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Nicholas Clay
Actor Nicholas Clay.jpg
Clay as Sir Lancelot in Excalibur (1981)
Nicholas Anthony Phillip Clay

(1946-09-18)18 September 1946
Streatham, London, England
Died25 May 2000(2000-05-25) (aged 53)
London, England
Resting placeSaint Peter's Churchyard, Sibton
Years active1961–2000
(m. 1980)

Nicholas Anthony Phillip Clay (18 September 1946 – 25 May 2000) was an English actor.[1][2]

Early life

Clay was born in Streatham, London on 18 September 1946, the son of a professional soldier in the British Army's Royal Engineers. The family settled in Kent, where Clay became interested in acting, performing at the Little Medway Theatre Club.


He had roles on TV in episodes of Ask Mr. Pastry (1961), ITV Television Playhouse, The Pocket Lancer (1961), and Tales of Mystery. He made his film debut with These Are the Damned (1962) and could be seen in Dixon of Dock Green, William, Sergeant Cork, and Drama 61-67. He studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).[3]

Clay appeared in several West End theatre productions.[4]

He returned to films with The Night Digger (1971), a horror film with Patricia Neal and was in episodes of Take Three Girls, Armchair Theatre, and Love Story.

Clay had the starring role of Charles Darwin in The Darwin Adventure (1972) and was in William: The Life, Works and Times of William Shakespeare (1972). He was cast in several of Laurence Olivier's Old Vic productions and during the 1970s came to be regarded as one of British theatre's most promising actors.[5] At the National Theatre he played Aumerle in Richard II, Giovanni in Tis Pity She's a Whore (directed by Roland Joffe), Nugget in Equus, a Jumper in Jumpers (directed by Peter Wood), Rocca in Saturday Sunday Monday (directed by Franco Zeffirelli), Young Seward in Macbeth (directed by Michael Blakemore) and Acaste in The Misanthrope. Blakemore also directed him in the part of Young Inna in Arturo Ui at Nottingham Playhouse, where Clay acted several roles in Jonathan Miller's production of King Lear. He played Hastings in Clifford Williams's world tour of She Stoops to Conquer. The Misanthrope led Clay to the United States, where he also played this role on Broadway in 1975.[3] On the West End stage, Clay was Maurice in Flint (Criterion Theatre) and Trigorin in The Seagull (Cambridge Theatre).[5]

He appeared in In This House of Brede (1975) with Diana Rigg and played Alan in the 1976 version of The Picture of Dorian Gray, alongside Peter Firth.[6] Clay was in Terror of Frankenstein (1977) then did Saturday Sunday Monday (1978) with Laurence Olivier.

In 1978 he played Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton in the drama series Will Shakespeare, about the life of Shakespeare.[3]

Clay had a small role in Zulu Dawn (1979) and was in Lovespell, filmed in 1979 but not released until 1981. He played Orestes in The Greeks: A Journey in Space and Time (1980).

In 1981 he gave his most widely seen screen performance, as Lancelot in the 1981 film Excalibur.[5] He followed it playing the title role in The Search for Alexander the Great (1981). He appeared in Just Jaeckin's film version of D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover (1981), playing Mellors, and in Agatha Christie's Evil Under the Sun (1982), the latter reuniting him with Diana Rigg, his co-star in The Misanthrope.[3] Director of Evil Guy Hamilton said "I was looking for someone like Stewart Granger or Michael Rennie - handsome, dashing, physical, romantic. Nick has it all. A fine sense of timing, the right looks and a good physique."[7]

For TV Clay was in The Agatha Christie Hour (1982), in an adaptation of "In a Glass Darkly" then Russian Night... 1941 (1983), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1983)[8] and The Last Days of Pompeii (1984).

Clay continued working regularly on stage and appeared in a number of made-for-television films and miniseries. In 1984 he played Mike Preston in the Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense episode "Child's Play".[9] He did Das Martyrium des heiligen Sebastian (1984) in Germany and The Corsican Brothers (1985) for TV. Clay was Doctor Percy Trevelyan in an episode of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes entitled "The Resident Patient".[10]

Clay had support parts in Sleeping Beauty (1987), Lionheart (1987) and Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story (1987). He also appeared in the UK ITV series Gentlemen and Players in 1988-89.[11]

In 1992 he appeared with Kim Thomson in the BBC TV series Virtual Murder.

