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Last Updated: Friday, 5 December, 2003, 14:35 GMT
Obituary: David Hemmings
David Hemmings
The actor's Blow-Up role was recently votes amongst cinema's sexiest scenes
Actor David Hemmings built a career on his interesting, unconventional looks.

His first major starring role was in 1966's swinging London tale Blow-Up, where he played the mod photographer, and he also starred in the cult science fiction film Barbarella.

Hemmings' acting career came after he began singing professionally aged nine, and he was also an exhibited artist at 15.

Hemmings made a return to the big screen in 2000's Gladiator and most recently alongside Sir Sean Connery in The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, after a successful stint as a director on TV shows such as The A-Team and Airwolf.

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He was born in Guildford in Surrey in 1941, and began a performing career as a boy soprano. Composer Benjamin Britten reportedly wrote many of his vocal parts especially for him.

He left singing to study at the Epsom School of Art when he was 15 and by then he had already started appearing in films, including 1954's The Rainbow Jacket.

In 1965 he starred opposite The Small Faces' Steve Marriott in Be My Guest.

People thought I was dead. But I wasn't. I was just directing The A-Team
David Hemmings

His career-defining role as Thomas in Blow-Up saw the young actor audition for the respected Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni.

"I desperately wanted to work for him. This was a job you seek."

He said he thought he had blown his chance of appearing in the film because the director had shook his head constantly throughout his audition.

The actor said he later discovered that Antonioni had a mild form of Tourette's which caused him to move his head from side to side.

"That was my whole of experience with him - he was always saying no really."

Varied roles

Scenes of Hemmings shooting a model in the film were recently voted in the top 100 sexiest scenes in a Channel 4 poll.

Hemmings then went on to play the wizard Mordred in the movie musical Camelot.

In 1968 he appeared as Captain Nolan in the satirical war epic The Charge of the Light Brigade.

Other film roles continued in the 1970s, including parts in the Italian horror film Profondo Rosso (1975) and 1978's Crossed Swords.

In 1980 he starred as a police inspector in Beyond Reasonable Doubt, a film based on a famous New Zealand murder case.

But by then Hemmings had started working behind the camera too. His directorial debut was 1972's Running Scared and he also directed 1979's Just a Gigolo.

He directed the 1981 adventure film The Race for the Yankee Zephyr, as his career as a US television career blossomed.

In the 1980s he helmed episodes of some of America's biggest TV shows, including private investigator drama Magnum PI and adventure series The A-Team and Airwolf.

He later recounted: "People thought I was dead. But I wasn't. I was just directing The A-Team."

He returned to acting with Ken Russell's 1989 version of DH Lawrence's The Rainbow, but it was in 2000 that he marked his proper comeback, as Cassius in Ridley Scott's Gladiator.

Scott's brother Tony later directed him in the espionage thriller Spy Game. He also appeared in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York.

Hemmings was married three times - once to US actress Gayle Hunnicutt - and his current wife Lucy Williams was in Romania when he died. He had five children, including the actor Nolan Hemmings.


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Please see a selection of your tributes to actor David Hemmings below.

I saw Blow Up in the eighth grade and it convinced me there was this strange, fascinating netherworld of an era I missed entirely. David Hemmings seemed every bit the essence of cool, and thankfully lacked the beef-cake, suburban beach boy image so popular for males in the mid-1980s a la Tom Cruise et al.

Hemmings portrayed a different, introspective cool I tried to emulate but never could (yes, I was and am a geek). Even though Swinging London has been lampooned in Austin Powers films, the era still holds a dangerous charm - thanks in part to actors like Hemmings who melded autonomy with excitement. farewell, David.
Rohit Mahajan, United States

Sad news. David Hemmings made me fall in love with London, Antognoni, and movie making. Blow-Up was a mind-blowing experience, one of those movies that forever change you. Thank you, David. R.I.P.
Anna, Poland

A wonderful actor with a broad and gifted range of talent. When I first took a film class in college, Blow Up was listed as "essential viewing" by my instructor. He was right - then and now. Personally my favourite Hemmings performance was the one he gave in Islands in the Stream.
Robert del Valle, USA

Although I only saw David Hemmings in a few films, I will remember him most for what some might consider to be a "small job". He did the narration for a Rick Wakeman album titled "Journey to the Centre of the Earth". Having done some radio, I was intrigued by the wonderful vocal qualities he possessed. He brought a real quality to the recording and made it memorable for me. He will be sorely missed.
Richard Kish, USA

Unforgettable and hypnotic in Tony Richardson's Charge of the Light Brogade, where he played the dashing Flashmanesque Captain Nolan.
Neville White, UK

I will always remember David Hemmings for his extraordianry narration in one of the greatest rock albums ever made, Rick Wakeman's Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Bill Antonaccio, USA

The Bentley, the camera, the granularities. I'll watch Blow Up this weekend and remember David Hemmings.
Wills, France

I know David has left a fine body of work but for me Blow Up was his most memorable film. I dreamt of him for months after seeing it and was always interested in his career. I saw him last in Spy Game and was still entranced.
Pat Agyeman, Australia

