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Edward Woodward

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Edward Woodward
Woodward in 1971
Edward Albert Arthur Woodward

(1930-06-01)1 June 1930
Croydon, Surrey, England
Died16 November 2009(2009-11-16) (aged 79)
Truro, Cornwall, England
Occupation(s)Actor, singer
Years active1946–2009
Venetia Barrett
(m. 1952; div. 1986)
(m. 1987)
Children4, including Tim, Peter and Sarah

Edward Albert Arthur Woodward, OBE (1 June 1930 – 16 November 2009) was an English actor and singer. After graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he began his career on stage. Throughout his career, he appeared in productions in both the West End of London and on Broadway in New York City. He came to wider attention from 1967 in the title role of the British television spy drama Callan, earning him the 1970 British Academy Television Award for Best Actor.

Woodward starred as Police Sergeant Neil Howie in the 1973 cult British horror film The Wicker Man, and in the title role of the 1980 Australian biopic Breaker Morant. From 1985 to 1989, Woodward starred as ex-secret agent and private investigator Robert McCall in the American television series The Equalizer, earning him the 1986 Golden Globe Award for Best Television Drama Actor.

Early life[edit]

Woodward was born on 1 June 1930 in Croydon, Surrey,[1] the only child of parents Edward Oliver Woodward, a metalworker,[2] and Violet Edith Woodward (née Smith).[3] As a boy, he was bombed out of his home three times during the Blitz.[4] He attended Eccleston Road, Sydenham Road, as well as Kingston Day Commercial School and Elmwood High School, Hackbridge, all in Surrey.[2][4] He then attended Kingston College.[1][5]



After leaving school at the age of 15, Woodward wanted to train as a journalist, but took work in a sanitary engineer's office and then at the age of 16 entered the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). After the Second World War, he became an associate member of that academy.[6] He was torn between becoming an actor and a professional footballer, and was on the books of Leyton Orient FC and Brentford FC, making three appearances in the football league for the latter, but a serious knee injury kept him out of the game for over a year.[citation needed]

Woodward's professional acting debut was in the Castle Theatre, Farnham, in 1946.[6] After graduation from RADA, he worked extensively in repertory companies as a Shakespearean actor throughout England and Scotland, making his London stage debut in R. F. Delderfield's Where There's a Will in 1955[6] and also appeared in the film adaptation that same year, his first film, and then Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet (1955). Having established himself, he also worked in Broadway theatre in New York City and in Australia. Woodward first appeared on Broadway in Rattle of a Simple Man (1963) and the musical comedy High Spirits (1964–1965), which won three Tony Awards, followed by the 1966 comedy The Best Laid Plans. In 1970, after Woodward played Sidney Carton in the West End musical Two Cities, based on Dickens's novel A Tale of Two Cities, Laurence Olivier invited him to choose his own role in the Royal National Theatre, and he chose Cyrano de Bergerac (1971).[6]

Woodward played Dr. Watson opposite Keith Baxter as Sherlock Holmes in the play Murder Dear Watson in 1983.[7]

In 2004, Woodward, alongside Australian actor Daniel MacPherson, appeared as God in a revival of The Mystery Plays at Canterbury Cathedral. From a cast of hundreds of local actors, Joseph McManners and Thomas James Longley also featured with smaller speaking roles.[8]


He made occasional appearances until taking the role of Police Sergeant Neil Howie in the thriller The Wicker Man in 1973. Woodward was offered a cameo role in the 2005 remake, but declined. He also appeared in the 1982 film Who Dares Wins, also known as The Final Option[citation needed] on the film's release history.[unreliable source?] as Commander Powell.

Woodward played the title role in the 1980 Australian biographical film drama Breaker Morant, which was highly acclaimed, and his presence brought the film worldwide attention. Woodward also had a supporting role in the 2007 action comedy Hot Fuzz. His last lead film role was that of the Reverend Frederick Densham in A Congregation of Ghosts, the story of an eccentric vicar who is said to have alienated his congregation and preached to cardboard cut-outs. [citation needed]

Robin Hardy, who directed The Wicker Man, said, "He was one of the greatest actors of his generation, without a doubt, with a broad career on American television, as well as on British film."[9] Noël Coward once said of him, "He was one of the nicest and most co-operative actors I've ever met or worked with."[5]

In 1990, Woodward was the narrator for the official FIFA film of the 1990 World Cup entitled Soccer Shoot-Out.


