Paul Scofield: 1922-2008

The legendary British actor is dead at age 86.

by | March 20, 2008 | Comments

David Paul Scofield, Oscar-winning British actor of stage and screen died from complications related to leukemia in a hospital near his home in Sussex. He was 86.

Known for being selective about his roles and turning down knighthood twice (“If you want a title, what’s wrong with ‘mister?'”), Scofield was notoriously out of the public eye. In keeping with this tendency he didn’t attend the Oscars to retrieve his award for playing Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons.

According to the Times UK, Scofield had a nickname among his peers: “St Paul.” While contemporaries like Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole, and Richard Harris were steaming the seams of tabloid international, Scofield stayed a steady course, lived in the house he purchased in the early 1950s with his wife, actress Joy Parker, and their two children. The couple was married for 65 years.

Scofield was often characterized as an actor’s actor. With a voice that the Times UK once claimed “sounded like the starting of a Rolls-Royce,” Scofield appeared on TV and in Shakespearean radio plays, but is most known for his works on stage. He played almost every imaginable Shakespearean character, as well as many by Graham Greene and Edward Albee. Cast as Horatio, Scofield met Parker when she was playing Ophelia in a 1942 production of Hamlet.

Richard Burton is credited saying, “Of the ten greatest moments in the theater, eight are Scofield’s.”

More modern audiences might remember Scofield as Mark Van Doren in Robert Redford‘s Quiz Show. Though Scofield didn’t win the Oscar for that part, the commitment and girth he lent to his role are the stuff of legend.