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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 March 2008, 16:51 GMT
Acting world mourns Paul Scofield
Paul Scofield

Paul Scofield, one of Britain's most acclaimed Shakespearean actors and an Academy Award winner, has died at the age of 86, his agent has said.

Scofield won the Oscar for best actor in 1967 for A Man for All Seasons, and was also nominated in 1995 for best supporting actor for Quiz Show.

"He was a great friend and a great man," actress Dame Judi Dench said.

The actor died peacefully on Wednesday in a hospital near his Sussex home, his agent Rosalind Chatto said.

"He had leukaemia and had not been well for some time," she added.

He had a kind of extraordinary physical warmth, almost literally like being near a fire
Simon Callow

The British-born actor started his stage career in 1940.

In 2004, Scofield's portrayal of King Lear in 1962 was voted the greatest performance in a Shakespeare play by a panel of Royal Shakespeare Company actors, including Sir Ian McKellen, Ian Richardson and Sir Antony Sher.

"Of the 10 greatest moments in the theatre, eight are Scofield's," the actor Richard Burton once said.

Simon Callow, who starred opposite Scofield in the play Amadeus in 1979, paid tribute to "one of the greatest actors in the world".

"He had a kind of extraordinary physical warmth, almost literally like being near a fire, in a way that I have almost never experienced with another actor. It was a sort of blaze," he told BBC Radio 4's The World At One.

No actor summoned with such authority the mysterious depths of human experience
Nicholas Hytner
National Theatre
"He had a charisma, a hypnotism, a kind of spell that he cast on an audience, which was an extraordinary thing to negotiate as a young actor.

"He was an absolutely towering actor."

National Theatre artistic director Nicholas Hytner, who directed Scofield in his 1996 film adaptation of The Crucible, said: "No actor summoned with such authority the mysterious depths of human experience.

"He was a man of wit, charm and grace; and quite extraordinarily modest."

The Royal Shakespeare Company's chief associate director Gregory Doran said: "Scofield was simply one of the greats, creating landmark performances of all the great Shakespeare roles at Stratford, from Hamlet to Macbeth to Lear."

Scofield won his Oscar in 1967 for playing Sir Thomas More in the film of the life of the 16th Century Lord Chancellor.

He was also nominated for five Baftas, winning three times, including one for A Man for All Seasons.

Paul Scofield in A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Scofield played Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons
His other Bafta wins came for his film debut in That Lady in 1956 and for The Crucible, which co-starred Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder, 40 years later.

Scofield used his Shakespearean skills on screen as King Lear in the 1972 film and alongside Dame Judi in Kenneth Branagh's Henry V in 1989.

His TV work included the BBC's 4m adaptation of Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit in 1994 and he was also a familiar voice in radio dramas.

Paul Scofield was a towering genius of a performer who had everything a theatrical elder statesman should have
Paddy, Aberystwyth

Scofield was appointed a CBE in 1956 but he was thought to have rejected attempts to give him a knighthood.

"If you want a title, what's wrong with Mr?" he once said. "If you have always been that, then why lose your title? But it's not political. I have a CBE, which I accepted very gratefully."

But in the New Year's Honours for 2001, he was made a Companion of Honour.

People are made a Companion of Honour for work of national importance and there are only 65 members at any one time.

Scofield leaves his widow, the actress Joy Parker, a son and a daughter.

Highlights from Scofield's career

Obituary: Paul Scofield
20 Mar 08 |  Entertainment
In quotes: Tributes to Paul Scofield
20 Mar 08 |  Entertainment
Paul Scofield: Man for all seasons
30 Dec 00 |  Entertainment
Oxford honours arts figures
21 Jun 02 |  Entertainment
Chekhov Love Letters enchants
26 Sep 01 |  Entertainment

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