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|Born||David Edward Leslie Hemmings
18 November 1941
Guildford, Surrey, England, UK
|Died||3 December 2003
|Alma mater||Glyn Grammar School|
|Occupation||Actor, director, producer, screenwriter, singer-songwriter (operatic boy soprano) and pop singer)|
|Spouse(s)|| • Genista Ouvry (1st marriage)
• Gayle Hunnicutt (2nd marriage)
• Prudence J. de Casembroot (3rd marriage)
• Lucy Williams (4th marriage)
|Children|| • Deborah (with Ouvry)
• Nolan Hemmings (with Hunnicutt)
• George (with de Casembroot)
• Edward (with de Casembroot)
• Charlotte (with de Casembroot)
• William (with de Casembroot)
He is noted for his role as the photographer in the drama mystery-thriller film Blowup (1966), directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. Early in his career, Hemmings was a boy soprano appearing in operatic roles. In his later acting career, he was known for his distinctive eyebrows and gravelly voice.
Early life and early performances
He was born David Edward Leslie Hemmings in Guildford, Surrey. His education at Alleyn's School and the Glyn Grammar School led him to start his career performing as a boy soprano in several works by the composer Benjamin Britten, who formed a close friendship with him at this time. Most notably, Hemmings created the role of Miles in Britten's chamber opera Turn of the Screw (1954). His intimate, yet innocent, relationship with Britten is described in John Bridcut's book Britten's Children (2006). Although many commentators identified Britten's relationship with Hemmings as based on an infatuation, throughout his life Hemmings maintained categorically that Britten's conduct with him was beyond reproach at all times. Hemmings had earlier played the title role in Britten's The Little Sweep (1952), which was part of Britten's Let's Make An Opera! children's production.
Film and television work
Hemmings then moved on to acting and directing in film. He made his first film appearance in the drama film The Rainbow Jacket (1954), but it was in the mid-1960s that he first became well known as a pin-up and film star.
Antonioni, who detested the "Method" way of acting, sought to find a fresh young face for the lead in his next production, Blowup. It was then that he found Hemmings, at the time acting in small stage theatre in London.
Following Blowup, Hemmings appeared in a string of major British films, including the musical film Camelot (1967), the war film The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968), the science-fiction film Barbarella (1968) and, in the title role, the epic film Alfred the Great (1969) .
Around 1967, Hemmings was briefly considered for the role of Alex in a planned film version of Anthony Burgess's novel A Clockwork Orange (1962), which was to be based on a screen treatment by satirist Terry Southern and British photographer Michael Cooper. Cooper and the Rolling Stones rock band were reportedly upset by the move and it was decided to return to the original plan in which Mick Jagger, the lead vocalist of the Rolling Stones, would play Alex, with the rest of the Stones as his droog gang; the production was shelved after Britain's chief censor, the Lord Chamberlain, indicated that he would not permit it to be made.
Hemmings directed the drama film The 14 (1973), which won the Silver Bear at the 23rd Berlin International Film Festival. He appeared in the Italian giallo film Profondo Rosso (also known as Deep Red or The Hatchet Murders) (1975) directed by Dario Argento.
He directed David Bowie and Marlene Dietrich in the drama film Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo (also known as Just a Gigolo) (1978). The film was poorly received, with Bowie describing it as "my 32 Elvis Presley films rolled into one". Hemmings directed the horror film The Survivor (1981), based on James Herbert's 1976 novel of the same name, starring Robert Powell and Jenny Agutter.
Throughout the 1980s he also worked extensively as a director on television programmes including the action-adventure drama series Quantum Leap (e.g., the series premiere); the crime series Magnum, P.I. (in which he also played characters in several episodes); and two action-adventure series The A-Team and Airwolf (in which he also played the role of Doctor Charles Henry Moffet, Airwolf's twisted creator, in the pilot and the second-season episode "Moffett's Ghost" – a typographical error by the studio's titles unit). He once joked, "People thought I was dead. But I wasn't. I was just directing The A-Team." He directed the thriller film Race for the Yankee Zephyr (1981), which stars Ken Wahl, Lesley Ann Warren, Donald Pleasence and George Peppard.
Hemmings also directed the puzzle-contest video Money Hunt: The Mystery of the Missing Link (1984). He directed the television film The Key to Rebecca (1985), an adaptation of Ken Follett's 1980 novel of the same name. He also briefly served as a producer on the NBC crime-drama television series Stingray.
Hemmings played a vindictive cop in the docudrama film Beyond Reasonable Doubt (1980) about Arthur Allan Thomas (portrayed by John Hargreaves), a New Zealand farmer jailed for the murder of Harvey and Jeannette Crewe but later pardoned. He directed the drama film Dark Horse (1992) and as an actor returned to the voyeuristic preoccupations of his Blowup character with a plum part as the Big Brother-esque villain in the season-three opener for the television horror anthology series Tales From the Crypt.
