Childhood & Early Life
Edward was born Edward Albert Arthur Woodward, on June 1, 1930, in Croydon, Surrey, to Edward Oliver Woodward, a metalworker, and Violet Edith Woodward. He had been bombed out of his home thrice during the World War II German bombing campaign called the 'Blitz.'
Edward was educated at several schools, such as ‘Eccleston Road,’ ‘Sydenham Road,’ and ‘E Wallington.’ He also attended the 'Kingston Day Commercial School' and the 'Elmwood High School,' Hackbridge. He then graduated from 'Kingston College.'
Edward aspired to become a journalist and later worked in a sanitary engineer's office. Following World War II, Edward joined the 'Royal Academy of Dramatic Art' and earned a few amateur roles. Upon his graduation, he had a stint in repertory companies throughout England and Scotland, performing in Shakespeare’s plays.
At a point in his life, Edward had to choose between acting and football. He was even considered for 'Leyton Orient FC' and had appeared in the 'Football League' for 'Brentford FC' thrice. A serious knee injury, however, stalled his football career.
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Edward made his professional acting debut with the 'Castle Theatre' production of 'Farnham' in 1946. He then made his London stage debut with R. F. Delderfield's comedy play 'Where There's A Will' in 1955. He later reprised the role of ‘Ralph Stokes’ in the play's film adaptation released that year. With that, Edward made his film debut, too.
Continuing with his stage performances, Edward performed in 'Romeo and Juliet' (as ‘Titinius’) and in 'Hamlet.’
Edward made his TV debut with the TV films 'A Girl Called Jo' (1956) and 'The Telescope' (1957). He made his ‘Broadway’ debut with 'Rattle of a Simple Man' in 1963. He was also seen in the musical comedy 'High Spirits' (1964–1965), in which he performed as ‘Charles.’ It earned him three 'Tony Awards.'
His performance as the central character, ‘Guy Crouchback,’ in the 1967 'BBC' adaption of Evelyn Waugh's novel trilogy 'Sword of Honour' proved his mettle as an actor. It also helped him gain meatier roles in the subsequent years. In 1970, he performed as ‘Sidney Carton’ in a ‘West End’ musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’s novel 'A Tale of Two Cities.' Actor and director Laurence Olivier then invited him to choose a 'Royal National Theatre' production play for himself, and he chose the Edmond Rostand-written 'Cyrano de Bergerac' (1971).
Edward has been the subject of the British biographical TV documentary 'This Is Your Life' (based on the 1952 American show of the same name) in February 1971 and in February 1995.
Previously, in 1967, Edward had appeared as ‘David Callan,’ a state secret-service agent dealing with internal security threats to the UK, in the 'Armchair Theatre' production 'A Magnum for Schneider.' The performance became so popular that he was cast to reprise the role in the 'ITV' spy drama 'Callan' (1967 to 1972), which marked an important milestone of his TV career. Edward continued to display the charisma of the iconic character, in its 1974 film adaptation.
Edward also played ‘David Callan’ in the TV movie 'Wet Job' (1981).
Edward appeared as ‘Sergeant Neil Howie’ in the horror 'The Wicker Man' (1973). Following the success of 'Callan,' he realized he was being typecast. Although Edward subsequently earned lead roles in several other projects, none of them could become as iconic as his character in 'Callan.'
In 1977, Edward starred as a journalist, ‘Jim Kyle,’ in two series of the 'BBC2' dystopian drama '1990.' He also appeared as ‘Luigi,’ opposite Laurence Olivier, in the adaptation of Eduardo De Filippo's 'Saturday, Sunday, Monday,' which was part of the 'Laurence Olivier Presents' anthology series (1978).
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A wargame enthusiast, Edward hosted a series of 'Tees Television' shows in 1978, alongside Peter Gilder. Like Edward, Peter, too, loved playing wargames and was the creator and owner of the game called ‘Gettysburg Diorama,’ which was used in one of 'Callan's gaming scenes. Previously, Edward had hosted six episodes of the 'ITV' game show 'Whodunnit?' (1973).
Edward gained international fame for his portrayal of Harry "Breaker" Harbord Morant, a real-life Anglo-Australian drover, horseman, bush poet, and military officer, in the 1980 Australian biographical film 'Breaker Morant,' based on Kenneth G. Ross's 1978 play.
Edward narrated all the episodes of 'BBC' show 'The Spice of Life,' a show about different cooking spices and herbs.
