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Alan Bates decided to be an actor at age 11. After
grammar school in Derbyshire, he earned a scholarship to the
Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. Following two years in
the Royal Air Force, he joined the new English Stage Company at
the Royal Court Theatre. His West End in 1956, at 22, was
also the Company's first production.
In the same year Bates appeared in Osborne's "Look Back in
Anger," a play that gave a name to a generation of post-war
"angry young men." The play made Bates a star, and launched a
lifetime performing in works written by great modern playwrights
-- Pinter, Gray, Storey, Bennett, Shaffer, Stoppard (as well as
Chekhov, Ibsen, Strindberg, Shakespeare). Four years later, Alan
Bates appeared in his first film, a classic: "The Entertainer,"
in which he plays one of Laurence Olivier's sons. More than fifty
film roles have followed, one of which, "The Fixer" (from a novel
by Bernard Malamud) earned an Academy nomination for Bates.
Bates married actress Victoria Ward in 1970. Their twin sons,
Benedick and Tristan, were born in 1971. Tristan died during an
asthma attack in 1990; Ward died in 1992. Bates threw himself
into work to live through these tragedies, and has spoken
movingly about the effects of his losses in recent interviews.
The current Patron of the Actors Centre in London, Bates and his
family have endowed a theatre there in memory of Tristan Bates,
who, like his mother, father and brother, was an actor. With few
exceptions, Bates has performed in premium works, guided by
intuition rather than by box-office. For each role he creates a
three-dimensional, unique person; there is no stereotypical Alan
Bates character. Women appreciate the sensitivity he brings to
his romantic roles; gay fans appreciate his well-rounded,
unstereotyped gay characters; and the intelligence, humor and
detail -- the smile that starts in the eyes; the extra pat or
squeeze; the subtle nuances he gives to his lines; his beautiful,
flexible voice -- are Bates hallmarks that make him special to
all his admirers. The rumpled charm of his youth has weathered
into a softer, but still attractive (and still rumpled) maturity.
In his early sixties, Alan Bates continues to divide his time
between films, theatre and television. His 1997 stage portrayal
of a travel writer facing life's big questions at the bedside of
his comatose wife (in Simon Gray's "Life Support"), was called "a
magnificent performance, one of the finest of his career."
(Charles Spencer, Sunday Telegraph, 10 August 97).
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