Richard Harris, nome completo Richard St. John Harris (Limerick, 1º ottobre 1930 – Londra, 25 ottobre 2002), è stato un attore irlandese.
Figlio di farmacista, studiò alla London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
Il suo debutto cinematografico avvenne in Alive and Kicking del 1958.
Tra i suoi film ricordiamo Un uomo chiamato Cavallo (1970), Cassandra Crossing (1976), Il senso di Smilla per la neve (1997), Il gladiatore (2000), Harry Potter e la pietra filosofale (2001) e Harry Potter e la camera dei segreti (2002).
È stato sposato con Elizabeth Rees (1957 - 1969) e con Ann Turkel (1974 - 1982) ed ha avuto 3 figli: Damian (regista), Jared (attrice) e Jamie.
Richard St. John Harris (October 1, 1930 - October 25, 2002) was a two-time Academy Award-nominated and Grammy Award-winning Irish actor, singer-songwriter, theatrical producer, film director and writer. He appeared on stage and in many films, and is perhaps best known for his roles as King Arthur in Camelot (1967), as Oliver Cromwell in Cromwell (1970) and for his portrayal of Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), his last film. He also played a British aristocrat and prisoner in A Man Called Horse (1970), and a gunfighter in the Clint Eastwood directed western Unforgiven (1992).
Harris, the fifth of eight children, was born in Limerick City, Ireland, the son of Ivan John (b. 1896, son of Richard Harris b.1854, son of James Harris, St. Michael's, Limerick) and Mildred Josephine (née Harty) (b. 1898, Daughter of James Harty, St. John's, Limerick) Harris, who owned a flour mill. He was schooled by the Jesuits at Crescent College. A talented rugby player, he was on several Munster Junior and Senior Cup teams for Crescent, and played for the well-respected Garryowen Football Club. He might have become a provincial or international-standard rugby player, but his athletic career was cut short when he contracted tuberculosis in his teens. He remained an ardent fan of Munster provincial rugby team until his death, attending many matches, and there are numerous stories of japes at rugby matches with fellow actors and rugby fans Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton.
After recovering from the disease he moved to London, wanting to become a director. He could not find any suitable courses and enrolled in the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) to learn acting. While still a student, Harris rented the tiny "off-West End" Irving Theatre, and directed his own production of the Clifford Odets play Winter Journey (The Country Girl). The show was a critical success, but a financial failure, and Harris lost all his savings on the venture.
As a result, he ended up temporarily homeless, sleeping in a coal cellar for six weeks. After completing his studies at the Academy, Harris joined Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop. He began getting roles in West End theatre productions, starting with The Quare Fellow in 1956, a transfer from the Theatre Workshop.
Harris made his film debut in 1958 in the film Alive and Kicking. He had a memorable bit part in The Guns of Navarone as an Australian air force pilot who reports that blowing up the "bloody guns" of the title is impossible by air. For his role in Mutiny on the Bounty, despite being virtually unknown, he insisted on third billing, behind Trevor Howard and Marlon Brando.
His first star turn was in the 1963 film This Sporting Life, as a bitter young coal miner, Frank Machin, who becomes an acclaimed rugby league footballer. For his role as Frank Machin, Harris won the 1963 award for best actor at the Cannes Film Festival. He also won acclaim and notice for his leading role (with Charlton Heston) in Sam Peckinpah's famous "lost masterpiece" Major Dundee (1965), as an Irish immigrant turned Confederate cavalryman during the American Civil War.
He appeared as King Arthur in the film adaptation of Camelot (in which he was cast despite his limited singing range, just like Richard Burton), and proceeded to appear on stage in that role for years. In 1966, Harris starred as Cain in John Huston's The Bible: In the Beginning. He recorded several albums, one (A Tramp Shining) included the seven-minute hit song written by Jimmy Webb, "MacArthur Park" (which Harris mispronounced as "MacArthur's Park"); that song reached #2 on the United States Billboard magazine pop chart, while topping several charts in Europe, in the summer of 1968. A second all-Webb composed album, "The Yard Went on Forever", was released in 1969. He also wrote one of the songs, There are Too Many Saviours on My Cross, considered to be a criticism of the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.
Some memorable performances followed, among them a role as a reluctant police informer in The Molly Maguires (1970) alongside Sean Connery. In 1971 he starred in the film Man in the Wilderness and in the low-budget Orca in 1977. Harris achieved a form of cult status for his role as mercenary tactician Rafer Janders in the 1978 film The Wild Geese. Also, in 1973, Harris wrote a highly acclaimed book of poetry, titled I, In The Membership Of My Days which was later released in record format with him reciting his poems.
