Veteran British star Alan Bates dies. The Tony-winning stage actor and star of movies from ''Zorba the Greek'' to ''Gosford Park'' was 69

By Gary Susman
Updated December 29, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST
Earl Hindman: Newsmakers/NewsCom

Alan Bates, the rugged British actor who enjoyed a five-decade stage and screen career on both sides of the Atlantic, died Saturday of pancreatic cancer at a London hospital, his agent told the Associated Press. An Oscar nominee and winner of two Tonys, Bates was 69.

Bates got his big break in the 1956 London production of John Osborne’s archetypal ”angry young man” play ”Look Back in Anger,” which launched the kitchen-sink realism movement that revitalized British theater and film over the next decade. In addition to playing classical roles on stage, Bates played memorable leading and supporting parts in such ’60s films as ”Zorba the Greek” (as the stuffy Brit loosened up by Anthony Quinn’s zesty title character), ”Georgy Girl,” ”Far From the Madding Crowd,” ”The Fixer” (for which he earned his Best Actor Oscar nomination in 1969, playing a Jewish handyman persecuted in Czarist Russia) and ”Women in Love,” famous for its nude wrestling match between Bates and Oliver Reed.

Bates won his first Tony in 1972 for starring as an unraveling academic in Simon Gray’s comedy ”Butley,” a role he had first played on London’s West End and later reprised on film. Recent years saw him triumph with a second Tony in 2002 for playing a poor Russian nobleman in Ivan Turgenev’s ”Fortune’s Fool,” as well as prominent movie roles in ”Gosford Park” (as secretive butler Mr. Jennings), ”The Mothman Prophecies” (as a mad scientist), and ”The Sum of All Fears” (as the leader of a worldwide neo-Nazi terrorist conspiracy). Currently on screen opposite Michael Caine in the limited-release drama ”The Statement,” Bates was knighted in late 2002, shortly before being diagnosed with cancer.