Renowned British actor Paul Scofield died Wednesday near his home in Southern England. He was 86.
Scofield is ranked among the best stage thespians of the past 100 years. If his name is not readily known by younger readers, perhaps it's because he largely eschewed the fame that routinely goes with the craft.
The Times of London today offers an outstanding tribute to Scofield in which theatre critic Benedict Nightingale writes:
Why didn't most theatregoers think of Paul Scofield in the way they thought of Olivier, Gielgud and Richardson? After all, he had pretty well all the qualities, from Olivier's danger through Gielgud's grace to Richardson's soul, that we admired in the 20th century's most renowned triumvirate.While American theatregoers had but one opportunity to see him perform on a Broadway stage -- in 1962's A Man For All Seasons for which he won the Tony for Best Actor -- his work, thankfully, is forever immortalized on celluloid.
There were two main reasons for his relative neglect, the first of which is a terrible comment on our honours system. He refused a knighthood, later telling me that "if you want a title what's wrong with Mr?".
The other reason is that he didn't want to be a household name, let alone a celeb. He seldom gave interviews and never appeared on chat shows, but lived quietly and modestly in Sussex, taking the local train to London when work demanded and invariably returning the same night. It was the art, not the fame, that mattered to him. He was an extraordinary actor content to be an ordinary man.
In fact, I first became aware of Scofield for his magnificent turn in the excellent film adaptation of "A Man For All Seasons" that not only took home the 1966 Academy Award for Best Picture, but it also afforded the actor with that rarest of rare opportunities to win two of acting's highest honors for the same role. Scofield portrayed Sir Thomas More -- the man who dared challenge King Henry VIII on his decision to break from Rome over divorce and was ultimately executed for doing so.
Scofield began his acting quest in the 1930s and became affiliated first with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre before moving in 1946 to Stratford-upon-Avon to perform in many of William Shakespeare's works. And despite his long and illustrious stage career in England, his enduring legacy in the United States will be his film career spanning five decades and included memorable turns ranging from Scorpio (1973) to Quiz Show (1994) for which he received a second Academy Award nomination.
While he may have chosen to think of himself as an ordinary man, he was anything but.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).