Seen by millions on television, Urquhart suddenly made Richardson, hitherto known to a smaller and more specialised audience as a fine classical actor, into a star. It was, as he admitted, a mixed blessing. He was recognised wherever he went, even during a holiday in Naples, and had to stop going to the Garrick Club because real politicians fell silent when he approached the bar.
more at TIMES
Ian Richardson, 72, Versatile Scottish Actor, Dies
By CAMPBELL ROBERTSON – [New York Times]
Ian Richardson, the Scottish film, television and stage actor who was a major figure at the Royal Shakespeare Company before gaining international fame for his television portrayal of a deliciously villainous politician, died yesterday at his home in London. He was 72.
His agent, Jean Diamond, said the cause had not yet been determined.
With his sharp features and honeyed accent, Mr. Richardson was almost destined to play the seductive villain Francis Urquhart in the series “House of Cards” and its two sequels. But he first became known as a versatile stage actor, and as a founding member of the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1960.
He made his first impact on the American theater scene as Jean-Paul Marat in Peter Brook’s groundbreaking production of Peter Weiss’s “Marat/Sade” when it came to Broadway in 1965. Stanley Kauffmann, writing in The New York Times, called his performance “outstanding.” Mr. Richardson believed the role of the madman playing Marat also made him the first actor to expose his hind parts on a Broadway stage.
Mr. Richardson remained with the company for the next decade, winning praise for his portrayals of the two Richards as well as Berowne in “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” Other roles included Prospero, Angelo and Cassius, the conniving senator for whom Mr. Richardson once said he had a soft spot.
In 1974, in the middle of a brief nervous breakdown, Mr. Richardson left the company. Two years later he came to Broadway to play Henry Higgins in a revival of “My Fair Lady,” for which he won a Tony Award. He also appeared on Broadway in 1981 in Edward Albee’s adaptation of Nabokov’s “Lolita.”
Ian William Richardson was born on April 7, 1934, in Edinburgh, to a homemaker and a biscuit factory manager. He worked as a radio announcer in Libya for the British National Service, where he first received diction lessons, before going to the Glasgow College of Dramatic Art.
At 25, while playing Hamlet at the Birmingham Repertory Theater Company, he was seen by Peter Hall, who asked him to join a troupe he was starting. That troupe became the Royal Shakespeare Company.
During a read-through of “The Merchant of Venice,” his first production there, Mr. Richardson, who played the Prince of Aragon, was introduced to an actress named Maroussia Frank. They married the next year. In addition to Ms. Frank, Mr. Richardson’s survivors include their two sons, Jeremy and Miles; several grandchildren; and two sisters.
To the end, Mr. Richardson was conflicted about the fame Urquhart brought him.
“Beforehand I was an anonymous jobbing actor known only to the cognoscenti,” he said in a 2000 interview with The Scotsman. “Now, when my wife wants to go to the supermarket, I have to stand at the side entrance, looking furtive in a hat and sunglasses. Is that any way for an actor to have to behave?”
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