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Ronald Pickup

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Ronald Pickup
Pickup in 2012
Ronald Alfred Pickup

(1940-06-07)7 June 1940
Chester, Cheshire, England
Died24 February 2021(2021-02-24) (aged 80)
Camden, London, England[1]
Alma materUniversity of Leeds
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
Years active1964–2021
Lans Traverse
(m. 1964)
Children2, including Rachel

Ronald Alfred Pickup (7 June 1940 – 24 February 2021) was an English actor. He was active in television, film, and theatre, beginning with a 1964 appearance in Doctor Who. Theatre critic Michael Billington described him as "a terrific stage star and an essential member of Laurence Olivier's National Theatre company".[2] His major screen roles included the title role in The Life of Verdi and Prince Yakimov in Fortunes of War (1987).

Early life and training


Pickup was born in Chester on 7 June 1940.[3] His father, Eric, worked as a lecturer; his mother was Daisy (née Williams).[4][5] Pickup attended the King's School, Chester, and went on to study English at the University of Leeds, graduating in 1962.[3] He then trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London, receiving the annual Bancroft Medal (silver) on graduation in 1964.[6] He met his wife at RADA and became a member of the RADA Academy.[4]

Acting roles




Pickup's television work began with an episode during the first series of Doctor Who (as a physician in part 4 of The Reign of Terror) in 1964.[5] He was paid £30,[7] in what is regarded as the breakthrough in his acting career.[8][9] He went on to star in the BBC drama series The Dragon's Opponent in 1973, playing Charles Howard, 20th Earl of Suffolk, a World War II bomb disposal expert. In 1976, he appeared in the Thames Television serial Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill playing Lord Randolph Churchill to Lee Remick's Jennie. Almost a decade later, Pickup had the starring role as composer Giuseppe Verdi in the acclaimed The Life of Verdi, written and directed by Renato Castellani.[10]

Pickup appeared opposite Penelope Keith in Moving and as Friedrich Nietzsche in Wagner in 1983; existing in several versions, Wagner has also been released as a film. The following year, Pickup portrayed Jan Tyranowski in the TV movie Pope John Paul II and Albert Einstein in the TV mini series Einstein.[11][8] He also acted the part of George Orwell in Crystal Spirit: Orwell on Jura; Pickup later revealed in 2012 that this was his favourite role.[8][9] He went on to play Prince Yakimov,[12] a hapless, down-at-heel Russo-British aristocrat, opposite Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh in the BBC serial Fortunes of War (1987), based on a novel cycle by Olivia Manning. He was the voice of Aslan in the BBC television serial adaptation of The Chronicles of Narnia (1988–1990), derived from the books by C. S. Lewis. Pickup starred in the short lived sit-com Not with a Bang, broadcast in 1990, and appeared opposite Michael Caine in Jekyll & Hyde the same year. In 1992 he appeared alongside Dervla Kirwan in the television adaptation of Melvyn Bragg's book A Time To Dance, considered by some to be one of his best performances.[3][13]

Pickup's other roles included parts in Hornblower,[11] The Riff Raff Element,[14] Hustle,[15] Foyle's War,[7] Midsomer Murders, Lovejoy,[11] Waking the Dead,[16] The Bill, Silent Witness,[7] Sherlock Holmes,[15][failed verification] Doc Martin,[7] Inspector Morse,[11] The Rector's Wife,[14] the 1991 television adaptation of John le Carré's A Murder of Quality, and the BBC's 2004 drama for children, Feather Boy.[11] He also appeared in The Ruth Rendell Mysteries series,[11] playing Chief Inspector Moore in "A Case of Coincidence".[14]

Pickup played a regular part, Fraser Cook in the 2004 BBC sitcom The Worst Week of My Life.[11] He starred opposite Judi Dench in the 1989 Channel 4 serial Behaving Badly.[11][14] In February 2010, he also appeared as Pegleg in the BBC's period drama Lark Rise to Candleford.[11][15] He played Fr. Moreno Mancini in “Wild Justice”, S5:E2 of Lewis, which aired April 2011.[15]

Pickup appeared in the fifth series of Young Dracula in early 2014, portraying Morgan, chairman of the vampire high council, who later becomes the host of the Blood Seed, the main antagonist of the series finale.[15] He appeared in Holby City as Charles, Lord Byrne,[11] and in November 2014 appeared on Coronation Street in a cameo role as an OAP arranging a birthday party with Michelle Connor in the Rovers Return. Pickup, in 2015, appeared as Sir Michael Reresby an episode of the 6th season of Downton Abbey.[17] In 2016, he played the role of Geoffrey Fisher, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in four episodes of the Netflix series The Crown.[7]



Pickup was also an accomplished stage actor. His first professional role was in 1964 as Friendly in Virtue in Danger at the Phoenix Theatre, Leicester.[18] His London debut was in November 1964 as Octavius in Julius Caesar, for director Lindsay Anderson at the Royal Court Theatre.[19] He worked with Laurence Olivier at the Royal National Theatre, most notably as Baron Tusenbach in Three Sisters (1967) and Long Day's Journey into Night. His first appearance with the company was a minor part in Michael Elliott's production of Miss Julie (1965 Chichester Festival; 1966 Old Vic).[20] This was followed by a role which brought him to popular attention: again at the Old Vic he was Rosalind in Clifford Williams's all-male production of As You Like It, portraying "serious emotion" in an otherwise "comic" production in 1967.[21][22] He was nominated for a 1998 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role for his performance in Amy's View.[4][23]

Between March and August 2009, Pickup starred as Lucky in Sean Mathias's production of Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett opposite Sir Ian McKellen (Estragon), Patrick Stewart (Vladimir), and Simon Callow (Pozzo). The tour opened in Malvern, Worcestershire, before travelling to Milton Keynes, Brighton, Bath, Norwich, Edinburgh, and Newcastle; its run at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, was extended due to popular demand.[24]

