He was once heralded as the greatest British actor of his generation. Nicol Williamson was known for stormy onstage behavior- including calling off a 1969 performance of “Hamlet” mid-speech because he was too tired to go on.
“I’ll pay for the seats, but I won’t shortchange you by not giving my best.” said Williamson. And then he walked off stage.
At age 26 when he auditioned for “Inadmissible Evidence,” playwright John Osborne wrote in his diary that this “pouting, delinquent cherub produced the face to match the torment below the surface. He is much too young, 26, to the character’s 39, but no matter. He is old within.” The playwright called Williamson “the greatest actor since Marlon Brando.”
After appearing in films, television productions and plays on the English and Broadway stages, he retreated to Amsterdam about two decades ago and focused on playing country music. Before he died, he was able to finish recording the CD he had been working on, said his son, Williamson’s only immediate survivor. “He didn’t want any fuss made over his passing. He was not interested in publicity,” said Luke Williamson.
Nicol Williamson was known for being hard to get along with, especially by directors and producers (he once punched David Merrick during a rehearsal), and he commentd on his own personality:
“I think the only valuable thing you can do as an actor is to make people recognize in themselves what is also there in you, and what you see in them. Then they’ll hate you because they don’t want you to do that to them. That’s why I’m hated a lot of the time. They don’t want you to show these things in you because it makes them uncomfortable. It makes them frightened. But I think you must show these things in order to be true to yourself.”