LONDON — Oliver Reed, the feisty, hard-drinking British actor who was as well-known for his antics off-screen as he was for his performances onscreen, died Sunday in Malta. He was 61.
Reed, who was on the Mediterranean island filming “The Gladiator,” died on the way to the hospital about 15 minutes after taking ill in a bar in Valetta, Malta, police said.
An autopsy will be performed today, but Reed’s death is not considered suspicious, police said.
Reed’s screen credits ranged from Ken Russell’s 1969 film “Women in Love,” which featured nude wrestling and the first screen scene showing a bare penis, to the family musical “Oliver!” and “Castaway,” the story of a man who spends a year alone with woman on a desert island.
In later years, his acting was overshadowed by the drunken binges and bar brawls that over 40 years had become the stuff of British tabloid legend.
Born Feb. 13, 1938, in Wimbledon, south London, Reed made his screen debut in 1960 and landed his first leading role in 1961 in “The Curse of the Werewolf.”
He quickly became typecast as a villain, perhaps best remembered for his portrayal of violent hard-drinking rogue Bill Sykes in “Oliver!”
His 1986 role in “Castaway,” based on the true story of adult magazine editor Gerald Kingsland, had him cavorting nude around a desert island with Amanda Donohoe as the young blonde who answered an ad to become his girl Friday.
He lived in Ireland with his wife, Josephine, whom he met when he was 42 and she was 16. Reed is survived by his wife and a daughter, Sarah.