Edward Woodward, the star of the 1980s television series The Equalizer and of the big-screen classics The Wicker Man (1973) and Breaker Morant (1980), died at age 79 on Nov. 16 in Truro, Cornwall, England.
Born to working-class parents in Croydon, Surrey, south of London, on June 1, 1930, Woodward began his acting career onstage in 1946. As a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, he played roles in, among others, Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing, in addition to starring in Cyrano de Bergerac on the West End and in Noel Coward’s Broadway musical High Spirits, based on Coward’s comedy Blithe Spirit. Tammy Grimes and Beatrice Lillie were two of the female leads.
Woodward’s best-remembered film appearances are those in Robin Hardy’s curious thriller The Wicker Man (above, 1973) and Bruce Beresford’s solid Australian courtroom drama Breaker Morant. In the former, considered by some one of the best British movies of the 1970s, Woodward plays a police sergeant who, while looking into the case of a missing girl on a remote Scottish island, becomes enmeshed with a bizarre hippie-druidic society among whose members are Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Britt Ekland, and Ingrid Pitt. In the latter film, he plays Lt. Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant, one of three Australian lieutenants (Bryan Brown and Lewis Fitz-Gerald were the other two) on trial for murdering Boer prisoners – as a cover-up for other war crimes – during the Boer War in South Africa at the turn of the 20th century.
Woodward and Beresford later joined forces in two other movies, neither of which was nearly as successful: King David (1985), a major flop starring Richard Gere, and Mister Johnson (1990), a moderately interesting critique of colonialism in which Maynard Eziashi plays a well-educated black African who believes himself “English.”
On television, Woodward made his mark as the ex-spy turned New York City vigilante in The Equalizer. For his role as the disillusioned former secret agent Robert McCall, he received five Emmy nominations and won a Golden Globe. Woodward had also played the title role in the British series Callan (1967-72), as a counterintelligence agent with a talent for murder.