January 2, 2017


Roy Kinnear (1934-1988) b. Wigan, Lancashire, England.

Roy Kinnear

Roy Mitchell Kinnear was born on 8th January 1934, in Wigan, Lancashire, to Annie Smith (n�e Durie) and Roy Muir Kinnear.

His father was a prominent rugby league player who represented Great Britain and who tragically collapsed and died aged just 38 while playing rugby union with the RAF in 1942. Scotland Rugby League�s Student Player of the Year Award is named in his honour. Young Roy was educated at George Heriot’s School, Edinburgh before studying at RADA from the age of 17. His theatrical career was put on hold, however, when, as with most of his generation, National Service intervened.-

From the 1950s, he began a career in repertory theatre, when he appeared in a show at Newquay. He spent some time in Scotland until 1959 when he joined Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop in London’s East End. He was part of many of the group’s most successful plays and notably performed in both the 1960 play and 1963 film of Sparrows Can’t Sing.

His big break came on the popular TV show That Was The Week That Was. The programme was controversial due to its frequent pillorying of the establishment and was extremely successful and the public particularly warmed to Roy as he came across as very much the simple, likeable, man-in-the-street character who was very capably holding his own with the intellectuals as they satirised the �establishment� and the media.

Finding himself now very much in the public eye, he eagerly accepted larger, meatier parts in high profile films, and in the 60s, his partnership with director Richard Lester bore him much fruit with starring roles in Help!, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, How I Won The War and The Bed-Sitting Room. (They became very good friends and later, Roy�s death had such a profound affect on Richard Lester, he retired from the film industry altogether). In 1971, he performed in probably his best known role, as he starred as the father of Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factor alongside Gene Wilder.

Throughout the 70s, he also appeared in many TV shows, notably in episodes of The Goodies and The Avengers (when he memorably played a tramp living out of the rubbish bins on an airfield!)and was a regular performer in UK TV comedies including Doctor at Large, Man About The House, George and Mildred and The Dick Emery Show. He was also very much in demand for his vocal talents, voicing the children’s television shows Bertha and Towser and was the voice of Pipkin in the 1978 film Watership Down and Texas Pete’s henchman Bulk in SuperTed.

On 19 September 1988, during the filming of The Return of the Musketeers in Toledo, Spain, Roy fell from a horse, suffering a broken pelvis. He was taken to hospital in Madrid, where, the following day, having lost a lot of blood, he suffered a heart attack and died. He was just 54 years old.

In 1988, Charlton Heston paid a fitting tribute to Roy by dedicating his film A Man For All Seasons – in which Roy played the role of The Common Man – to his memory, as a great actor and personal friend. This made-for-television film was directed by and starred Charlton Heston as Thomas More, with John Gielgud as Cardinal Wolsey and Vanessa Redgrave as Lady More.

Roy was married to actress Carmel Cryan and together they had three children, including TV and theatre actor Rory and casting director Kirsty. In 1994 the Roy Kinnear Trust was founded, which helps improve the life of young adults with physical and mental disabilities.

He is buried at East Sheen Cemetery.=

Compiled by Clive Saunders.

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