Ian Bannen, the veteran Scottish stage and film actor who starred most recently in “Waking Ned Devine” and received a best supporting actor Oscar nom for “The Flight of the Phoenix,” died Wednesday in an auto accident. He was 71.
“Ian had a charm over and above his acting abilities,” said Arthur Hiller, who directed Bannen with Natalie Wood in “Penelope” in 1966. “He gave an immediate likeability and understanding to the characters he played.”
The fatal accident occurred around noon on the south side of Scotland’s Loch Ness in a highlands area called Knockies Straight.
Bannen and his 53-year-old wife, Marilyn, were found in an overturned car. Bannen was pronounced dead at the scene. His wife, who had been driving, was airlifted to a hospital. Her injuries were said to be slight, and she’s been in phone contact with friends.
Bannen was on break from filming Peter Capaldi’s “Strictly Sinatra,” which had begun lensing in October. The indie film tells the story of a small-time Scottish crooner and stars Tommy Flanagan and Ian Hart.
This year Bannen finished co-starring in three films. One is “Best,” based on British soccer star George Best’s life. It also stars Roger Daltrey, Stephen Fry and Patsy Kensit. Another is “To Walk With Lions,” the story of George Adamson, the animal rights activist. The third is “The Testimony of Taliesin Jones,” in which he plays a piano teacher/faith healer and co-stars with Jonathan Pryce.
“After ‘Ned Devine,’ Ian’s career was on a serious upswing,” said manager Daniel Sladek. “Next year, he would have had his pick of four or five excellent films.”
Bannen, who had been represented for most of his career by London Management’s Jean Diamond, had worked with some of film’s most prominent directors.
Among them: John Huston on “The Mackintosh Man,” Richard Attenborough on “Ghandi,” John Boorman on “Hope and Glory,” Michael Apted on “Gorky Park,” Louis Malle on “Damage,” and Mel Gibson on “Braveheart” in which he played Robert the Bruce’s father.
Among his stage credits are “Othello” directed by Franco Zifferelli, “Long Days Journey Into Night,” directed by Jose Quintero, “A View From the Bridge,” directed by Peter Brook, and “Romeo and Juliet” directed by Peter Hall.
His co-stars have been as varied as Elizabeth Taylor (“The Driver’s Seat”), Richard Burton and Sophia Loren (“The Voyage”), Sean Connery (“The Offence”), George C. Scott (“Jane Eyre”), Lee Marvin and William Hurt (“Gorky Park”) and Paul Newman (“The Mackintosh Man.”)
Bannen met his wife in 1976 over a problem with a motor vehicle.
He’d been starring in “Hamlet” at the Stratford theater and she, a former Ministry of Agriculture assistant, parked her aging van in a space without realizing it was reserved for Bannen. They met when she was unable to start the vehicle.