British TV and film actor Michael Billington died of cancer in Margate, England June 3. He was 63.
Billington starred in 1970s British sci fi series “UFO” and played James Bond’s would-be assassin in “The Spy Who Loved Me.”
Born in Blackburn, Lancashire, he started his showbiz career inWarner’s distribution department, then danced in West End shows, appeared in cabaret and served as Danny La Rue’s straight man before securing more prominent acting roles.
He played a footballer in BBC series “United!,” and a brief appearance in an episode of cult series “The Prisoner” in 1967 led to the role of Colonel Paul Foster in “UFO.”
“UFO” was made by the creators of puppet series “Thunderbirds” and “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons,” who wanted to branch out into live action. It fell between children and adult audiences, but now has a cult following.
He appeared in British TV series “The Onedin Line” and “Spearhead,” but reached his biggest international audience as Sergei Barsov, the Soviet agent who pursues Bond and is killed by 007 at the beginning of “The Spy Who Loved Me.”
He reputedly screen-tested for the role of Bond himself more often than any other actor, and was close to replacing Roger Moore in “Octopussy” when the star’s salary demands looked like they might prove too high.
He also wrote the story for the David Essex motorbike-racing film “Silver Dream Racer.” After the Bond role, he moved to Hollywood and appeared in “KGB: The Secret War,” “Magnum P.I.,” “Hart to Hart” and “Fantasy Island.”
On stage, he appeared in shows in England including “Death of a Salesman,” “The Merchant of Venice” and “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
He is survived by a son.