Ian Richardson, British Actor Known for Sinister Roles, Dies at 73

Obituaries   Ian Richardson, British Actor Known for Sinister Roles, Dies at 73
Ian Richardson, the British stage actor who rose to international fame through his portrayal of a Machiavellian politician in the BBC's 1990 drama series "House of Cards," died suddenly Feb. 9 at his London home. He was 73 and had not been ill.

Famous for his silver hair, commanding voice and a devilish glint in his eyes, Mr. Richardson could be an imposing presence on stage or screen. He used this aura of persuasive intimidation in his playing of "House of Cards" chief whip Francis Urquhart and won a Bafta Award for it. The program and character were so popular, he re-created his perfomance in the sequels "To Play the King" and "The Final Cut," as well as the 1992 drama "An Ungentlemanly Act." Mr. Richardson said he based the character on Shakespeare's Richard III.

"I'm grateful for the part as it put me on the map," he said in 2005. "The only trouble is getting rid of it. So many people seem to think that I am like him."

Born April 7, 1934, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Mr. Richardson was educated at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. He was a founding member of the modern Royal Shakespeare Company that Peter Hall formed in 1960, and was thereafter a major player in the troupe along with such contemporaries as Judi Dench, David Warner and Trevor Nunn.

He made occasional trips to Broadway, the first as a member of Peter Brook's landmark production of Marat/Sade in 1965. He played Jean-Paul Marat, a role he created at the RSC. He would essay it again in the 1967 film version. He won a Tony Award nomination for playing Professor Henry Higgins in the 1976 revival of My Fair Lady, and he starred in Edward Albee's short-lived, 1981 stage adapatation of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita in 1981.

His many film appearances include "Brazil" (1985), "Dark City" (1998) and "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead" (1990). On television he acted in the BBC adaptation of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," Sherlock Holmes in two 1980s television versions of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and "The Sign of Four," and in a "Masterpiece Theatre" adaptation of Dickens' "Bleak House." Another role for which many Americans unconsciously know him is the dignified man in the Rolls Royce who asks another high-born gentleman in a neighboring chauffeured car, "Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?" in the popular mustard commercial.

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