27 May 1946|
Bidston, Birkenhead, Cheshire, United Kingdom
|Died||27 November 2013
Los Angeles, California, United States
|Cause of death||Cancer|
|Spouse(s)||Michelle Larrett (m. 1992–2013) (his death)|
Lewis Collins (27 May 1946 – 27 November 2013) was an English film and theatre actor. His career defining role was playing the character of Bodie in the late 1970s - early 1980's English television series The Professionals.
The son of Bill Collins, a shipwright and amateur musician, who played the piano in local clubs with the dance band The Savoy Swingers, Lewis was born in Bidston, Birkenhead on the Wirral Peninsula in the County of Cheshire. At the age of two he won 'The Most Beautiful Baby in Liverpool' contest. He was educated at Bidston Primary and Grange School in Birkenhead, and the Birkenhead Institute School.
When he was 13 years of age his father bought him a drum kit for £25. His first gig was playing with his father's band, and he also joined a group of older school pupils to form The Renegades, at the start of the Merseybeat music scene in Liverpool in the late 1950s. His passion for firearms started in his youth from a membership of the Liverpool Central Rifle Club.
On leaving school, he took an apprentice hairdresser's position at the Andre Bernard Salon, alongside fellow apprentice Mike McCartney. He gained a reputation for his barbering skill, and became the local hairdresser for singer Helen Shapiro.
In the same period he was writing songs with Mike at the McCartney home, and when drummer Pete Best was dropped from The Beatles Mike McCartney suggested Collins as a possible replacement, to band member and his elder brother Paul McCartney. Turning down the option of an audition with The Beatles, Collins continued playing music on an amateur basis for a number of local bands, including The Eyes and The Georgians.
In late 1964 Collins quit hairdressing to become the bass player with The Mojos (which his father managed), performing on their charting singles "Goodbye Dolly Gray" and "Until My Baby Comes Home", and relocated from Liverpool to London with them when the band appeared to have a bright future. However the band failed to chart again and broke up, and finding himself in the midst of cosmopolitan London in 1966 during the Swinging Sixties, Collins made a living engaged in temping work such as delivery van driving, cleaning windows and being a waiter, before deciding that he wanted to become an actor after hearing a play being performed on the radio.
Having been accepted for training in acting by the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, which he attended between 1968-1971, he drew the notice of his fellow students for an "electrifying" performance in the lead role of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
On graduation from L.A.M.D.A. he joined the Chesterfield Civic Theatre's Repertory Company in 1971, moving to the company of The Citizen’s Theatre, in Glasgow in 1972 under the Director Giles Havergal. Whilst in Glasgow he also taught deaf and dumb children mobility skills, learning British sign language so he could communicate with them, later saying that this was the most satisfying work that he had done in his life. In 1972 he appeared in seven plays in Glasgow including the lead in Marlowe's Tamburlaine the Great. He then went with Havergal on an acting teaching tour with the Prospect Theatre Company in the United States and Canada, before returning to the British Isles to appear in London's West End, starring in City Sugar and The Threepenny Opera, and at the Royal Court Theatre in the play The Farm in 1973, directed by Lindsay Anderson.
After moving into filmed acting in the mid-1970s he intermittently returned to the stage throughout his career. He performed in a pantomime of Babes in the Wood at the King's Theatre in Southsea in Christmas 1983. In the mid-1990s he performed in an English provincial tour of the play Who killed Agatha Christie by Tudor Gates. His last performance in theatre was a 1999-2000 provincial tour in the English Midlands of J.B. Priestly's Dangerous Corner.
Move into television
Whilst appearing in The Farm at the Royal Court in 1973 Collins received an offer for his first television role in the British Broadcasting Corporation's police drama Z Cars. His first major television role was in Granada Television's comedy series The Cuckoo Waltz from 1975-1977 in the part of Gavin Rumsey, alongside his landlord played by David Roper, and landlady Diane Keen, whom his character was constantly trying to seduce. By the mid 1970s he was regularly appearing on British television dramas in multiple roles.