Woodward appeared in many television productions. In the early 1960s, he was a jobbing actor who made a number of minor TV appearances in supporting roles. His casting as Guy Crouchback in the 1967 adaption of Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy, dramatised by Giles Cooper and directed by Donald McWhinnie, established him as an actor of quality and standing. Crouchback was the central character in Waugh's three novels set against the background of Britain's involvement in World War II. This black-and-white TV dramatisation is now much less well known than a more lavish 2001 colour version with Daniel Craig playing the part of Crouchback. However, the 1967 dramatisation enjoyed a high profile at the time, and it featured several leading actors of that era, including Ronald Fraser, Freddie Jones, Vivian Pickles, Nicholas Courtney, and James Villiers. Moreover, Evelyn Waugh had met and approved Giles Cooper as the scriptwriter, having their schooling at Lancing College in common, albeit more than a decade apart.

In 1967, Woodward played the eventual victim in an episode of The Saint TV series ("The Persistent Patriots"). The same year, he was cast as David Callan in the ITV Armchair Theatre play A Magnum for Schneider, which later became the spy series Callan, one of his early television roles and one in which he demonstrated his ability to express controlled rage. His performance assured the series success from 1967 to 1972, with a film appearing in 1974. He also appeared opposite Laurence Olivier in a 1978 adaptation of Saturday, Sunday, Monday in the Laurence Olivier Presents anthology series.

The success of Callan typecast him somewhat, but the enduring success of the genre allowed him to gain leading roles in similar productions, though none would prove to be as iconic as Callan.[10] In 1977, he starred in two series(series is sometimes BrE the AmE seasons) of the BBC2 dystopian drama 1990, about a future Britain lurching into totalitarianism.[11]

The late 1970s he spent on both stage and film, but he had not found recognition and popularity exceeding that of Callan until he took the lead role in the American television series The Equalizer (1985–89) as a former intelligence operative. After filming a few episodes of the third season, Woodward suffered a massive coronary. For several episodes, additional actors were brought in to reduce the workload on Woodward as he recovered from the condition. The first episode filmed following Woodward's heart attack involved his character being severely injured by a KGB bullet, providing Woodward with a chance to rest over several episodes. Later in the season, Woodward resumed his full duties and carried the show through a fourth season during 1988-1989.[citation needed] During this period, he also starred in the Cold War espionage thriller, Codename: Kyril (1988), as an MI6 double agent.

Subsequently, he starred in the short-lived CBS series Over My Dead Body, which ran in 1990, playing a mystery writer who gets involved in solving real crimes. In 1994 and 1997, Woodward starred in the BBC drama Common As Muck, in which he played a binman called Nev.

In 1993, Woodward appeared in the Welsh language drama, Tan ar y Comin. Versions were made in both English and Welsh, and Woodward appeared in both, being specially coached in the latter since he did not speak a word of the language.[12]

In 1999, Woodward appeared alongside his son Peter in The Long Road, an episode of the Babylon 5 spin-off, Crusade, on which Peter was a regular cast member.[citation needed] While both actors were playing the part of unrelated Technomages, the on-screen chemistry between them was clear.

His career continued with TV guest-star roles, including an appearance in The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Mr. Jones (or Philip, codename Flavius) in the series La Femme Nikita. He also guest-starred with his son Tim and grandson Sam as a London gangster family in a special storyline for The Bill in 2008. In March 2009, he joined EastEnders for six episodes, playing Tommy Clifford.

Woodward was a wargamer and hosted a series of programmes for Tyne Tees Television[13] in 1978 about the hobby with fellow enthusiast Peter Gilder, who built and owned the beautiful Gettysburg diorama used for one of the gaming scenes from the 1974 film Callan.

Woodward was the subject of This Is Your Life on two occasions; in February 1971, he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews in the bar of London's White House Hotel,[citation needed] and in February 1995, Michael Aspel surprised him during a photoshoot at Syon House in West London.[citation needed]


His capability as tenor enabled him to record 12 albums of romantic songs, as well as three albums of poetry and 14 books to tape. His vocal ability and acting skill enabled him to make a number of appearances when time allowed on the BBC's Edwardian era music hall programme, The Good Old Days.

