27 September 1953
Barnsley, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
David Bradley (born 27 September 1953), now professionally known as Dai Bradley, is an English actor who became well known for his first time role of Billy Casper in the critically acclaimed 1968 film Kes, directed by Ken Loach.
David Bradley was born in the hamlet of Stubbs, near Barnsley, South Yorkshire. By his own account, he had an unremarkable childhood, and was not involved in any acting apart from amateur Christmas pantos. At the age of 14, he won the part of Billy Casper in Kes.
Bradley has said that the making of the film was a happy one. The cast was "like one huge family" and he spent much of his time playing with the other young boys who appeared in the film. One of his less happy memories is of the football scene. Several thousand gallons of water had been pumped onto the field to create mud. But although it was mid-August, it was one of the coldest August days on record, and Bradley and the other cast members were intensely cold throughout the day-long shoot. Bradley spent several hours after each day's filming training with the three kestrels used in the film. One of the birds didn't take to the training though and was reintroduced to the wild as soon as possible. Bradley says that he was told director Ken Loach would have to kill one of the remaining birds for the final scene. Bradley was deeply upset by this revelation, and his emotional response in the film's final scenes are indicative of how angry and depressed he was. Bradley told an interviewer that after shooting for these scenes ended, he rushed to the local farm where the kestrels were kept. He discovered that no birds had been killed after all (the filmmakers had used a kestrel which had died of natural causes).
He received BAFTA's Award for Best Newcomer for his role. The film required extensive time training the two kestrels used for the film. One critic called Bradley's performance "one of the great adolescent portraits in cinema, joining the likes of Jean-Pierre Leaud in The 400 Blows..."
Bradley left school at the age of 17. He moved to London and began training as an actor with the Royal National Theatre. In time, he worked with Anthony Hopkins, Joan Plowright and Derek Jacobi. Bradley changed his first name to Dai when Equity, the actors' union, already had an actor by that name on their books.
While he did not receive the same positive reviews for his subsequent film performances as he did for Kes, Bradley received solid reviews for his theatre acting. He was cast as Alan in the play Equus in the mid-1970s. The production embarked on a two-and-a-half year worldwide tour. In the United States, he starred with Anthony Perkins, and won standing ovations. Though he was offered the opportunity to take over the role in the Broadway production, he returned to his home in England.
After Kes was released in 1970, Bradley joined the cast of the children's television programme The Flaxton Boys as Peter Weekes in series two, and starred as Terry Connor in the children's adventure serial, The Jensen Code in 1973. He also had guest roles in episodes of popular, established drama series such as Z Cars and A Family At War.
Bradley played notable roles in several films (including the 1979 Zulu prequel Zulu Dawn) in the 1970s, but by the early 1980s, his film career had largely ended. Although, he was originally considered for the part of Neville Hope in Auf Wiedersehen Pet, for much of the rest of the decade he worked as a carpenter and renovator after the part went to Kevin Whately. He also became an adherent of the teachings of Jiddu Krishnamurti. He embarked on several other unsuccessful projects as well: a board game, a television series focused on high-stakes backgammon, and a film about medical ethics. In 1999, he began writing a children's novel.
In 1999, when Kes was re-released in cinemas for the film's 30th anniversary, Bradley made hundreds of appearances in the United Kingdom with the film's other surviving cast members.
- Akin Ojumu, "'A typical reaction was a snigger... I was making a film about the wrong kind of bird'," The Guardian, 29 August 1999. Online.
- "Role of A Lifetime," The Guardian, 28 September 1999. Online.
- Mike Robins, "Kes," Senses of Cinema, September 2003.
- Graham Walker, "Kes Fans Join Cast Reunion," Yorkshire Star, 12 November 2007.
- "Some of My Dreams Came True," Where I Live: Bradford and West Yorkshire, Spring 2005.
- Golding, Simon W. Life After Kes: The Making of the British Film Classic, the People, the Story and Its Legacy. Shropshire, UK: GET Publishing, 2006. ISBN 0-9548793-3-3