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One-time Connery replacement contender Brian McGrath dies aged 67

19-Feb-2011 • Actor News

The actor Brian McGrath, who died recently in Dublin aged 67 after a short illness, would have been a familiar face over the years for his many appearances on film, television and stage, reports the Irish Times.

He became interested in acting as a schoolboy at Coláiste Mhuire in Dublin after seeing a film of Madame Butterfly at the Astor Cinema.

He graduated with a BA and H Dip from University College Dublin along with classes at the National College of Art and Design, and became a committed and popular teacher.

The lure of acting, however, led him to the Brendan Smith Academy of Acting where he played major roles in student productions receiving a student of the year award for a memorable performance as the stage manager in Our Town by Thornton Wilder.

Later he joined Jack Cruise’s touring company and became known for his perfectionist approach to any role, spending hours analysing his characters and experimenting with interpretations.

His early career was marked by a lucrative contract in London to play James Bond, being groomed to succeed Sean Connery, but in the event, boosted by the success of The Saint , Roger Moore was given the part.

McGrath, accepting the situation with characteristic stoicism, returned to Ireland with his young family.

Despite many subsequent invitations to move to Hollywood, he remained in Ireland, eschewing a high-profile career in favour of life with his family to whom he continued to remain very close.

He was always drawn to writing, which he called “scribbling”, and left poems, film scripts, a musical and several plays emphasising the beauty and absurdity of life.

Other works include Twilight Companies for the Dublin Theatre Festival in which he played WB Yeats and a homage to George Bernard Shaw, called Excuse All My Twaddle and in which he played GB, which premiered at the Edinburgh festival and played in the Malvern and Dublin festivals.

He understudied Peter O’Toole in Man and Superman ; his many theatre performances included Stimson in Our Town , Lövborg in Hedda Gabler , Hamlet , and King Sweney in Frank McGuinness’s Mutabilitie.

There were many memorable television performances including The Treaty, Assault on a Citdadel and Stardust for RTÉ; The Achurch Letters, Miss Marple, Ballykissangel and Falling for a Dancer for BBC.

His film credits include The Old Curiosity Shop; Kidnapped; A Love Divided; Not Afraid; Evelyn; The Actors; Alexander and PS I Love You.

Known for his generous spirit, it was due to his efforts that the contribution to theatre of his great friend, impresario Fred O’Donovan, was finally recognised.

John McColgan organised a sell-out tribute concert Gaels of Laughter at the Gaiety Theatre last January, featuring many of the artists who had worked with O’Donovan.

As a tribute to McGrath, there will be a rehearsed reading of his play Blue Gardenia during spring.

He is survived by his wife Carolyn; children David, Jason and Suzanne; seven grandchildren; brothers Michael and Kevin and sisters Geraldine and Eleanor.

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