The Professionals (1977-1983)
In 1976 the dramatist and television producer Brian Clemens wrote a new British television crime-action drama series entitled The Professionals, modeled on the success of the hit American television series Starsky and Hutch. It was also intended to be a more realistic follow-up to a prior successful television series that he had just produced about government agents entitled The New Avengers.
As with the previous series Clemens planned to have a split leads casting arrangement for the new show. Having cast the actor Martin Shaw, Clemens found in the first week of filming that the initial partnership he had arranged for the recording of the pilot episode with the actor Anthony Andrews lacked personal on-screen chemistry due to the similarity of acting styles of Andrews and Shaw, and thought of Collins as an alternative from a recently filmed episode of The New Avengers, where he and Shaw had appeared working alongside one another and there had been a noticeable dynamic tension between them, both in their acting styles and in their off-screen private personalities. After a screen test of Collins, Anthony Andrews was replaced by Collins playing the role of 'William Bodie'. Although not getting on particularly well with one another personally, the good-humoured antagonism and bravado between the pair on-screen worked well, and the series was highly successful on British television for the next 6 years, making household names of both Shaw and Collins. The series came to an end in 1983.
In the early 1980s he passed initial selection stages for the 21 Special Air Service (Volunteer) Regiment., but was denied from continuing because "senior officers ruled that his celebrity status made him a security risk."
Acting career (1980s-1990s)
In 1982 he auditioned for the role of 007 with Eon Productions, the highly successful James Bond global cinema franchise, to succeed an aging Roger Moore, but the audition with its producer Cubby Broccoli did not go well and he was rejected as being "too aggressive". Collins regarded this failure in retrospect as the key missed opportunity of his acting career. In 1982 he broke into cinema starring in the role of a British Army officer confronting terrorists in the commercially successful film Who Dares Wins.
As the 1980s progressed Collins attempted to maintain a cinema career. An initial plan to continue to make feature films with the Who Dares Wins producer Euan Lloyd came to nothing, so he instead signed a German-Italian co-production contract to star in three mercenary war feature films set in the Far East, viz., Code Name: Wild Geese (1984), Kommando Leopard (1985) and Der Commander (1988), which attempted to capitalize on the recent box-office hits of The Wild Geese and Rambo, but they were commercially unsuccessful, and he went back to working in British television production.
In 1986 he played the French medieval war-lord Philip Marc in the series Robin of Sherwood. In 1988 he played second lead to Michael Caine in the highly successful British television film Jack the Ripper.
At the start of the 1990s his acting career began to fail as he entered his middle years, deprived of his former youthful vigor. He appeared in the role of "Colonel Mustard" in the British television drama/gameshow Cluedo (1991-1992), and the roles became sparser as the decade progressed. In the early 1990s, seeking to extend his career options in drama to work beyond acting he attended courses in screenwriting and direction at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A., but this led to no subsequent professional employment. In the mid-1990s he relocated his family to Los Angeles, where he was residing part-time, whilst he returned to England for the occasional provincial theatre tour and minor acting roles in television. His final acting performance was in an episode of the British television police drama seriesThe Bill entitled O34 in 2002.
In 2003 Collins left England and abandoned acting and drama, and saw out his last decade in private business in America selling computer equipment.
In early 2012 he returned to acting on the announcement of his having been cast to play the role of the Earl Godwin in the historically based feature film production 1066, but in June 2013 he withdrew from the production due to ill health, and parted company with his agent.
After being first diagnosed in 2008, Collins died in his 67th year from cancer in Los Angeles on 27 November 2013. Shortly before his death he had returned to visit England, spending some time in Merseyside.
Collins' body was cremated, and an urn holding its ashes is deposited in a memorial display cabinet at the 'North Pacifica Mausoleum', 'Green Hills Memorial Park' cemetery, at Rancho Palos Verdes, California, U.S.A.
He held a private pilot's licence, a black belt in Ju-Jitsu and had trained in Karate. His hobbies included parachuting, motorbikes, collecting firearms and sports shooting, and he continued to play musical instruments throughout his life.
