Oliver Reed: A moment to remember

“Richard Burton was hitting the bottle with Jimmy Hurt the night before his death. He knew it was going to kill him, but he did not stop. I don’t have a drink problem. But if that was the case and doctors told me I would have to stop, I’d like to think I would be brave enough to drink myself into the grave.”

Let’s take a minute to remember one of cinema’s most outrageous and talented rascals, Oliver Reed. Here are a few of my favourite Oliver Reed moments.

In the mid-1980s, Paul Heiney receives an acting lesson from Reed for a BBC documentary. As was usually the case with Reed, things escalated:

Oliver Reed plays a psychiatrist with a unique treatment program in David Cronenberg’s thoroughly underrated, The Brood (1979). Here we see this technique in action:

David Letterman interviews a thoroughly out of control Reed in a 1987 episode of Late Night:

And finally, who could forget one of his most recognised performances as the psychotic Bill Sykes in Oliver Twist (1968):

James Curnow is an obsessive cinephile and the owner and head editor of CURNBLOG. His work as a film journalist has been published in a range of print and digital publications, including The Guardian, Broadsheet and Screening the Past. James is currently working through a PhD in Film Studies, focused primarily on issues of historical representation in Contemporary Hollywood cinema.

8 thoughts on “Oliver Reed: A moment to remember

  1. Wow, how unreliable our memories are sometimes. I found myself looking for the Reed interview on Letterman on the internet today because I’d seen it many years ago and something piqued my interest. I remembered it being much later than 1987–closer to 1993 or ’94. And I remembered Oliver Reed saying many more totally nonsensical, random and aloof inanities than are manifest in the above interview. And I remembered Letterman harping a whole lot more on the whole, “Okay, now you’re about ready to belt me one in the mouth, aren’t you?” types of lines, as opposed to one single quip. But this is apparently the only time he was on Late Night, so my memories have become distorted over the years. Amazing. Pretty sure I liked my memory of it more. It was certainly funnier. Oh well . . . It’s still an epic bit of television.

  2. I just rewatched ‘Gladiator’, and he is just wonderful in it as the former gladiator who mentors Russell Crowe. He may have squandered his talent in booze and many shitty films, but at least he went out playing a blinder. Also, I didn’t know until recently that he was Carol Reed’s nephew (which explains why he was in “Oliver”)

  3. He was a great Bill Sykes – Even when I read Oliver Twist I imagine him in the role.

    I actually saw The Brood at a cheapo drive in theater in New Jersey back in the 80’s.

  4. He was great mates with Keith Moon, of course. They caused complete mayhem together. Shame they didn’t get their act together for some standup comedy – they were always too wasted.

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