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Nicol Williamson dies at 75

British actor played Merlin in 'Excalibur'

Nicol Williamson, the British actor best known for his role as the wizard Merlin in the 1981 film “Excalibur” and as Sherlock Holmes in 1976’s “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution,” died of esophageal cancer on Dec. 16 in Amsterdam, where had lived for more than two decades. He was 75.

Williamson had dozens of film credits to his name but won more plaudits for his stage acting. Playwright John Osborne once described him as “the greatest actor since Marlon Brando.”

He was nominated for a Tony Award in 1966 for his role in Osborne’s “Inadmissible Evidence” and again in 1974 for Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya.” He also was nominated three times for acting honors at the British Academy Film Awards, Britain’s equivalent of the Oscars.

In films, he was an acclaimed wizard Merlin in John Boorman’s “Excalibur” and also played Little John to Sean Connery’s Robin Hood and Audrey Hepburn’s Lady Marian in the 1976 movie “Robin and Marian.”

Luke Williamson described his father as multitalented and multifaceted. “He could do it all,” Williamson said in a telephone interview. “He could sing, he wrote poetry, he wrote prose, he wrote a book … He was working on a CD in the year leading up to his illness, and he finished it while he was going through chemotherapy.”

As he left the theater behind, he gravitated more toward musical projects, including the CD, which Luke said would eventually be released on his father’s website.

Luke Williamson said his father was also survived by his wife, Jill Townsend.

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