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|Born||Vivian Alan James MacKerrell
23 May 1944
|Died||2 March 1995(aged 50)|
Vivian MacKerrell was the son of Janetta Mary Boyns and Scottish accountant John Alexander McKerrell. He had two brothers, Jock and David. MacKerrell attended the private Trent College in Nottingham.
As a student at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, he shared a house in Albert Street, Camden, London with the musician David Dundas and film director Bruce Robinson, writer and director of Withnail & I (1987). Fellow house mate and actor Michael Feast, described MacKerrell as a "Splenetic wastrel of a fop", whilst Robinson has said he was a "Jack of all but a master of none", declaring himself a great actor but doing nothing to prove this. The Withnail creator has also claimed that MacKerrell was the funniest person he has ever met.
In early 1960s MacKerrell starred with Ian McKellen in "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" and "Coriolanus" with John Neville at Nottingham Playhouse. He also got the job as assistant stage manager. Later in 1970s he was the junior lead in Hadrian VII at the Mermaid Theatre. MacKerrell had only a handful of television and film credits, which included the Play for Today Edna, the Inebriate Woman (1971) and Ghost Story (1974), a horror film which also starred Marianne Faithfull.
|1967||Les Misérables||Marius (four of ten episodes)|
|1969||Thirty-Minute Theatre - And Was Invited to Form a Government (BBC2)||Kevin Croft|
|1971||Play for Today - Edna, the Inebriate Woman (BBC1)||Tramp|
|1974||Romance with a Double Bass (short)||Footman|
Illness and death
Mackerell's career was curtailed by heavy drinking. He suffered a premature death from throat cancer, which he contracted in his 40s.
Bruce Robinson claimed that MacKerrell drank lighter fluid. This is portrayed in a notorious scene from Withnail & I; MacKerrell was reputedly unable to see for days after the incident. After a short remission in the mid-1980s, the illness returned and eventually a laryngectomy was performed. Unable to eat or drink, MacKerrell resorted to injecting alcohol directly into his stomach. In his last days MacKerrell contracted pneumonia after a drunk incident and died in Gloucester Royal Infirmary. His ashes were scattered on Loch Indaal on the island of Islay.
- "The McKerrells of Islay: Information about John Alexander McKerrell". genealogy.com.
- Brown, Annie (6 November 2010). "Tragic tale of chronic alcoholic actor who inspired cult 80s movie". Daily Record.
- "Unseen photographs of real 'Withnail' from cult film". SWNS. 24 September 2010.
- Walker, James (30 December 2010). "You Terrible Cult!". LeftLion.
- Morris, Mark (December 2002). "The Real Withnail". The REG Temple. Archived from the original on 13 February 2008.