Paul Scofield, A Man For All Seasons Oscar-winner, dies at 86


Last updated at 23:38 20 March 2008

Paul Scofield

Paul Scofield has died at the age of 86 after a long illness

Paul Scofield, one of the greatest actors of his generation and a 'colossus' of stage and screen, was being mourned last night.

He died at 86 in a hospital near his Sussex home after a long battle with leukaemia.

Scofield was best known for his portrayal of the Tudor statesman Sir Thomas More in the 1966 film of

Robert Bolt's A Man For All Seasons – which won him a best actor Oscar.

But he made his name on the London stage, playing many of the greatest roles in theatre and winning several


Kenneth Branagh, who directed Scofield in Henry V, said last night: "The acting profession has lost a colossus. In every medium he graced, he was a master. He made goodness and intellect sexy. He was always his own man.

"His lifetime of work was that rare thing amongst actors, a career of honour. He was an inspiration both

personally and professionally. Adored and revered by his colleagues, this greatest of actors was also the humblest and kindest of men."

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Paul Scofield - A Man for All Seasons

Scofield won an Oscar for his role as English chancellor Sir Thomas More in 1966's A Man for All Seasons (above with Susannah York)

Simon Callow, who played alongside Scofield in the premiere of Amadeus in 1979, said he was one of the greatest actors in the world.

"He had a kind of extraordinary physical warmth, almost literally like being near a fire," he told BBC Radio 4's The World At One. "He had a charisma, a hypnotism, a kind of spell that he cast on an audience."

Corin Redgrave, who appeared with Scofield in A Man For All Seasons, said: "He was the only great actor I have worked with who was not in any sense a star – there was no great publicity about him, no scandal about him, none of the attitude to stardom."

Scofield, born in Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex, where his father was a schoolmaster, got his first break in a

touring company in Birmingham in 1942, playing Horatio in Hamlet.

He appeared in more than a dozen films, including Quiz Show in 1995, while his television work included the

BBC's £4million adaptation of Charles Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit the previous year.

Other roles which brought him fame included Alexander the Great in Adventure Story – written for him by Terence Rattigan – the whisky priest in The Power And The Glory, King Lear, Frederic in Jean Anouilh's Ring Around The Moon, and Macbeth.

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Paul Scofield

An inspiration: Scofield in Hamlet in 1955 (left) and in 1984

He was highly selective about the roles he took on – and, as a notoriously private person, steered clear of interviews.

His presence was described as "monumental but reassuring" and his voice compared variously to a Rolls-Royce being started up and a sound rumbling up from an antique crypt.

He would not dream of flaunting himself at film premieres. Once it was said of him: "Only the dead play harder to get."

On being told of his Oscar win, having not been present at the ceremony in 1967, he said: "Oh, I suppose my wife and I will open a bottle of champagne with another couple."

Scofield leaves a widow, Joy Parker, a son and daughter.

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