Woodward had two top-100 albums in the UK Album Chart; This Man Alone (number 53 in 1970) and The Edward Woodward Album (number 20 in 1972), while the single "The Way You Look Tonight" peaked at number 42 on the UK Singles Chart in 1971.[14] He also had two top 100 albums in Australia; Edwardian Woodward (#97 in 1975) and A Romantic Hour (#92 in 1980)[15]

Selected discography

  • This Man Alone (1970)
  • It Had to Be You (1971)
  • The Edward Woodward Album (1972)
  • An evening with.... Edward Woodward (1974)
  • Woodward Again (1974)
  • Edwardian Woodward (1975)
  • Love Is the Key (1977)
  • The Thought of You (1978)
  • Don't Get Around Much Anymore (1979)

Personal life[edit]

Woodward was married twice. His first marriage was to actress Venetia Barrett (born Venetia Mary Collett, 1928–2016) from 1952 to 1986.[5] They had two sons: Tim Woodward (1953–2023) and Peter Woodward (born 1956), both of whom became actors, as well as a daughter, the Tony Award-nominated actress Sarah Woodward (born 1963). Woodward left Barrett for actress Michele Dotrice, the daughter of his contemporary Roy Dotrice, and married her in New York City in January 1987. Their daughter, Emily Beth Woodward (born 1983),[citation needed] was present at the ceremony.[16]

Woodward was in Cyprus during the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974. Staying in the northern Cyprus town of Kyrenia, he was one of several Britons evacuated from the island by the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Hermes following the Turkish invasion and occupation of Kyrenia.[17]

Woodward was a prominent endorser of the Labour Party in the 1970 general election, featuring in publicity material. Later, he announced support for the SDP.

Woodward suffered a massive heart attack in 1987 (during the third season of The Equalizer) and another one in 1994. He underwent triple bypass surgery in 1996 and quit smoking. In 2003, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.[18] In July 2009, a planned performance of Love Letters, co-starring his wife Michele, was to be postponed because of damage caused to his hip when he fell down the stairs at his West Country home.[19]


Woodward died at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, Cornwall, on 16 November 2009, at the age of 79, near his home at Hawker's Cove.[20][21][22]


Woodward won the 1970 BAFTA Award for Best Actor for his title role in Callan. He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1978. At the 1987 Golden Globe Awards, he won Best Actor in a Dramatic TV Series for his role of Robert McCall in The Equalizer. At the Emmy Awards from 1986 to 1990, he was nominated each year for The Equalizer.

Stage work[edit]

  • 1955: Where There's a Will
  • 1958: Romeo and Juliet
  • 1958: Hamlet
  • 1962: Rattle of a Simple Man
  • 1964: High Spirits
  • 1969: Two Cities
  • 1969: Julius Caesar
  • 1969: The White Devil
  • 1970: Cyrano de Bergerac
  • 1973: The Wolf
  • 1975: Male of the Species
  • 1976: On Approval
  • 1978: The Dark Horse
  • 1980: The Beggar's Opera (also as director)
  • 1980: Private Lives
  • 1982: The Assassin
  • 1982: Richard III
  • 1992: The Dead Secret



Year Title Role Director Notes
1955 Where There's a Will Ralph Stokes Vernon Sewell
1960 Inn for Trouble C.M. Pennington-Richards Uncredited
1964 Becket Clement Peter Glenville
1969 The File of the Golden Goose Arthur Thompson Sam Wanamaker
1971 Incense for the Damned Dr. Holstrom Michael Burrowes
1972 Sitting Target Inspector Milton Douglas Hickox
Young Winston Aylmer Haldane Richard Attenborough
Hunted John Drummond Peter Crane Short
1973 The Wicker Man Sergeant Neil Howie Robin Hardy
1974 Callan David Callan Don Sharp
1975 Three for All Roadsweeper Martin Campbell
1977 Stand Up, Virgin Soldiers Sgt. Wellbeloved Norman Cohen
1980 Breaker Morant Lt. Harry "Breaker" Morant Bruce Beresford Singing over the end credits
1981 The Appointment Ian Lindsey Vickers
1982 Who Dares Wins Commander Powell Ian Sharp
1984 Champions Josh Gifford John Irvin
1985 King David Saul Bruce Beresford
1990 Mister Johnson Sargy Gollup
Soccer Shootout: 1990 World Cup Narrator Mario Morra
1992 Aladdin The Sultan Timothy Forder Voice
1993 Tân ar y Comin David Hemmings
1994 Deadly Advice Maj. Herbert Armstrong Mandie Fletcher
1997 The House of Angelo Dominic Angelo Jim Goddard Also producer
2000 Marcie's Dowry Gus Wise David Mackenzie Short
2002 The Abduction Club Lord Fermoy Stefan Schwartz
2007 Hot Fuzz Tom Weaver Edgar Wright
2009 A Congregation of Ghosts Reverend Frederick Densham Mark Collicott (final film role)


