LONDON — British actress Billie Whitelaw died Sunday in a nursing home in London at the age of 82, the BBC reported Monday. She was best known for her role as Mrs. Baylock, the guardian of the demonic Damien in “The Omen.”
Whitelaw appeared in more than 50 films, including crime drama “The Krays” and comedy “Hot Fuzz,” but was equally known for her TV and stage performances, and Samuel Beckett’s plays in particular. He described her as a perfect actress.
Whitelaw made her stage debut in 1950 in “Pink String and Sealing Wax” in her home town, Bradford, England, and made her TV bow in a BBC adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s story “The Secret Garden” in 1952. She later appeared in several episodes of BBC police series “Dixon of Dock Green.”
Her early stage career included spells with Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop and the National Theatre. In 1964, she played Desdemona opposite Laurence Olivier as Othello at the Chichester Festival.
By then she had met Beckett, who wrote parts for her in several experimental plays. “He used me as a piece of plaster he was molding until he got just the right shape,” she said. Her first performance in one of his works was “Play,” which debuted in 1964. Others roles in Beckett plays included “Happy Days” and “Not I.”
Film parts included “Charlie Bubbles,” in which she played opposite Albert Finney, and psychological thriller “Twisted Nerve.” She won a BAFTA for these roles in 1969. She also won a BAFTA for TV drama “The Sextet” in 1972.
Later film roles include 1976’s “The Omen,” “The Dressmaker” in 1988, and 1990’s “The Krays,” in which she played the bullying mother of criminal twins, played by Spandau Ballet’s Martin and Gary Kemp.
Whitelaw was married to actor Peter Vaughan between 1952 and 1966, and later married actor and writer Robert Muller, who died in 1998.