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Edward Woodward knew few 'equals'



Woodward When Equalizer star Edward Woodward died Nov. 16, the event went sadly unannounced here at Stuck in the '80s. It was just a matter of time 'til the angry e-mails arrived. Luckily, one sympathetic reader by the code name of Milbarge volunteered to write the long overdue tribute to Woodward. Take the mic, Milbarge, the floor is yours.

When I wrote to Spears asking why the blog hadn't posted the news of the death of actor Edward Woodward, he gave me a chance to compose a tribute to my "actor idol." Just to clarify, since I took my own blogging pseudonym as an homage to the premier spy spoof film of the '80s (check out the "Red Scare" movies podcast for more on that one), I can't really give my heart to the Equalizer. But there is much to admire about the man's work.

Woodward was a prominent British stage and television actor in the '60s and '70s, and his most notable role was probably in the original 1973 version of The Wicker Man. (I hear it's light years better than the Nic Cage remake.) His two most well-known roles, though, came in the '80s. (And I'm not even counting his turn in the 1984 version of A Christmas Carol as a very Santa Claus-ian Ghost of Christmas Present opposite George C. Scott's Scrooge! That one's still my favorite version of the timeless Dickens tale.)

In 1980, Woodward starred as the title character in Breaker Morant, an excellent Australian film. Morant was a soldier in the Boer War in South Africa who was court-martialed for murdering prisoners. The trial is now widely seen as making Morant and two fellow officers scapegoats for higher-ups eager to end the war. The movie version is simultaneously an excellent courtroom drama, war film, character study, and anti-empire brief. Woodward is superb, utterly believable both as the rough-and-ready soldier (he got his nickname from breaking wild horses) and the classic British officer.

After all this success in Britain and Australia, Woodward gained even greater fame on American prime-time TV. From 1985 to 1989, he was The Equalizer on CBS. Like a one-man British A-Team, Woodward's character, Robert McCall, was a disillusioned ex-spy who was dedicated to helping ordinary people solve their insurmountable problems. McCall's intelligence background and facility with weaponry "equalized" the odds. Woodward won a Golden Globe and was nominated for four Emmys for the role. Apparently, the totally rad theme song from The Equalizer didn't win any awards, but it should have, if only because it was composed by former Police drummer and Stuck in the '80s fave Stewart Copeland.

After the success of The Equalizer, Woodward appeared now and then in small roles in TV and film. His last noteworthy screen appearance was a few years ago in Hot Fuzz as a villager who clashes with Simon Pegg. He still knew how to handle a gun.

Edward Woodward died Nov. 16 at the age of 79, leaving a wife and four children. He also leaves behind a very strong legacy as an actor with wide range and rugged charm. He'll remain stuck in our hearts, and stuck in the '80s.

[AP photo]

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 2:53pm]


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