15 Things You Genuinely Didn’t Know About Oliver Reed.
Oliver Reed died from a heart attack on May 2 nd 1999 while – true to form – drinking with his wife and friends in a bar in Malta. A little over a year later, we’re finally getting the chance to witness Reed’s final acting role, as Maximus’ trainer, in Ridley Scott’s much anticipated Gladiator. In a career that spanned over 40 years, and 60 films, Reed was once described as “Always word perfect and unfailingly courteous to colleagues and technicians”. However, despite being famous for his professional behaviour among colleagues, it was Reed’s notoriety as one of this country’s finest hellraisers for which most will remember him. Bubblegun is happy to add further fuel to fire of Ollie’s legend.
Where Oliver Reed went, controversy would follow. Starring in Ken Russell’s Women in Love – the first English speaking commercial film to feature full frontal male nudity – Reed famously wrestled naked with Alan Bates. Reed also starred in the first film to include the word “fuck” (I’ll Never Forget What’s ‘Is Name), as well as the first British film to be rated X due to its violent content (Sitting Target).
Reed’s comments concerning long time adversary and fellow hellraiser, Richard Harris, were also often amusing: “…Even though people say Richard Harris and I have been having a great feud, it’s not true. After all, how could be feuding for years? I’d never heard of him until two weeks ago.
“Raquel Welch is someone I can also live without. We’ve got some love scenes together and I am dreading them! I cabled Richard Harris to see if he wanted to be my stand-in for those scenes. With his toupee and her falsies they would be perfect for each other…”
Lee Marvin, describing his first encounter with Reed, said: “I was expecting to meet up with this actor who was supposed to be Britain’s hellraiser, and what do I see but this tailor’s dummy in a pinstripe suit looking more like a fucking banker”.
Reed, during his infamous 80s appearance on The David Letterman Show, continued the feud by pretending to forget Marvin’s surname, and claimed to have “screwed Marvin at drinking” during a drinking competition that allegedly took place between the pair.
During the same show, Reed also caused David Letterman to lose his footing by pulling him forward during their greeting handshake; punctuated the interview by adopting an American accent, pointing at the camera and claiming “I’m after you, Stallone”; replied to Letterman’s questions in German; spoke nonsense claiming he was a fisherman who wore boots in his ears; took the piss out of Letterman’s nose by pressing his own down in imitation; and removed his glasses and stared Letterman down, forcing Letterman to plead to band leader, Paul Schaffer to accompany him.
In fact, on both sides of the Atlantic, Reed became well known for his “performances” on chat shows. On The Merv Griffin Show in the 70s, Reed sat listening attentively whilst Griffin reeled off some anecdote about Peter O’Toole in order to illustrate the temperamental nature of English actors. After enduring the entire story, Reed sat forward and, quite politely, pointed out that O’Toole was in fact Irish, and not English. More famously still, he once asked perma-tanned British talk show host Richard Madley why he had “orange skin”.
During his first appearance on The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson watched on in horror as Shelly Winters – reacting to Reed’s somewhat misogynistic comments – poured a drink over Reed’s head. When later quizzed about the incident, Reed stated: “My row with Shelly Winters was caused by her abominable lack of manners. She is getting old now and I think she is quite crazy.”
In fact, Reed’s outspoken views on women often landed him in trouble. Once prompted about the fairer sex, Reed stated: “American men like their women to have these special teeth and be perfectly coiffured and have amazing breasts. Have you seen an Italian mama with those kinds of teeth, that kind of hair, and that kind of waist? They’re not like that. They’re in the kitchen cooking for their families – doing what they should do… I believe my woman shouldn’t work outside the home”.
However, despite such vocal opinions on the subject, Reed did show some elements of compromise: “I also use women as a sex object; maybe I’m kinky. However, I like to talk to them as well.”
Reed’s views on the subject of death were relatively well documented (and before he died he arranged to have Ј10,000 out of his estate spent at his local pub, but only for “those who are crying”). Discussing potential body-disposal methods, Reed refuted the deep-freeze method adopted by those such as “rich Americans like Walt Disney”.
Also slated was the idea of him being laid out for days in his Sunday best in order to “have people gawping at me to see what a dead hellraiser looks like”, as was cremation, as was burial due to his disgust at “maggots having a ball crawling up my nose and out of my mouth”, and burial at sea: “Who wants to be gobbled up by a big fish and become excrement that is swallowed up by a prawn… ending up as mayonnaise, being nibbled at by a pretty girl… I don’t want to be permanent shit.’”
Reed’s ideal form of post-life disposal? “I would much rather end up a fertiliser under a sunflower which is eventually made into sunflower seed oil so that instead of nibbling me in her prawn cocktail, the pretty girl will rub me on her bristols as she suns herself on a beach in the Caribbean”. Gawd bless you, Oliver Reed.
Gladiator goes on general release May 12 th throughout the UK.