Brian Bedford, a veteran at Ontario's Stratford Festival, has died

STRATFORD, Ont. -- Acclaimed British actor Brian Bedford, a Tony Award-winning mainstay of Broadway and Ontario's Stratford Festival, has died.

See Full Article

The festival in Stratford, Ont., told The Canadian Press that Bedford died on Wednesday in Santa Barbara, Calif., after a 2 1/2-year battle with cancer. He was 80.

"The doctors were just astounded by his will to live," said Ann Swerdfager, the festival's publicity director.

Antoni Cimolino, the festival's artistic director, said in a statement that "Brian Bedford was the prime reason I went into the theatre."

Bedford had been ailing in recent years.

In early 2014, illness forced him to pull out of his role as the pope in a touring production of the Vatican mystery thriller "The Last Confession" that visited Toronto. It was a part he said he'd been "really looking forward" to, noting John Paul I was "a very, very sweet, modest, lovely person and I haven't played that kind of part for a long, long time."

In June 2013, he withdrew from his role as Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice" at the Stratford Festival due to "a medical condition." He also missed shows during the festival's 2011 season.

Bedford was a fixture in the southwestern Ontario community of Stratford, where he worked at the festival for 29 seasons, acting and directing.

In 2009, he brought down the house directing and starring (in full drag) as Lady Bracknell in the festival's production of "The Importance of Being Earnest," which moved to Broadway and earned him a 2011 Tony Award nomination for best actor. The production itself won a Tony for best costume design and was nominated for another for best revival of a play.

Bedford's other Stratford roles included King Lear, Macbeth and Richard III. He also performed his one-man show "Ever Yours, Oscar" in Stratford.

Born in Morley, Yorkshire, England to a postal clerk father and a mother who worked in a weaving mill, Bedford's childhood was plagued by poverty and illness (two of his brothers died of tuberculosis). After joining an amateur theatre company as a teen, he landed a scholarship to study at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where classmates included Peter O'Toole and Albert Finney.

Bedford's big break came with "Five Finger Exercise," which moved from London to Broadway with co-star Jessica Tandy in 1959. He went on to star in more than 18 Broadway productions, winning a Tony in '71 for his leading role in "The School for Wives" and netting Tony nominations for several other roles.

Besides Shakespeare, Moliere was another playwright Bedford tackled several times to great acclaim, with productions including "Tartuffe" and "The Moliere Comedies."

It was in the '70s that Bedford first started performing in Stratford. In a 1992 interview with The Associated Press, he said his transformation to classical actor began at the festival when then-artistic director Robin Phillips asked him to perform Shakespeare there.

Getting to play so many leading roles there was "a source of real happiness," he said.

"It's one of the consolations of getting older. If you have the luck, as I have had, to get these opportunities, your technique actually improves. And you are able to play these marvellous parts. When you are young, you have all these fabulous ideas, but you haven't got the technique to realize them."

While he carved out a reputation for mastering classical roles, Bedford was also known for his sharp timing in comedies. He acted in film and TV, with credits including "Nixon," "Grand Prix" and "Coronet Blue."

He's survived by his partner of 30 years, actor Tim MacDonald, whom he married in July 2013.

The two had a home in Stratford.



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • SNL writer suspended for 'insensitive' tweet about Barron Trump

    Entertainment CBC News
    A Saturday Night Live writer has been suspended indefinitely after tweeting a poorly received joke about U.S. President Donald Trump's youngest son, Barron. A person familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak publicly told The Associated Press that Katie Rich was suspended immediately after writing an offensive tweet about the 10-year-old. Source
  • 'SNL' writer suspended for tweet about Barron Trump

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK - A "Saturday Night Live" writer has been suspended indefinitely after tweeting a poorly received joke about Donald Trump's 10-year-old youngest son, Barron. A person familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak publicly tells The Associated Press that Katie Rich was suspended immediately after writing an offensive tweet about the child. Source
  • Ryan Reynolds under consideration for Green Lantern return

    Entertainment CTV News
    He played Deadpool in a bad movie and again in a very good one, and executives at DC Entertainment are considering whether Ryan Reynolds could do the same for their Green Lantern character when "Green Lantern Corps" hits in 2020. Source
  • Alec Baldwin to host ’SNL’ for record-setting 17th time

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — At the dawn of the Donald Trump administration, “Saturday Night Live’s” own Trump — Alec Baldwin — will be back as the show’s guest host for the 17th time. The NBC show said Monday that Baldwin will host the Feb. Source
  • Hollywood takes on Calgary's 'mysterious and sexy' Bre-X scandal

    Entertainment CBC News
    Twenty years ago, a small Calgary-based mining company called Bre-X Minerals duped thousands of people out of millions of dollars. On Friday, the story of that company will be cast onto the big screen as the basis for the movie Gold, starring Matthew McConaughey. Source
  • Aaron Rodgers' family feud in spotlight after NFC championship loss

    Entertainment CBC News
    The Green Bay Packers' season may be over, but that doesn't mean their star quarterback's time in the hot seat is done. Following Green Bay's 44-21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC championship Sunday, Aaron Rodgers' long-time girlfriend and actress Olivia Munn took to Instagram to voice support for her beau — and also disapproval of his family. Source
  • Canadian pop singer Alessia Cara to play 'Saturday Night Live' in February

    Entertainment CTV News
    TORONTO -- Alessia Cara is the latest Canadian performer set to take the stage for "Saturday Night Live." The 20-year-old pop singer from Brampton, Ont., will be the comedy sketch show's musical guest on Feb. Source
  • Matthew McConaughey relishes weighty role in ‘Gold’ [Video]

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — Matthew McConaughey is stretched out in a chair sunning himself in a hotel window, just like a big cat. A cool cat, that’s for sure. It’s a bit of a relief to see the actor, shaggy-haired and handsome as always, having just watched him in the new movie, Gold. Source
  • Music industry veteran Randy Lennox to receive Juno's Walt Grealis award

    Entertainment CTV News
    TORONTO -- Randy Lennox, once head of Universal Music Canada and now a leading executive at Bell Media, will be honoured at this year's Juno Awards. Organizers say the music industry veteran will receive the 2017 Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award for his longstanding commitment to Canadian music. Source
  • Soulja Boy charged with felony weapons possession

    Entertainment CTV News
    Los Angeles prosecutors on Monday charged Soulja Boy with felony weapons violations stemming from a police search of his home last month that found an assault weapon and a stolen police handgun. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced Monday that it had charged the rapper, whose real name is DeAndre Cortez Way, and that his arraignment was scheduled for Monday. Source