In later years, he had roles including appearing as Cassius in the historical epic film Gladiator (2000), with Russell Crowe, as well as appearing in the drama film Last Orders (2001) and the spy film Spy Game (2001). He appeared as Mr. Schermerhorn in the historical film Gangs of New York (2002). One of his final film appearances was a cameo appearance in the science-fiction action film, Equilibrium (2002), shortly before his death, as well as another cameo appearance in the superhero film The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), with Sean Connery. He also appeared in the horror film Blessed (2004) with Heather Graham, which was dedicated to him in his memory after a fatal heart attack while on set.
In 1967, Hemmings recorded a pop single, "Back Street Mirror" (written by Gene Clark), and a studio album, David Hemmings Happens, in Los Angeles, California. The album featured instrumental backing by several members of the Byrds, and was produced by Byrds' mentor Jim Dickson.
In the 1970s, he was jointly credited with former Easybeats members Harry Vanda and George Young as a co-composer of the song "Pasadena". The original 1973 recording of this song – the first Australian hit for singer John Paul Young – was produced by Simon Napier-Bell, in whose SNB Records label Hemmings was a partner at the time.
Hemmings also later provided the narration for Rick Wakeman's progressive-rock album Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1974) – an adaptation of Jules Verne's science-fiction novel A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) – which was recorded live.
Hemmings published his autobiography Blow Up... and Other Exaggerations – The Autobiography of David Hemmings (2004).
He was married four times: to Genista Ouvry (1960–1967), actress Gayle Hunnicutt (1968–1975), Prudence de Casembroot (1976–1997) and Lucy Williams (2002 to his death). He was an active supporter of Liberal causes, and spoke at a number of meetings on behalf of the Liberal Party.
He was survived by his wife Lucy; a daughter, Deborah, by his marriage to Ouvry; a son, Nolan Hemmings, by his marriage to Hunnicutt; and four children, George, Edward, Charlotte and William, by his marriage to de Casembroot.
Filmography and television work
- The Rainbow Jacket (1954)
- The Heart Within (1957)
- Five Clues to Fortune (1957)
- Saint Joan (1957)
- Men of Tomorrow (1959)
- No Trees in the Street (1959)
- In the Wake of a Stranger (1959)
- Sink the Bismarck! (1960)
- The Wind of Change (1961)
- Play It Cool (1962)
- The Painted Smile (1962)
- Some People (1962)
- Live It Up! (1963)
- Two Left Feet (1963)
- West 11 (1964)
- The System (1964)
- Be My Guest (1965)
- Blowup (1966)
- Eye of the Devil (1966)
- Camelot (1967)
- The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968)
- The Long Day's Dying (1968)
- Barbarella (1968)
- Only When I Larf (1968)
- Alfred The Great (1969)
- The Best House in London (1969)
- Simon, Simon (1970)
- The Walking Stick (1970)
- Fragment of Fear (1970)
- Unman, Wittering and Zigo (1971)
- The Love Machine (1971)
- Voices (1973)
- The 14 (1973; director)
- Lola (1974)
- Juggernaut (1974)
- Deep Red (1975)
- The Old Curiosity Shop (1975)
- Squadra antitruffa (1977)
- Islands in the Stream (1977)
- Crossed Swords (UK title: The Prince and the Pauper) (1977)
- La via della droga (1977)
- The Disappearance (1977)
- The Squeeze (1977)
- Blood Relatives (1978)
- Power Play (1978)
- Just a Gigolo (1978)
- Murder by Decree (1979)
- Thirst (1979)
- Charlie Muffin (US title: A Deadly Game) (1979)
- Beyond Reasonable Doubt (1980)
- Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1980)
- Harlequin (1980)
- Prisoners (1981)
- Swan Lake (1981)
- Man, Woman and Child (1983)
- Airwolf (1984) (television film and two subsequent episodes)
- The Rainbow (1989)
- Northern Exposure (1992)
- Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (1996)
- Gladiator (2000)
- Last Orders (2000)
- Mean Machine (2001)
- Spy Game (2001)
- Waking the Dead: 'Deathwatch' (2002) (television episode in 2 parts)
- Equilibrium (2002)
- Gangs of New York (2002)
- Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice (2002) (direct-to-video)
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
- Blessed (2004)
- Romantik (2007)
- List of British actors and actresses
- List of British film directors
- List of film producers
- List of singer-songwriters
- Erickson, Hal (undated). "David Hemmings – About This Person". AllRovi (via The New York Times). Retrieved 6 February 2012.
- Hill, Lee (2002). A Grand Guy – The Art and Life of Terry Southern. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 149. ISBN 978-0-7475-5835-4.
- "Berlinale 1973: Prize Winners". Berlin International Film Festival. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
- MacKinnon, Angus (13 September 1980). "The Future Isn't What It Used to Be". NME. pp. 32–37.
- Staff (5 December 2003). "David Hemmings, 62, a Film Star in 'Blowup'". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 February 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to David Hemmings.|
- David Hemmings at AllRovi
- David Hemmings at the British Film Institute's Screenonline
- David Hemmings at Find a Grave
- David Hemmings at the Internet Movie Database
- David Hemmings at the TCM Movie Database
- Works by or about David Hemmings in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- A collection of pictures taken on the set of Blowup
- Pulleine, Tim (5 December 2005). "David Hemmings – Gifted Actor, Director and Producer Who Successfully Outgrew His Iconic 60s Image in Antonioni's Blow Up". The Guardian