Published on August 31st, 2005 | by Christian Cawley
Michael Sheard Obituary
A character actor who was fortunate enough to appear in some of British televisions most enduring and iconic dramas, Michael Sheard had around 150 screen credits to his name. Not only did he enjoy recognition from his roles in "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade", he was of course a guest actor in Doctor Who on six occasions.
Born in Aberdeen on June 18th 1940, Michael Sheard’s father was a minister of the kirk, Donald Marriot (Sheard took his mothers maiden name when embarking on his acting career, and later changed it officially before he married, deciding having two names was too confusing). Unlike most men born in the 1940s, he enrolled in the Forces for his National Service, just one year before the institution was abandoned. Earlier he had developed a taste for the stage at school, appearing often as the lead in Shakespeare plays.
His television and cinema career spanned 43 years, and he had the fortune to work with such names as Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir David Niven, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Elliot Gould, Roger Moore, Jeremy Bullock, Stefanie Powers, Susan Tully, John Wayne, Todd Carty, Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Glenda Jackson MP, Sir Sean Connery and Harrison Ford. Sheard was also proud to have been offered his place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art a full six months before he left school, a distinct rarity.
Sheard’s connection with Doctor Who began in 1966, playing Rhos in episode 3 of The Ark, and went on to appear alongside William Hartnell, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison and Sylvester McCoy. His first appearance with Tom Baker as the amateur scientist Laurence Scarman in the classic Pyramid of Mars is one of his most recognised in the show; later his appearance as the Headmaster of Coal Hill School in Remembrance of the Daleks echoed what was his most popular role on British television – that of Mr Bronson, the fearsome Deputy Head of "Grange Hill".
Every school had one, and each of them was as snide, victimising and Victorian in their teaching manner as the toupee wearing Maurice Bronson. Yet he became a sort of hero, failing on several occasions to become Head of Britain’s most famous fictional school. Despite this he ruled the corridors with an iron grip, sweeping majestically about them, berating the throwers of paper darts ("You, boy!") and rarely appearing to do any actual teaching.
Sheard’s international reputation was based on solid performances in films such as "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" and latterly he was famous for appearing five times as Adolf Hitler, not just in the Indiana Jones film but in various productions such as "Hitler of the Andes" in 2003, and TV movie "The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission" in 1985. He also portrayed Heinrich Himmler on 3 occasions.
Other key television work includes appearances in "Coronation Street"(1989), "Take the High Road", "Crossroads" and a dramatisation of George Orwell’s "Nineteen Eighty Four" in 1965. He also appeared in the original series of "Auf Wiedersehen Pet" in 1983, as Hitler in "The Tomorrow People" in 1978, and episodes of "Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)", "Van der Valk", "Jason King", "The Persuaders", "Z Cars", "Dixon of Dock Green" and "Adam Adamant Lives!" His Doctor Who credits are The Ark in 1966 alongside William Hartnell, The Mind of Evil as Dr Summers in 1971, Pyramids of Mars in 1975 alongside Tom Baker, as Supervisor Lowe in The Invisible Enemy in 1977, Castovalva as Mergrave alongside Peter Davison and Anthony Ainley in 1982 and finally as the Headmaster in Remembrance of the Daleks in 1988, alongside Sylvester McCoy.
In later years, Sheard published his memoirs: "Yes, Mr. Bronson – Memoirs of a Bum Actor", "Yes, Admiral – SciFi and Further Memories" and "Yes, School’s Out – SciFi Conventions, Parties, and Much, Much More!". He was interviewed by Doctor Who Magazine in 2003.
Micheal Sheard always considered himself an actor that would take any role offered. Bearing in mind the credits listed he was evidently lucky with the shows and movies that he was offered parts in – but this list of credits is also testament to his acting ability. As Laurence Scarman he more than matched Tom Baker for presence, a hard act indeed, as he did for a few short minutes against the combined presence of (Darth Vader actors) David Prowse and James Earl Jones). Sheard’s departure is a sad loss for film and television drama.
He is survived by his wife Ros and three children.