For his fans and the greater acting world, the news that Simon Ward, a star of The Tudors, Young Winston and Three Musketeers has died after a long illness at the age of 70 will be a terrible blow and one that will take a long time to heal.From Beckenham and the son of car dealer to the national fame as Winston Churchill in Richard Attenborough’s Young Winston may be a far-fetched leap of the imagination to make. However, for Simon Ward, who even from an early age wanted to be an actor, nothing it seems was going to get in his way to become one of the most sought after actors of his generation.
Born in 1941 during the dark days of World War Two, the young Simon Ward was educated at Alleyn’s School in London, the home of the National Youth Theatre, which he joined at the tender age of 13 and where he would go onto meet his future The Three Musketeers co-star Michael York at. At 22 he made his professional stage debut with the Northampton Repertory in 1963 and his London theatrical debut one year later in The 4th of June.
The big break for Mr. Ward came in 1967 when he was cast in Joe Orton’s Loot. From there he made the big step into films in the 1970’s. It must be considered a national shame that all of Mr. Ward’s high profile film roles came in this decade but they are at least some of the most enjoyed and charismatic films of the time. Alongside 1971’s Young Winston, The Three Musketeers (1973) and its sequel The Four Musketeers (1974), Zulu Dawn (1979) he was the first to portray James Herriot in the successful film adaptation of All Creatures Great and Small with Anthony Hopkins and Lisa Harrow.
One of his last major outings into the film world was for Ralph Fiennes 1992 version of Wuthering Heights. In this film he was also able to play alongside his daughter Sophie Ward.
In later years Simon Ward will be best remembered for his stage and television work. He won many new fans for his portrayals of Sir Monty Everard in the B.B.C. series Judge John Deed and as Bishop Stephen Gardener in the classic television series The Tudors.
His great friend, Susan Penhaligon, who worked with him on the recent stage production of The Madness of George III, said of him that, “he was a loyal and sympathetic friend” and “He showed such courage because he was ill then; he was a very courageous man.”
Simon Ward: Born 19th October 1941 in Beckenham, Kent, Died 20th July 2012.
Ian D. Hall