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Sunday, May 2, 1999 Published at 19:33 GMT 20:33 UK


Actor Oliver Reed dies

Oliver Reed with his wife Josephine

Actor Oliver Reed has died suddenly in Malta after being taken ill.

The BBC's Arts Correspondent Nick Higham looks back at Oliver Reed's career
Reed, 61, who appeared in more than 60 films, was in Malta for filming of The Gladiator.

He was taken ill while having a drink with friends and died on his way to St Luke's Hospital, two miles from Valletta, police said.

A Malta police spokesman said: "He was in a pub called The Pub in Archbishop Street, Valletta, at 1430 our time when he was taken ill.

"They called an ambulance about five minutes later and 10 minutes after that he died on the way to hospital."

He said there would be a post-mortem examination on Monday but there was not thought to be anything suspicious about the death.

Michael Winner: "He will be remembered for his terriffic acting"
Director Michael Winner said: "He was my closest friend for 40 years. I loved him. I feel ill."

Born in Wimbledon, south-west London, Reed reached his acting peak in the 1960s and 1970s in films such as Oliver!, Women in Love, The Jokers and The Devils.

He was seen as one of the brightest prospects of the British film industry, but his later career was overshadowed by his reputation for drunken behaviour.

Variety of jobs

Robert Oliver Reed was born in Wimbledon, the nephew of film director Carol Reed. He went from school into the Army for National Service, and then to a variety of jobs before becoming an actor without any formal training.

[ image: Reed, pictured in 1981]
Reed, pictured in 1981
His first break was on television, as Richard I in a children's serial, but most of his later work was for the cinema.

A series of small roles in Hammer horror films led to the screen version of Oliver!.

Ken Russell provided him with some memorable roles in Women in Love and The Devils in the cinema, and as Debussy in a BBC television programme.

Richard Fitzwilliams, film critic, pays tribute to Oliver Reed: "An outrageous hellraiser"
Reed had a career of more than 30 years, but from the early 1970s he had acquired a reputation for bad behaviour off the screen - heavy drinking and brawling in pubs and during public appearances.

In 1991 his appearance on a live programme on Channel 4 led the Broadcasting Standards Council to urge producers to use firm action when necessary to eject abusive guests.

He married twice and leaves two children.

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