- Z-Cars, episode "Waste", 1974 – as Derek Cunningham
- Marked Personal, episodes "1.38" and "1.37", 1974 – as Len Thomas
- Village Hall, episode "Friendly Encounter", 1974 – Jimmy Jackson
- Crown Court, episode "Arson", 1974 – as PC Henry Williams
- Warship, episode "Away Seaboat's Crew", 1974 – L/Sea. Steele
- The Cuckoo Waltz, Granada TV sitcom, 1975–1977 – as Gavin Rumsey
- The New Avengers, Series 2 – episode 5 "Obsession", (with Martin Shaw), 7 October 1977 – as Kilner
- The Professionals, 1977–1981 – as Bodie
- This Is Your Life, 1 episode, 1982 – as himself
- A Night on the Town, 1983 – as George, a photographer
- Robin of Sherwood, episode "The Sheriff Of Nottingham", 1986 – as Phillip Mark
- Carly's Web, 1987 – as Alexander Prescott
- Blue Blood, 1988
- Jack the Ripper, TV Drama, 1988 – as Sergeant George Godley
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents, episode "The Man Who Knew Too Little", 1989 – as Bill Stewart
- Blaues Blut, TV series, 1990 – as Hugh Sinclair (segment "Bounty")
- A Ghost in Monte Carlo, TV Drama, 1990 – as Lord Drayton
- Cluedo, 6 episodes, 1991–1992 – as Col. Mustard
- Tarzán, 2 episodes, 1993–1994 – as Michael Hauser
- The Grimleys, 2 episodes, 1999 – as Digby's Dad
- The Bill, episode 034, 2002 – Dr. Peter Allen
- Confessions of a Driving Instructor (1976) – Player in Monks Hill Rugby Team
- Must Wear Tights (1978) - Lewis
- Who Dares Wins (1982) – Captain Peter Skellen
- Code Name: Wild Geese (1984) – Captain Robin Wesley
- Commando Leopard (1985) – Enrique Carrasco
- The Commander (1988) – Major Jack Colby
- "Lewis Collins – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 28 November 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
- "Happy Birthday Richard Hastilow, 65", The Times, 26 May 2010
- "BBC News – Professionals star Lewis Collins dies". bbc.co.uk. 2013-11-28. Retrieved 2013-11-28.
- Stevens, Christopher (28 November 2013). "Lewis Collins was even tougher than his legendary role". Daily Mail. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
- 'Mike McCartney's tribute to Lewis Collins', 'Wirral Globe', 28 November 2013
- Obituary for Lewis Collins, 'The Independent', 28 November 2013.
- Raymond, Victoria (2007) "Mr. "No-Bodie", Sunday Mirror 29 April 2007.
- Interview with Lewis Collins, 'Granada Tonight', Granada Television (1993).
- Obituary, 'The Independent', 28 November 2013.
- Recollection of the actress Patricia Hodge, Official Lewis Collins Fansite, Biography Part 3 http://www.lewiscollins.info/Biography3.html
- Obituary for Lewis Collins, 'The Scotsman' 29 November 2013.
- Performance history of Southsea King's Theatre http://www.michaelcooper.org.uk/C/kingsperfs.htm
- Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch online archive detailing the performance in August–September 1993 http://www.queens-theatre.co.uk/archive/whokilledagathachristie1993.htm
- Performance at the Derngate Theatre, Northampton, 15–21 May 1994.
- Lewis Collins website, theatrical career entries http://www.lewiscollins.info/S30.html
- Interview with Brian Clemens on the making of 'The Professionals', 'Huffington Post (U.K. edition)', 27 March 2014
- Website detailing the military career with the Parachute Regiment of Lewis Collins. http://www.parachuteregiment-hsf.org/Lewis_Collins.html
- Hill, Valerie (2004) "Lewis Collins", Liverpool Daily Post, 4 June 2004
- 'Der Commander' listing on IMDb http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094899/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_9
- Lewis Collins' production credits - IMDb http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0172484/
- Lewis Collins interview, 'This Morning', Granada Television, 1992.
- IMDb entry for the film '1066' http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1018103/
- 'Mike McCartney's tribute to Lewis Collins', 'The Wirral Globe', 28 November 2013.
- Lewis Collins' memorial on display (2014) http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=121012215
- "UK Confidential", The Sun, 15 April 1999
- "Bodie back as TV Oldie", The Sun, 19 July 2002