His last stage appearance was as Mazzini Dunn in Heartbreak House at the Chichester Festival in 2012.[21]



Pickup appeared as a forger in The Day of the Jackal in 1973.[11] The following year he was seen in Ken Russell's film Mahler, and also appeared in Joseph Andrews in 1977.[14] Pickup played one of the Prussian agents conspiring to blow up the Houses of Parliament in The Thirty Nine Steps (1978).[11]

Pickup played Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury in the BBC Television Shakespeare version of Henry VIII (1979).[14] He played Lt. Harford in Zulu Dawn (1979),[14] Igor Stravinsky in Nijinsky (1980),[25] Prince John in Ivanhoe (1982), and a government official in the James Bond film Never Say Never Again (1983) opposite Sean Connery.[14] He portrayed Portuguese governor Don Hontar in The Mission (1986).[11] Three years later, he played Captain Lancaster, a very strict teacher in Danny, the Champion of the World, and also appeared as a state advocate in A Dry White Season the same year.[14]

Pickup appeared in the film Secret Passage in 2004 alongside John Turturro.[15] The following year, he had a supporting role in the family-based film, The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby,[8] and the science fiction TV movie Supernova.[15]

Pickup gained international recognition[8] playing one of the main characters, bachelor Norman Cousins, in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012).[26] He reprised the role in the sequel, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, released in 2015. In the 2017 film Darkest Hour, Pickup portrayed Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain as he cedes power to Winston Churchill in the early months of World War II.[8]

Personal life


Pickup married Lans Traverse in 1964 and they had two children: Rachel Pickup, an actress, and Simon Pickup.[5] Ronald and Rachel appeared together in two productions: the Midsomer Murders episode "The Magician's Nephew" (2008),[27] and the motion picture Schadenfreude (2016).[28]

Pickup died on 24 February 2021 following a long illness, aged 80.[8][9][29]




  1. ^ GRO Index - 1984-2021
  2. ^ Billington, Michael (26 February 2021). "Ronald Pickup: a theatrical great from a golden generation". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  3. ^ a b c "Ronald Pickup, Shakespearean actor who went on to find fame on the big and small screen – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. London. 25 February 2021. Retrieved 25 February 2021. (subscription required)
  4. ^ a b c "Ronald Pickup is receiving a Doctor of Letters". University of Chester. 3 November 2011. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  5. ^ a b c Ronald Pickup, FilmReference.com; accessed 2 January 2014.
  6. ^ "R.A.D.A spring awards". The Times. 20 April 1964. p. 16.
  7. ^ a b c d e Stolworthy, Jacob (25 February 2021). "Ronald Pickup death: The Crown and Darkest Hour star dies aged 80". The Independent. London. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Shoard, Catherine (25 February 2021). "Ronald Pickup, much-loved star of stage and screen, dies aged 80". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  9. ^ a b c "Ronald Pickup: Best Exotic Marigold Hotel actor dies". BBC One. 25 February 2021. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  10. ^ Rota, Ornella (17 August 1979). "Quell'inglese che fa Verdi alla TV" [That Englishman that Plays Verdi on T.V.]. La Stampa (in Italian). Turin. p. 6. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak "Ronald Pickup". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  12. ^ Drama. British Theatre Association. 1988. p. 46.
  13. ^ Jerry Roberts (5 June 2009). Encyclopedia of Television Film Directors. Scarecrow Press. p. 225. ISBN 978-0-8108-6378-1.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al "Ronald Pickup". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 30 October 2016. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Ronald Pickup List of Movies and TV Shows". TV Guide. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  16. ^ "Waking the Dead, Series 2: Deathwatch – Part 2". BBC One. 10 September 2002. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  17. ^ "Ronald Pickup". IMDb. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  18. ^ Morley, Sheridan (3 August 1972). "A timely return to the classical theatre". The Times. p. 7.
  19. ^ "Caesar as enormous ugly tyrant". The Times. 27 November 1964. p. 15.
  20. ^ Meyer, Michael (2014). Strindberg Plays : 1. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 106. ISBN 9781472574053.
  21. ^ a b Quinn, Michael (9 March 2021). "Obituary". The Stage.
  22. ^ Wardle, Irving (4 October 1967). "Comic results when men take over from actresses". The Times. p. 8.
  23. ^ Michael Romain (1992). A Profile of Jonathan Miller. Cambridge University Press. pp. 147–9. ISBN 978-0-521-40953-7.
  24. ^ Bosanquet, Theo. "Waiting for Godot Extends Again at Haymarket". www.whatsonstage.com. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  25. ^ a b Jolanta T. Pekacz (2006). Musical Biography: Towards New Paradigms. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 186. ISBN 978-0-7546-5151-2.
  26. ^ Katz, Stephen (10 June 2018). Ageing in Everyday Life: Materialities and Embodiments. Policy Press. p. 87. ISBN 978-1-4473-3592-4.
  27. ^ Koll, Horst Peter; Messias, Hans, eds. (4 April 2012). Lexikon des internationalen Films – Filmjahr 2011: Das komplette Angebot im Kino, Fernsehen und auf DVD/Blu-ray. Schüren Verlag. ISBN 9783894727970.
  28. ^ "Schadenfreude – Cast & Crew". Mubi. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  29. ^ "Ronald Pickup dead: The Crown star dies aged 80 after long illness". Metro.co.uk. 25 February 2021. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  30. ^ a b c d e "Ronald Pickup". American Film Institute. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  31. ^ Pohle Jr., Robert W.; Hart, Douglas C.; Pohle Baldwin, Rita (9 May 2017). The Christopher Lee Film Encyclopedia. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780810892705.