Actor William Finley, who starred as the title character in Brian De Palma’s “Phantom of the Paradise” and appeared in many other films by the director, died Saturday, April 14. He was 69.
Finley’s character of the Phantom in the 1974 De Palma pic, an updating of “The Phantom of the Opera” that also starred Paul Williams, is sometimes credited as an inspiration for Darth Vader in George Lucas’ “Star Wars” films.
Finley appeared in several of De Palma’s early films, including the helmer’s 1962 short “Woton’s Wake”; features “Murder a la Mod,” “Dionysus” (which captured the seminal Performance Garage production of “Dionysus in ’69” that starred Finley) and “The Wedding Party”; and the film that first brought the director to prominence, 1973’s “Sisters,” in which Finley played the ex-husband of Margot Kidder’s character.
The actor also appeared in De Palma’s 1978 film “The Fury,” with Kirk Douglas, and in 1980’s “Dressed to Kill,” Finley provided the voice for the murderous female alter ego of Michael Caine’s psychiatrist character.
Finley returned to work with the director for the final time in 2006’s “The Black Dahlia.”
The actor also appeared in a number of movies by other directors, including “Eaten Alive,” Marshall Brickman’s sci-fi comedy “Simon,” Tobe Hooper’s “The Funhouse,” “Silent Rage” and Hooper’s “Night Terrors.”
As W. Franklin Finley, he contributed to the script for the 1983 comedy “The First Time.”
William Franklin Finley was born in New York City and graduated from Columbia U. in 1963. He subsequently met De Palma while both were doing graduate work at the newly coeducational Sarah Lawrence College.
Finley and De Palma appeared in the 2006 documentary “Paradise Regained: Brian de Palma’s ‘Phantom of the Paradise.'”
Finley is survived by his wife of 39 years, Susan, and a son.
Donations may be made to the Dilgo Khyentse Fellowship Children’s Fund, 511 Avenue of the Americas, Box 339, New York, NY 10011.