By the end of the 1980s, Harris had gone a long time without a significant film role. He was familiar with the stage plays of fellow Irishman John B. Keane, and had heard that one of them, The Field, was being adapted for film by director Jim Sheridan. Sheridan was working with actor Ray McAnally on the adaptation, intending to feature McAnally in the lead role (Bull McCabe). When McAnally died suddenly during initial preparations for the film, Harris began a concerted campaign to be cast as McCabe. This campaign eventually succeeded, and the film version of The Field (which also starred Tom Berenger) was released in 1990. Harris earned an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal. In 1992, he had a small but memorable role in Patriot Games as a member of Sinn Féin.
Later in his career, Harris appeared in two Oscar-winning films, first as gunman "English Bob" in the 1992 western, Unforgiven, as well as portraying Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in Ridley Scott's Gladiator (2000). Harris also played a lead role alongside James Earl Jones in the 1995 movie Cry, the Beloved Country.
Harris initially declined the offer to play Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films, not wanting to commit to subsequent sequels. Upon learning that he had turned down the role, his granddaughter convinced him that he was "going to do it." He played the role of Headmaster Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter film adaptations, but died before filming commenced on the third movie.
In a 2001 interview with the Toronto Star, Harris expressed his fear that his association with the Harry Potter films would outshine the rest of his career, stating: "Because, you see, I don't just want to be remembered for being in those bloody films, and I'm afraid that's what going to happen to me."
In the 2002 re-make of The Count of Monte Cristo, Harris performed as the book's fictionalized character of Abbé Faria, the jailed priest and former Napoleonic soldier who instructs Dantès in language, science, and combat, and provides him a treasure map.
In 2003, his voice could be heard as the character Opaz in the animated film Kaena: The Prophecy. The movie was dedicated to him posthumously.
In 1957, he married Elizabeth Rees-Williams, daughter of David Rees-Williams. Their three children are actor Jared Harris, actor Jamie Harris (born as Tudor St. John Harris, but known as Jamie since childhood), and director Damian Harris (who has a son named Marlowe, born 2002, with Australian actress Peta Wilson). Harris and Rees-Willams were divorced in 1969, and Elizabeth married another actor, Rex Harrison.
Harris' second marriage was to American actress Ann Turkel, who was 16 years his junior; that marriage also ended in divorce. He was a member of the Knights of Malta, despite his divorces, and was also knighted by Denmark in 1985. He was reportedly good friends with Peter O'Toole. His family reportedly hoped O'Toole would replace Harris as Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Harris often told stories about his haunted English Mansion, The Tower House, which was sold later to Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame. According to Harris, the tower was haunted by an eight-year-old boy who had been buried in the tower. The boy often kept Harris awake at night until he one day built a nursery for the boy to play in, which calmed the disturbances to some extent.
Harris died of Hodgkin's disease on October 25, 2002, aged 72, two and a half weeks before the U.S. premiere of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. He was replaced as Dumbledore by fellow Irish-born actor Michael Gambon.
He had a lifelong love affair with alcohol, but then went teetotal. A memorable incident was an appearance on The Late Late Show where he recounted to host Gay Byrne how he had just polished off two bottles of fine wine in a restaurant and decided that he would then be going on the wagon: "And I looked at my watch and it was... Well isn´t that spooky! It was the same time it is now: 11:20!"
After several years without alcohol, Harris started drinking again before the end of his life.
Whenever he was in London, Harris lived at the Savoy Hotel. According to hotel archivist Susan Scott, when he was being taken from the hotel on a stretcher, shortly before his death, he warned diners, 'It was the food!'
The late Cassandra Harris was his sister-in-law; her two children with Dermot Harris were later adopted by 007 actor Pierce Brosnan.
Richard was cremated and his ashes were scattered in The Bahamas.
Richard Harris was a Knight of Malta and could be styled as Sir Richard Harris.
He expressed support for the Provisional Irish Republican Army from 1975 to 1983.
On September 30, 2006, Manuel Di Lucia, of Kilkee, County Clare, a long-time friend, organized a bronze lifesize statue of Richard Harris at the age of eighteen playing rackets. The sculpture was unveiled in Kilkee. The sculptor was Seamus Connolly.
Another life size statue of Richard Harris, as King Arthur from his film, Camelot, has been erected in Bedford Row, in the centre of his home city of Limerick. The sculptor of this piece was the well known Irish artist, Jim Connolly, a graduate of the Limerick School of Art and Design.