From Hamlet to Hugo Rune…and all points in-between – Why David Warner is a Legend!


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The man, the legend

He’ll hate me for using the word, but actor David Warner is one of the true LEGENDS of the craft.  For the 60’s generation he was the ultimate Hamlet, for the 70’s generation he helped define cinema with Sam Peckinpah, for the 80’s generation he is indelibly Mr Sci-Fi/Fantasy, for the 90’s generation he is the stalwart of many a great movie, and now, in the 2000’s he has come full circle and is known once again for his stunning stage performances for the RSC…oh, and for being Hugo Rune, of course!

Today is David’s birthday, and while he enjoys the now legendary (oops!) low profile, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate him and his work, not just because I have the immense honour of calling him a close friend, but also as someone who grew up in the 80’s watching his movies, and as someone who, in my current job, has had the pleasure of directing him and working alongside him.

For many of a certain age David will forever be THE Hamlet of the 1960’s!  He appeared at the Royal Court in the early 60’s, and then joined the RSC in 1963 where he performed in The Tempest, Julius Caesar and as Henry in Henry VI parts I,II & III.  In 1965 he moved on to his biggest role, as Hamlet, which was staged in London and Stratford.

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Tron

Alongside his theatre work, David was working in film and TV.  He reprised his role as Henry in the BBC’s War of The Roses series.  He also starred in Tom Jones, and alongside Bob Dylan in The Madhouse on Castle Street.  At this time he started a collaboration with director Sam Peckinpah, starring in films such as The Ballad of Cable Hogue and Straw Dogs.

Of course, with a voice like David’s, and his imposing size, it wasn’t a big surprise that he was soon being cast in horror and fantasy films.  He appeared alongside Gregory Peck in The Omen, and cult classic Waxwork.

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Star Trek The Undiscovered Country

For many of my age and disposition (30 something scifi nut!) he is best loved for his roles in movies such as Time Bandits, Star Trek, Tron, Wing Commander (well, maybe not!), Scream 2, Time After Time, The Man With Two Brains, Nightwing, Necronomicon, even Titanic (did you know he has starred in 3 different Titanic movies…you can’t sink a great actor!), and many TV series appearances, including Star Trek, Babylon 5, MST3K, and many others.

And then there is the voice…and what a voice it is!  In recent years David has been an integral player in many successful TV animated shows, including Batman The Animated Series, Spiderman The Animated Series, Men In Black the Animated Series and the wonderful Freakazoid series.  And should you so wish, you can play ‘hunt David’s voice’ on many of the most successful computer games of the past decade!

A couple of years ago, David moved back to the UK from the States and took to the stage once again with the RSC, appearing in both London and Stratford.  For many actors, as well as the audiences, it was the magical return of a legend to the theatres he made his own in the 1960s.  It has been wonderful seeing him back up there.

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The Brightonomicon Crew in 2008

So that’s the brief potted history of the man.  But why am I writing about him?  Well, I was searching for someone to play the role of Hugo Rune, the larger than life guru’s guru star of several books by cult bestselling author Robert Rankin in an audio adaptation of The Brightonomicon I was writing and directing back in 2007.  The Xmas before I had been fortunate enough to direct David in a new reading of Oliver Twist for BBC Radio 2.  His voice and style fitted perfectly with Hugo, and so, with Robert’s enthusiastic blessing, I asked David if he would bring the Lad Himself to life?  We spent the next year having a thoroughly fantastic time recording the 13 half hour episode, alongside the likes of Andy Serkis, Martin Jarvis, Jason Isaacs, Rupert Degas, Sarah Douglas and a host of other well known sci-fi favourites.  David IS Hugo…well, in some ways.  Maybe it is fairer to say Hugo IS David!  The fit was perfect and everyone who has heard the series agrees that David brought Hugo off the page brilliantly.  Robert Rankin was especially thrilled!

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David with Sarah Douglas & Andy Serkis

In the time since making The Brightonomicon audio series, I have had the pleasure of building a friendship with David.  He is a warm and caring guy, with none of the airs & graces of some in the entertainment world.  He is charming and disarming, has a host of incredible stories to tell, and is always there to help with anything.  We are currently planning the sequel to The Brightonomicon, in which David will return as Hugo.  On top of that we have a wealth of other audio productions coming out before Xmas with David.  If you like THAT voice, you are going to love these productions…we are moving away from the obvious villains and scifi stuff and giving David some room to stretch those thesping skills of his!

David and me at the Brightonomicon launch in 2008

David and me at the Brightonomicon launch in 2008

In the meantime, may I ask you to join me in wishing him a very happy birthday.  He helped make my childhood movie experience so very rich, and continues to this day to entertain and thrill audiences across the world.  And he does it all with a smile and a cheeky smirk and a knowing nod.  A true gent, a real pro…and sorry David, but you are a legend!

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About hokusbloke
30-something radio producer/director/writer, owner & MD of Ladbroke Productions (the UK's oldest independent radio production company). Lover of far fetched fiction, scifi and fantasy, my cats and all thinks tech. I am also the Chair of the Radio Independents Group, a former Trustee of the Radio Academy, and a Fellow of the RSA. I co-wrote, produced and directed Robert Rankin's "The Brightonomicon" audio series, produce Dr Who audiobooks for the BBC, and directed several sci-fi radio plays for BBC Radio 4 in 2009. I am a strong advocate for more SF audio and radio...keep watching this space for upcoming news!

One Response to From Hamlet to Hugo Rune…and all points in-between – Why David Warner is a Legend!

  1. Just been listening to your Brightonomicon adaptation on Radio Sev–, er, Four Extra this last week. I agree, David Warner’s spot on for the part. When reading the books, I’d always imagined Tom Baker in the role, but now David’s voice will definitely fill my head when I read more (Retromancer is in my huge “to be read” pile…)

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