Later appearances included The New Adventures of Robin Hood, Zorro, Kavanagh QC, Shine on Harvey Moon, The Odyssey, Shanghai 1937, Bugs, Highlander, Psychos and playing Lord Leo in the 1998 TV miniseries Merlin starring Sam Neill.[12][13] His final screen appearance was in Roger Ashton-Griffiths' short film And Beyond.[14] Later theatre work included Design for Living (1995).

In the latter years Clay taught drama at The Actors' Centre and the Academy of Live and Performing Arts, and also worked in association with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, generally in the role of promoting the organisation, or providing advice to acting students.[3]


Clay died in London on 25 May 2000, at age 53 from liver cancer.[3] He was interred in the graveyard of St Peter's Church, Sibton, Suffolk.[15]

Personal life

In 1980, Clay married actress Lorna Heilbron, who, with their two daughters, survived him.[3]



Year Title Role Notes References
1963 The Damned Richard
1971 The Night Digger aka The Road Builder Billy Jarvis
1972 The Darwin Adventure Charles Darwin
1977 Terror of Frankenstein Henry Clerval
1979 Zulu Dawn Lt. Raw
1981 Excalibur Lancelot
1981 Lady Chatterley's Lover Oliver Mellors
1981 Lovespell Tristan
1982 Evil Under the Sun Patrick Redfern
1987 Sleeping Beauty The Prince
1987 Lionheart Charles De Montfort


Year Title Role Notes References
1975 In This House of Brede David TV Movie
1978 Will Shakespeare Earl of Southampton Television miniseries
1981 The Search for Alexander the Great Alexander the Great TV miniseries
1983 The Hound of the Baskervilles Jack Stapleton TV movie
1984 The Last Days of Pompeii Glaucus TV miniseries
1985 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Percy Trevelyan Episode: "The Resident Patient"
1987 Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story Prince Alexis Mdivani TV movie
1988 Gentlemen and Players Mike Savage
1991 Zorro Viscount Armand de Jussac 2 episodes
1992 Virtual Murder Dr. John Cornelius
1995 Shine on Harvey Moon Squadron Leader Cunningham 4 episodes
1997 The Odyssey Menelaus TV miniseries
The New Adventures of Robin Hood Sheriff of Nottingham 2 episodes
Highlander Loxley Episode: "Unusual Suspects"
1998 Merlin Lord Leo TV miniseries
1999 Psychos Dr. Angus Harvey 6 episodes


  1. ^ "Nicholas Clay". British Film Institute (BFI). Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  2. ^ McFarlane, Brian (16 May 2016). The Encyclopedia of British Film (Fourth ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-1526111968 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Nicholas Clay". The Guardian. London. 30 May 2000. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  4. ^ "Nicholas Clay". Theatricalia. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  5. ^ a b c "Nicholas Clay; British Actor Played Lancelot in 'Excalibur' Film". Los Angeles Times. 23 June 2000. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  6. ^ "The Picture of Dorian Gray (1976)". BFI.
  7. ^ Hall, William (30 August 1981). "Nicholas Clay: Romantic Realist". Los Angeles Times. p. K30.
  8. ^ "The Hound of the Baskervilles (1983): Cast and Crew". AllMovie.
  9. ^ "Child's Play (1986)". BFI.
  10. ^ "The Resident Patient (1985)". BFI.
  11. ^ "Gentlemen and Players". MediaGems.
  12. ^ "Virtual Murder [TV Series] (1992)". AllMovie.
  13. ^ "Merlin (1998)". BFI.
  14. ^ Nicholas Clay: [1F Edition] The Times 5 June 2000: 21
  15. ^ "Nicholas Clay". Findagrave. 16 February 2010.

External links

This page was last edited on 11 June 2021, at 05:17
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