×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Actor John Wood dies at 81

Tony winner known for Shakespeare, Stoppard plays

British actor John Wood, who won a 1976 Tony for his starring role in Tom Stoppard’s “Travesties,” a highlight of his long association with the playwright, died in England on Saturday of natural causes. He was 81.

Wood also made many appearances with the Royal Shakespeare Company starting in the early 1970s in a career that also included work on the big and smallscreen.

The actor did not make many appearances on Broadway, but he made them count.

In his first Rialto gig, Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,” he earned a Tony nom for playing Guildenstern in 1968. He earned another for his title role in the revival of William Gillette’s “Sherlock Holmes” in 1975. He also appeared in “Tartuffe” in 1977, starred in Ira Levin’s very successful “Deathtrap” the next year, and replaced Ian McKellen as Salieri in “Amadeus.”

At the RSC, he won acclaim for his performance as Brutus in “Julius Caesar” and much later in “King Lear.” Other notable stage work in the U.K. included Saturnitus in “Titus Andronicus”; the title roles in “Richard III” and Chekhov’s “Ivanov”; Yakov in Gorky’s “Enemies”; and Solness in Ibsen’s “Master Builder.”

His association with Stoppard began in the 1960s: Wood was one of the leads in two Stoppard Brit TV efforts, 1967 episodes of “Thirty-Minute Theatre” entitled “Teeth” and “Another Moon Called Earth.” They developed an instant rapport.

The playwright later penned “Travesties” with the actor in mind. Wood was nominated for a 1998 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for best actor for his performance as poet A.E. Housman in Stoppard’s “The Invention of Love.”

The actor’s film work included roles in “Nicholas and Alexandra,” “Slaughterhouse Five,” “War Games,” “The Madness of King George,” “Shadowlands,” “Chocolat,” “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” “Imagining Argentina” and “The White Countess.”

He appeared in the misbegotten 1998 bigscreen adaptation of “The Avengers” and had earlier guested on the 1960s series.

Wood was born in Derbyshire. He was a law student at Oxford, but a 1950 production of “Measure for Measure” starring John Gielgud inspired him to pursue an acting career. In 1954 He joined the Old Vic — he did not enjoy his experience there, saying, “One felt one was simply the cheapest way of getting the costume on stage” — and made his West End debut three years later in Peter Hall’s production of Tennessee Williams’ “Camino Real.”

Wood made his last smallscreen appearance guesting on “Inspector Lewis” in 2007 and provided the narration for the 2008 Australian film “When I Grow Up I Want to Be white.”

He is survived by his second wife, Sylvia; two sons; and two daughters.

Popular on Variety

More Scene

  • US record producer The-Dream arrives for

    Top Music Publishers Come Together for Songs of Hope Honors

    The 15th annual Songs of Hope honors united songwriters, music industry insiders and more than a few preeminent doctors at producer Alex Da Kid’s Sherman Oaks compound on Thursday night. Jimmy Jam returned to host the event, which served as a fundraiser for the ever-vital City of Hope medical treatment center as well as a [...]

  • Renee Zellweger Rufus Wainwright Sam Smith

    Renée Zellweger: Judy Garland Was 'My Childhood Hero'

    Awards buzz is building around Renée Zellweger for her performance as Judy Garland, emerging as a frontrunner in the Oscar race for best actress. But for her, the real prize was paying tribute to Garland, of whom she’s been a lifelong fan. “Nobody was prettier, nobody sang prettier…the adventures she had, [she was] my childhood [...]

  • Keke Palmer BlogHer19 Summit

    Keke Palmer Brought to Tears Accepting Truth Teller Award at #BlogHer19 Creators Summit

    Keke Palmer stood surprised and wide-mouthed on the #BlogHer19 Creators Summit stage as she was presented with the Truth Teller Award for her recent acting work — and her viral “sorry to this man” clip. “This means so much,” the multi-hyphenated star softly whispered as she got teary-eyed upon accepting the award. Last week, the [...]

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 19:

    Emmys 2019: Inside All the Hottest Pre-Parties

    It’s (Emmys) party time! Before the 71st annual Emmys go live on Sunday, stars and execs are keeping busy by party-hopping in the days leading up to the big show. Here, Variety gives you the inside details on who was where and what they were doing. Keep checking back right here throughout the weekend for [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez Green Dress

    Jennifer Lopez Closes Out Versace Show in Famous Green Grammys Dress

    Jennifer Lopez has found her way back into the Versace dress that broke the internet in 2000. The “Hustlers” star closed out Versace’s Spring 2020 show in a re-worked version of the revealing, bright green silk chiffon dress that she wore to the Grammy Awards 20 years ago. The dress quickly became a pop-culture phenomenon, [...]

  • 10 Storytellers to Watch

    Variety Celebrates Inaugural 10 Storytellers to Watch Event

    Storytellers from across the spectrum of entertainment — film, literature, podcasting and play writing — were honored Thursday at Variety’s inaugural 10 Storytellers to Watch luncheon at Gramercy Park Hotel, hosted with partner the Independent Filmmaker Project and presented by Audible. Honorees Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of “Friday Black”; “Limetown” podcasters Zack Akers and Skip Bronkie; [...]

  • Demi Moore Corporate Animals

    Demi Moore Teases Upcoming Memoir 'Inside Out,' Talks 'Corporate Animals' Team Bonding

    As Demi Moore gears up for the Sept. 24 release of her autobiography “Inside Out,” the actress says she feels like a weight has been lifted. “Even the stuff that I may have been nervous about is completely lifting…because it’s a process,” Moore told Variety at the premiere of her upcoming film “Corporate Animals” at [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content