Crazy thing is, in the past weekend, I had been thinking of David so much, for some unknown, weird reason, and ended up watching two of his classics: Barbarella and Blow Up. I was always a fan of his movies but usually found the characters he played very unlikeable but also very real/human. He'll be greatly missed but his films were live on forever. Blow Up should be seen by anyone who is into quality/cult/classic movies.
Ziggy Spaceboy, Englishman living in Germany

I fell in love with David Hemmings as a teenager - and I've still got a crush on him at the advanced age of 36. He was quite simply the most gorgeous looking actor I ever beheld. Wonderful eyes. It is as Thomas in Blow-Up that he'll be remembered for me. Fantastic film , fantastic performances. I just wish I'd have been able to tell him what he'd meant to me, too late now sadly.
Jellyhair, England

Good bye David, just as in that wonderful scene of Blow-Up may the whisper of the leaves accompany your new travel.
Dani, Italy

Truly a sad day. Blow-Up and Last Orders are two of the greatest British films, albeit made 35 years apart, but both have the enormous benefit of Hemmings' quite brilliant acting. The fact that he was (by his standards) becoming rather prolific in his appearances on the big screen make his passing all the more tragic. A great loss.
Mark Hitcox, Swindon, England

It's a very sad day. My wife and I were delighted to have dinner with David and his lovely wife Lucy while they were on holiday in Crete last year. He was a real gentleman and a fine actor. There are not many of his kind left.
Robert Ballard, UK

Back in the early 70s he was my favourite voice to dive into Jules Verne's words and thoughts. "Voices, voices, he heard voices, he heard his uncle's voice..." David's voice in Rick Wakeman's "Jouney to the centre of the Eearth".
Avilio Méndez, Venezuela

To have been young and frightened to walk home or enter the darkroom after Blow-Up was rivalled by the excitement of his place among the gallant 600. Hemmings in league with his characters is for me the memory of Radical Chic and London in the late sixties. As an American twelve year old, living in a photographer/broadcaster household in Köln in the late sixties, our cinema was the one offered by the English Army of the Rhine on their post. How Hemmings did excite in those halcyon days. He is now an ensign of the time.
Anthony Wayne, USA

A fine actor who always seemed to control the pace of a film. As a boy I remember watching him for the first time in Charge Of The Light Brigade and always thought there was a strangeness about him. He was an actor who made you look at him twice and listen to his every word. I hope he gets the recognition he so thoroughly deserves.
Stuart Springthorpe, England

David was a beautiful 'artist' in the true sense of the word, a refined actor, writer, director, magician, painter and conversationalist. I knew him my entire life and he only became more beautiful every day.
Toby Cook, Australia

Hemmings' performance in "A Long Day's Dying" gave credence and power to what could have been a shallow anti-war theme. In more recent acting appearances he was selfless and often understated, giving lesser talents a chance - but he was always great and somewhat dangerous to watch. He still had a fantastic career ahead of him.
Simon Wilson, England

David's finest hour was his narration of Rick Wakemans Journey To The Center Of The Earth. It's one of the finest albums of all time.God bless.
Rob Earley, USA

I recently watched him in Last Orders and he was brilliant. A fine crafted actor who was so convincing in his role. He will be missed dearly.
Vince Berry, US

David Hemmings had fire in his belly and yet a twinkle in his eye - he was an interesting and original artist whether in front of or behind the camera.
Martin Brewer, USA

I always imagined David Hemmings to be an arrogant, unpleasant character and was surprised the first time I saw him interviewed at how likeable and witty he was.

The false impression I had of him was purely down to him playing his role of the cocky, shallow photographer in Blow Up so well.

Special thanks are due to Michelangelo Antonioni, the director of Blow Up who discovered Hemmings and ensured that he became an icon of the Sixties and will not be forgotten.
David Claydon, England

In 1975 I met David Kauai while we were shooting "Islands in The Stream" in - and for the next 20 years we were good and close friends. He was not only a truly great actor, but the best drinking buddy in the world.
Denne Bart Petitclerc, U.S.A.

David Hemmings, the first Miles in Turn of the Screw, died on the same day as the composer Benjamin Britten on December 4. Reading Humphrey Carpenter's bio of the composer, Britten was as obsessed with Hemmings at the Venetian premiere in 1954 as Quint was with Miles in the book/opera...
Graeme Jenkins, UK

A fine actor that achieved the main thing an artist can do do but few are able to: he could make me dream.
Alejandro Bilotta, Spain

It always seems that actors who are under-rated while they're alive only get true critical acclaim after they've died. Let's hope that David Hemmings gets the same treatment - here was someone who was a true multi-talented artist, a magnificent actor, an icon of the Swinging Sixties, and as such leaves a great legacy of work behind him. Farewell David, and thank you for all your great performances.
Rob Loveday, UK

In the words of Dildanno (Hemmings in Barbarella) 'Long live the revolution'.
Paul Fillingham, Nottingham, England

David Hemmings's electric performance as Miles in Benjamin Britten's opera The Turn of The Screw which was recorded in 1955 is probably the best to date.
Dudley Hawkins, United Kingdom

I was a child of the 60s living in New Mexico taking poetry and film classes when Blow-Up came out. It was extremely influential and of its time with conspiracy theories of the day. Plus Hemmings was ever so sexy in that sports car. Blow-Up was a cinema classic and he will be missed.
Wendy, England




SEE ALSO:
Blow-Up actor David Hemmings dies
04 Dec 03  |  Entertainment



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