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Obituary: Simon Ward

Simon Ward

Obituary by Jack Foley

BRITISH screen and stage actor Simon Ward has died after a long illness at the age of 70, his agent has confirmed.

The versatile performer appeared in several films throughout the 1970s and ’80s, including The Three Musketeers, Dracula and The Four Feathers, and – later on – was a regular on TV in shows such as Judge John Deed and The Tudors.

On the stage, meanwhile, he won widespread praise for his touring performances in Alan Bennett’s The Madness of George III and Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband.

Born on October 16, 1941, in Beckenham, Kent, Simon was the son of Winifred and Leonard Fox Ward, a car dealer.

Educated at Alleyn’s School, London, the home of the National Youth Theatre, he developed a passion for acting from an early age and joined the NYT at the age of 13, staying with it for eight years.

He then trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, made his professional stage debut with the Northampton Repertory in 1963 and received his London theatrical bow one year later in The 4th of June.

But his nig break came in 1967 when he played the lead in Joe Orton’s play, Loot, which lead to television and film roles.

In 1972, he gained national acclaim for his portrayal of Churchill in Richard Attenborough’s epic film Young Winston, and the following year played the Duke of Buckingham in The Three Musketeers.

In 1974, Ward was cast as the author and veterinarian James Herriot in the original film adaptation of All Creatures Great and Small, which went on to become a successful BBC television series with actor Christopher Timothy taking the lead role played by Ward in the film adaptation.

But Ward remained in film and also appeared in one of the lead roles in the 1976 aerial adventure Aces High, and as Lt. William Vereker in the 1979 film Zulu Dawn.

In more recent years, Ward divided his time more between theatre and TV. On the small screen, he became a household name as Sir Monty Everard in Judge John Deed and was most recently seen playing Bishop Stephen Gardiner in The Tudors.

Away from the screen and stage, Ward largely kept away from the limelight, although he became the victim of a street attack in the late ’80s that was never solved and baffled the police.

One of Ward’s daughters is the actress, Sophie Ward, while his youngest daughter, Kitty, is married to the comedian, Michael McIntyre.

A statement released by his agent said that Ward had passed away peacefully on July 22, 2012, with his wife, Alexandra, and daughters at his bedside.