Year Title Role Notes
1956 A Girl Called Jo John Brooke Television film
1957 The Telescope John Mayfield Television film
1959 Armchair Theatre 3.25 "The Fabulous Money Maker"
World Theatre Titinius 1.01 "Julius Caesar"
ITV Television Playhouse Joe Murdoch 4.52 "One a Penny, Two a Penny"
Skyport 6 episodes
1960 Inside Story Stanislaw Krasinski 1.01 "A Touch of Brimstone"
The True Mistery of the Passion Peter Television film
Armchair Mystery Theatre Paul Danek 1.03 "The Case of Paul Danek"
1961 Emergency-Ward 10 Rev. Posset 1.144 "Episode #1.444"
Adventure Story Peter 1.01 "The Reef"
Magnolia Street John Cooper 6 episodes
BBC Sunday-Night Play Superintendent Morland 3.01 "A Clean Kill"
You Can't Win Paul Hayward 1.01 "Greater Than Fear"
1962 Sir Francis Drake Spanish Captain 1.23 "Court Intrigue"
ITV Play of the Week Adolphus Cusins 8.08 "Major Barbara"
1964 Sergeant Cork Austen Carew 1.16 "The Case of the Ormsby Diamonds"
ITV Play of the Week The Boy's Father 9.26 "I Can Walk Where I Like Can't I?"
The Defenders H.T. Harris 4.05 "Conflict of Interests"
1965 Mogul Ron Smith 1.03 "Safety Man"
Armchair Mystery Theatre Anstey 3.11 "Wake a Stranger"
1966 Thirty-Minute Theatre Arthur 1.33 "Ella"
Dixon of Dock Green Bruce Paynter 13.12 "The Accident"
1967 Theatre 625 Guy Crouchback 4.09 "Sword of Honour"
Armchair Theatre David Callan 7.02 "A Magnum for Schneider"
Thirty-Minute Theatre Alan 2.25 "Wanted"
The Revenue Men Bill Murray 1.02 "Don't Get Conspicuous"
The Baron Arkin Morley 1.29 "Countdown"
The Saint Jack Liskard 1.15 "The Persistent Patriots"
Conflict Othello 2.16 "Othello"
Trapped Mark Frazier 2.01 "Trapped: Au Pair Swedish Style"
1967–1972 Callan David Callan 43 episodes
1968 Mystery and Imagination Reeve 3.02 "The Listener"
ITV Playhouse Ed
Lt.-Col. Fox-Lennard
1.42 "Entertaining Mr. Sloane"
2 "Premiere: The Night of Talavera"
Detective Auguste Dupin 2.17 "The Murders in the Rue Morgue"
Sherlock Holmes Mason 2.13 "Shoscombe Old Place"
1969 BBC Play of the Month Cassius 4.08 "Julius Caesar"
The Bruce Forsyth Show
Omnibus F. Scott Fitzgerald 3.09 "F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Dream Divided"
Detective Commissaire Bignon 3.09 "The Poisoners"
The Root of All Evil? Designi 2.02 "A Bit of a Holiday"
1971 Play for Today Frank 2.3 "Evelyn"
BBC Play of the Month Lopakhin 7.04 "The Cherry Orchard"
The Edward Woodward Hour Host
1973 Whodunnit? Himself (host) 6 episodes
1975 Armchair Cinema Philip Warne 1.04 "When Day Is Done"
1977 ITV Playhouse George Mangham 9.08 "The Bass Player and the Blonde"
1977–1978 1990 Jim Kyle 16 episodes
1978 Saturday, Sunday, Monday Luigi Television film
The Bass Player and the Blonde Mangham 1.01 "Rondo"
1980 ITV Playhouse Ian 12.07 "A Rod of Iron"
Nice Work Edwin Thornfield 6 episodes
1981 Sunday Night Thriller Alex Logan 1.04 "Blunt Instrument"
Chronicle Narrator (voice) 1.07 "The Crime of Captain Colthurst"
Wet Job David Callan Television film
Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years Sir Samuel Hoare Television miniseries
1983 The Spice of Life Narrator (voice) 13 episodes
Love Is Forever Derek McBracken Television film
1984 Killer Contract Bill Routledge
A Christmas Carol Ghost of Christmas Present
1985 Merlin and the Sword Merlin
1985–1989 The Equalizer Robert McCall 88 episodes
1987 Uncle Tom's Cabin Simon Legree Television film
1988 Codename: Kyril Michael Royston Television miniseries
Memories of Manon Robert McCall Television film
Alfred Hitchcock Presents Drummond 3.20 "The Hunted"
1989 The Man in the Brown Suit Sir Eustace Pedler Television film
1990 Hands of a Murderer Sherlock Holmes
1990–1991 Over My Dead Body Maxwell Beckett 11 episodes
1991–1992 America at Risk Host Television documentary
1991–1996 In Suspicious Circumstances Storyteller 39 episodes
1994 A Christmas Reunion Colonel Phillips
1994–1997 Common As Muck Nev 12 episodes
1995 The Shamrock Conspiracy Edward Harrison Television film
1996 Gulliver's Travels Drunlo Television miniseries
Harrison: Cry of the City Edward "Teddy" Harrison Television film
1999 Crusade Alwyn 1.02 "The Long Road"
CI5: The New Professionals Harry Malone 13 episodes
2001 La Femme Nikita Mr. Jones 4 episodes
The Lone Gunmen Peanuts' Speech Synthesizer 1.07 "Planet of the Frohikes"
Dark Realm Captain Kelly 1.11 "Emma's Boy"
Messiah Rev. Stephen Hedges Television miniseries
2002 Night Flight Vic Green Television film
2004 Murder in Suburbia Reg 1.06 "Noisy Neighbours"
2005 Where the Heart Is Jack Bishop 9.09 "So Long"
2007 Five Days Victor Marsham Television miniseries
First Landing Older Nathaniel Peacock / Narrator (voice) Television film
2008 The Bill Johnnie Jackson 24.27 "Sins of the Father"
2009 EastEnders Tommy Clifford 6 episodes


