Oliver Reed (February 13, 1938 - May 2, 1999) was an English actor known for his macho image on and off screen.
Born in Wimbledon, London, the son of sports journalist Peter Reed and his wife Marcia, and grandson of actor Herbert Beerbohm Tree by his mistress May Pinney Reed.
Dyslexic and expelled from many different private schools, Reed had no acting training and had very minimal theatrical experience. His films included Women In Love, The Assassination Bureau, The Devils, I'll Never Forget What's 'Isname, Oliver!, Tommy, The Three Musketeers, Zero Population Growth, Burnt Offerings, The Brood, Castaway, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Lion of the Desert, and Gladiator.
A major international star in the late 1960s and 1970s, Reed's career declined in the 1980s. Some of his contemporaries have ascribed his frequent appearances in films which wasted his talent to his desire for financial security: when the UK government raised taxes on personal income, Reed initially declined to join the exodus of major British film stars to Hollywood and other more tax-friendly locales, although his Daily Telegraph obituary noted that in the late seventies he was obliged to relocate to the Channel Islands as a "tax exile".
In 1959 Reed wed Kate Byrne. They had one son, Mark, before their divorce in 1969. He then lived with the dancer Jackie Daryl from 1969, but they later parted, after having a daughter, Sarah. His widow was his second wife Josephine Burge, whom he married in 1985.
Burly and with a 48 inch chest, he began his career playing romantic leads, but gradually acquired a tougher image. He was famous for his excessive drinking, and was once forced to leave the set of a television discussion programme after arriving drunk and attempting to kiss feminist writer Kate Millett.
Reed's drinking bouts fitted in with the "social" attitude of many rugby teams in the 1960s and '70s, and there are numerous anecdotes such as Reed and 36 friends drinking, in an evening, 60 gallons of beer, 32 bottles of Scotch, 17 bottles of gin, four crates of wine and one bottle of Babycham. He minimised the story that he drank 106 pints of beer on a 2-day binge before marrying Josephine; "The event that was reported actually took place during an arm-wrestling competition in Guernsey about 15 years ago, it was highly exaggerated."
An oft-repeated, yet unverified anecdote holds that Reed could have been chosen to play James Bond. In 1969, Bond franchise producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were looking for a replacement for Sean Connery. Reed, 31 at the time, was a prime candidate but ultimately not selected because the producers felt his rowdy demeanour was too much of a liability. In a posthumous biography, the Guardian Unlimited called passing over Reed "one of the great missed opportunities of post-war British movie history."
Reed was often irritated that his appearances on TV chat shows concentrated on his drinking feats, rather than his latest film.
He died suddenly from a heart attack in Valletta, Malta reportedly after drinking three bottles of rum and beating five sailors at arm wrestling at a bar called simply, "the Pub". His funeral was held in Buttevant, County Cork, Ireland. "Consider Yourself", a song from the hugely successful Oliver!, was played at the funeral.
As a mark of respect, the owners have since added "ollie's last order" to the pub's sign.
His death came while he was in the middle of filming Gladiator, and his remaining scenes were completed using a body double and digitally manipulating previously shot footage.
He was the nephew of film director Sir Carol Reed.