Shakespearean actor Antony Sher has died aged 72
Director Gregory Doran and actor Antony Sher (right) attend an event on April 3, 2016 in New York City. Photo: AFP
Award-winning theater and film actor Antony Sher has died of cancer at the age of 72, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) announced on Friday.
Sher, born in South Africa, was widely regarded as one of the best contemporary British actors, playing almost all of the great Shakespearean roles from King Lear to Shylock.
In 1985, he won an Olivier Award for his energetic interpretation of Richard III as a villainous hunchback, propelling himself on stage with crutches.
While at RSC, Sher – once described by Prince Charles as his favorite actor – met her husband, Gregory Doran, who would become the company’s artistic director.
They were one of the first same-sex couples to enter into a civil partnership in Britain in 2005.
In September, Doran stepped down from her role to care for her husband after his condition was diagnosed as terminal.
RSC Executive Director Catherine Mallyon and Acting Artistic Director Erica Whyman said they were “deeply saddened” by Sher’s death.
“Our thoughts and sincere condolences go out to Greg, and to Antony’s family and friends at this devastating time,” they added.
Sher was born in Cape Town to a migrant Lithuanian Jewish family on June 14, 1949, a year after the National Party came to power and began to introduce the apartheid system.
“I had an ordinary childhood among whites,” Sher said in 2000.
“My parents were not politically aware, which means I grew up in the midst of the atrocity of apartheid without even realizing it. It sounds terrible but it’s the truth.”
But he never really felt at home and arrived in Britain in 1968 at the age of 19 after his national service in the South African army.
“I was a real wimp, very out of place in South Africa, in this whole macho sports society. I felt very uncomfortable with it all. All of my tendencies were towards the arts.”
But things didn’t go as planned at first when he was turned down by the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in central London.
Instead, he entered another drama school and continued to work at the Everyman Theater in Liverpool.
His time on stage, which in the 1970s and 1980s gained a reputation for revolutionary, politically charged performances, was an education both in theater and in life.
“For a few years I tried to be straight, I had several relationships with women, before saying ‘this is ridiculous’,” he told Monocle online radio.
“I knew I was gay but I didn’t want to be. I had to come out as gay and as a white and Jewish South African. I had a lot of closets to come out.”
To moviegoers, Sher was not a very well-known name, although he did appear in the Oscar-winning film Shakespeare In Love (1998), starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes.
The year before, he was British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli in Mrs Brown, for which Judi Dench – another pillar of the RSC – was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Queen Victoria.
The films were released after he quit a cocaine addiction that took him to hospital in 1996.
Sher said he was grateful for his time as a Shakespearean actor, but regretted never playing Hamlet, feeling he was not tall, handsome or blond enough.
He became “Sir Antony” after receiving the knight in 2000, and has said that his mother’s presence at Buckingham Palace was one of his proudest moments.
But he also found it hard to come to terms with that, saying he was “a bit of a closet knight”.
“I’ve been out in a lot of areas in my life, but I haven’t been able to manage this one yet,” he said later in the year.
This honor positioned him firmly within the British establishment, but he told The Times in 2015: “In my soul I am the Cape boy, I grow up and I feel uncomfortable in the world. . “