Herbert Wise, ‘I, Claudius’ Director, Dies at 90

British Film and television director Herbert Wise, whose work included the seminal miniseries “I, Claudius,” died Aug. 5 in London. He was 90.

When it aired on BBC Two in 1976, the critically beloved “I, Claudius” created an uproar with its violence, nudity and sex. The series was a breakout role for star Derek Jacobi, who played the stuttering Claudius, whom no one thought could ever become emperor of Rome but did.

The Bafta and Emmy nominee contributed to more than five decades of television and film including “Rumpole of the Bailey,” telepic “Skokie” and 1989 feature horror-mystery “The Woman in Black.”

In a statement Friday, the Directors Guild of America said, “Herbie was an important figure in the golden age of British television whose wide influence and impressive list of miniseries and movies for television impacted directors and audiences around the world. … Herbie was a strong voice for directors in the U.K., and had an active presence in the DGA’s London Coordinating Committee. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

The DGA honored Wise with the DGA Award for movies for television for “Skokie” in 1982. Wise also received BAFTA’s Desmond Davis Award in 1980 for his contribution to television.

Wise was born Herbert Weisz in Vienna in 1924. As a child he was moved to the U.K. as part of the Kindertransport program while his father was sent to Dachau camp. He was taken in by a family in Surrey. During World War II he worked in air intelligence. When he was demobilized after the war, Weisz became an British citizen.

In 1950, he began his career as a theater director at Shrewsbury Repertory Company. He continued his work at Hull Rep and then as director of productions at Dundee Rep. He later directed Tony-nominated actress Sheila Hancock in the 1970 production “So What About Love in the West End.”

In 1956, Wise began his television career and later made his way to film, including 1973’s “The Lovers” and the 1996 adaptation of Hugh Whitemore’s play “Breaking the Code,” starring Derek Jacobi as Alan Turing.

Wise was married twice. He first wed actress Moira Redmond in 1963; they were divorced in 1972.

He is survived by his second wife, Fiona, whom he married in 1988; their son, Charlie; and daughter, Susannah.

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