  1. ^ a b "Actor's roots 'were important to him'". The Croydon Post. Northcliffe Media. 25 November 2009. p. 7.
  2. ^ a b "Edward Woodward". The Sunday Independent (Ireland). 22 November 2009.
  3. ^ "Edward Woodward Biography". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Veteran actor best known as "Equalizer"". The Irish Times. 21 November 2009. p. 14.
  5. ^ a b c "Obituary: Edward Woodward". The Daily Telegraph. London. 16 November 2009. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 16 November 2009.
  6. ^ a b c d "Obituary: Edward Woodward". BBC News. 16 November 2009. Archived from the original on 19 November 2009. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
  7. ^ "USH Volume 4, Section X K -- Actors, Performances, and Recordings: Plays (continued)". University of Minnesota Libraries. Archived from the original on 12 September 2020. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  8. ^ "Revival of medieval mystery plays". BBC News. 5 August 2004. Retrieved 14 August 2010.
  9. ^ Shaw, Vicky (16 November 2009). "Actor Edward Woodward dies aged 79". The Independent. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  10. ^ "Woodward, Edward (1930-2009) Biography". screenonline. 4 February 1967. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
  11. ^ "Action TV - 1990 episode guide". 9 May 2006. Archived from the original on 9 May 2006. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
  12. ^ "Peakviewing". Peakviewing. Archived from the original on 1 March 2012. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
  13. ^ "BFI | Film & TV Database | BATTLEGROUND". Ftvdb.bfi.org.uk. Archived from the original on 17 October 2012. Retrieved 30 April 2012.
  14. ^ "Edward Woodward's Official UK Chart History". Official Charts.
  15. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 343. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  16. ^ Hunter, Colonel (16 November 2009). "Edward Woodward dies, aged 79". Thisisplymouth.co.uk. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
  17. ^ "When I Got Caught Up in the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus". Ozy.com. 4 April 2018. Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  18. ^ Barker, Dennis (16 November 2009). "Edward Woodward obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  19. ^ Mirror.co.uk (9 July 2009). "Edward Woodward breaks hip in stair fall". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  20. ^ "Equalizer Star Dies". News.sky.com. Archived from the original on 1 March 2010. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
  21. ^ "Actor Edward Woodward dies at 79". BBC. 16 November 2009. Retrieved 16 November 2009.
  22. ^ Barker, Dennis (16 November 2009). "Edward Woodward obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 1 May 2010.

External links[edit]