From 1985 to 1989, Edward played a former covert operations officer, ‘Robert McCall,’ in the 'CBS' crime drama 'The Equalizer.' While filming the third season, he had a massive heart attack. Hence, additional actors were cast to reduce his workload. Additionally, the plot was also changed, to show his character “injured,” so that Edward could rest over several episodes.
Edward portrayed ‘Saul,’ the first king of the Kingdom of Israel and Judah according to the ‘Hebrew Bible,’ in the 1985 epic historical drama 'King David,' based on the life of ‘Saul's successor, ‘David.’ He starred as ‘Michael Royston,’ a high-level ‘MI6’ agent, in the Cold War espionage thriller–drama 'Codename: Kyril' (1988). Edward narrated the official ‘FIFA’ film for the 1990 World Cup,' 'Soccer Shoot-Out.'
Edward played the recurring role (11 episodes) of ‘Maxwell Beckett,’ an aging mystery novelist, in the short-lived 'CBS' detective drama 'Over My Dead Body' (1990–1991). He then appeared as the storyteller in 39 episodes of 'In Suspicious Circumstances' (1991–1996).
Edward had performed in the Welsh and English versions of the drama 'Tan ar y Comin.' In 1994 and 1997, he played a binman named ‘Nev Smith’ in the 'BBC' comedy–drama 'Common as Muck.'
Edward starred as ‘Dominic Angelo’ in the 1997 British historical drama film 'The House of Angelo.' The film was also produced by him. In 1999, he appeared as ‘Alwyn,’ alongside his son, in an episode of the 'Babylon 5' spin-off 'Crusade' and as ‘Harry Malone’ in 13 episodes of the 'Sky One' crime drama 'CI5: The New Professionals.'
In 2004, Edward played ‘God’ in a revival of 'The Mystery Plays' at 'Canterbury Cathedral.' He had a supporting role as a surveillance expert professor named ‘Tom Weaver’ in the 2007 dark action–comedy 'Hot Fuzz.' He guest-starred as ‘Johnnie Jackson’ in the 'ITV' police-procedural series 'The Bill' (2008). It also starred his son and grandson.
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Edward's final lead film role was that of ‘Reverend Frederick Densham’ in 'A Congregation of Ghosts' (2009). That year, he was seen as ‘Tommy Clifford’ in six episodes of the 'BBC One' soap opera 'EastEnders.'
A prolific tenor, too, Edward had recorded 12 romantic albums, three poetry albums, and 14 audiobooks. His vocal ability earned him a spot in the Edwardian music hall program 'The Good Old Days' for 'BBC.'
Edward had been felicitated with the 'Sun Awards' for his performances in films and TV, consecutively, from 1969 to 1972. He was honored with the title of the 'Officer of the Order of the British Empire' (OBE) in 1978.
He had contributed to the soundtracks of ‘Breaker Morant’ and ‘The Edward Woodward Hour.’
Family, Personal Life, & Death
Edward was married to actor Venetia Barrett from 1952 to 1986. They had two sons, Tim Woodward (born in 1953) and Peter Woodward (born in 1956), and a daughter, 'Tony Award'-nominated actor Sarah Woodward (born in 1963).
Edward started a relationship with actor Michele Dotrice, daughter of colleague Roy Dotrice. They got married in New York City, in January 1987. Their 4-year-old daughter, Emily Beth Woodward, attended the ceremony.
Edward stayed in the town of Kyrenia in northern Cyprus during the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974 and was one of several Britons to be evacuated by the ‘Royal Navy’ aircraft carrier 'HMS Hermes.'
Following his massive heart attacks in 1987 (while filming The 'Equalizer') and 1994, Edward had triple bypass surgery in 1996 and quit smoking. In February 2003, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Edward died on November 16, 2009, at the 'Royal Cornwall Hospital' in Truro, Cornwall, near his residence at Hawker's Cove. He was interred at the 'Padstow Cemetery.'
Edward owned a holiday villa in Cyprus, where he would often invite the cast and crew of 'Callan' as his guests.
He and his family had to take refuge in one of Britain's sovereign military bases during the Turkish invasion. During that period, he had a sore wrist as a result of signing numerous autographs for the soldiers.
He turned down the offer of a cameo in a remake of 'The Wicker Man' (2006), although he quite liked the script. He was also approached for the role of ‘Dr. Armstrong’ in 'Lifeforce' (1985).
He was only 7 years younger than his father-in-law, fellow actor Roy Dotrice.
In July 2009, it was announced that Edward and his wife, Michele, would appear in A.R. Gurney's play 'Love Letters,' but the play was postponed because he fell down the stairs at his West Country home and injured his hip.