West Sands, St Andrews KY16 9SF, UK
Portobello Cemetery Portobello, City of Edinburgh, Scotland
Ian Charleson, (born Aug. 11, 1949, Edinburgh, Scot.—died Jan. 6, 1990, London, Eng.), Scottish stage actor best known for his work in the film Chariots of Fire (1981), which won an Academy Award Oscar for best picture.
Charleson received an M.A. in architecture from Edinburgh University (1970) before training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Very soon thereafter he was cast in leading roles, first with the Young Vic Theatre company and then with the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. He was particularly admired for his Shakespearean work and for portraying such American characters as Sky Masterson in the musical Guys and Dolls (1982), Eddie in Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love (1985), and Brick in Tennessee Williams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1988).
Charleson’s role in Chariots of Fire, as a Scottish runner whose religious beliefs almost caused him to forfeit the chance to win an Olympic medal, was his best known. He also had featured roles in the films Jubilee (1978) and Gandhi (1982) and in television productions of Julius Caesar and All’s Well That Ends Well. He was acclaimed for his performance as Hamlet at the National Theatre two months before his death.
The Houghton Mifflin Dictionary of Biography describes Charleson as "a leading player of charm and power" and "one of the finest British actors of his generation". Alan Bates wrote that Charleson was "definitely among the top ten actors of his age group". Ian McKellen said Charleson was "the most unmannered and unactorish of actors: always truthful, always honest".
Charleson was diagnosed with HIV in 1986, and died in 1990 at the age of 40. He requested that it be announced after his death that he had died of AIDS, in order to publicise the condition. This was the first celebrity death in the United Kingdom openly attributed to AIDS, and the announcement helped to promote awareness and acceptance of the disease.
West Sands, St Andrews