David Hemmings, the British actor who became one of the screen icons of the swinging ’60s with roles in films such as “Blow Up,” died of a heart attack on a Romanian movie set. He was 62.
Hemmings collapsed Wednesday shortly after shooting scenes for the movie “Samantha’s Child,” said agent Liz Nelson.
“He had just finished his final shots of the day and was going back to his dressing room,” Nelson said Thursday.
Hemmings was enjoying a renaissance in his acting career after a couple of decades behind the camera directing and producing TV shows such as the “A-Team,” and “Airwolf.” An appearance in Ridley Scott’s Oscar-winning “Gladiator” in 2000 led to a flood of offers, including the critically acclaimed “Last Orders” with Michael Caine in 2001 and most recently “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” with Sean Connery in 2003.
But it was roles in films including Roger Vadim’s science-fiction romp “Barbarella” in the 1960s that defined him for a generation.
“He was very charismatic, beautiful smile, beautiful eyes, rather small and he had just an enormous impact in the ’60s,” film director Michael Winner told British Broadcasting Corp. television Thursday. “He was wonderful company, David. Very witty, very charming, very light, bright.”
Born Nov. 18, 1941 in Guildford, England, Hemmings was a notable boy soprano and was featured in English Opera Group performances of the works of Benjamin Britten.
He then studied painting at the Epsom School of Art where he staged his first exhibition at 15 before returning to singing in his early 20s with nightclub appearances before moving onto the stage and gradually into films.
His early British movie roles usually saw him cast as misunderstood or belligerent youths. His international breakthrough came when he auditioned for role of the fashion photographer in Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film “Blow Up.”
The film, in which Hemmings’ character reportedly believes he may have witnessed a murder, won the Cannes Film Festival’s prestigious Golden Palm award in 1967. Scenes in which Hemmings photographed the model Veruschka have often been ranked among the sexiest moments captured on film.
Boyish good looks
Hemmings’ boyish good looks were also put to use in the 1967 musical “Camelot,” “Charge of the Light Brigade” in 1968, and “Alfred the Great,” in 1969.
With 1972’s “Running Scared,” Hemmings began a new career as a director of several movie and TV productions in England, Australia and Canada.
With fellow producer John Daly, Hemmings formed the production company Hemdale in the early 1970s. Hemdale was responsible for many notable films, including John Schlesinger’s “The Falcon and the Snowman,” Gillian Armstrong’s “High Tide” and Denzel Washington’s film debut “Carbon Copy.”
Hemmings then worked on some of the biggest TV hits of the 1980s including “Magnum PI,” “The A Team,” “Airwolf” and “Quantum Leap.”
“People thought I was dead. But I wasn’t. I was just directing The A-Team,” he once remarked.
Hemmings returned to acting in the role of Cassius, in “Gladiator.”
“People saw me in ’Gladiator’ and said, ’He’s still alive. Good Lord!’ All of a sudden I’ve done eight pictures in the last 16 months,” Hemmings said last year. “I probably won’t do another until I’m 70. If I live that long.”
He appeared in “Gangs of New York,” “Spy Game” and “Last Orders,” which also starred Hemmings’ son Nolan. The father and son played the same character at different ages.
Hemmings is survived by his fourth wife, Lucy Williams, and their two children. Nolan is the only child from his second marriage, to American actress Gayle Hunnicutt. Hemmings also has a daughter from his first marriage, to Genista Ouvry, and two sons from his third marriage, to Prudence de Casembroot.
Funeral plans were not immediately announced.