Though never a household name, actor David Ryall enjoyed a four-decade career on the British stage and television, where he played comic and dramatic roles, including three separate appearances as Winston Churchill. Ryall's professional career began in the mid-1960s with Laurence Olivier's National Theatre Company, which would encompass his stage work into the 21st century, including an award-winning appearance in Shakespeare's "Coriolanus" in 1985. On television, Ryall capably played men of authority and gravitas, from policemen and scientists to Churchill and Henry James, as well as ordinary figures like his scabrous hospital patient in "The Singing Detective" (BBC One, 1986). Feature film appearances were fewer, but one of them - "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" (2010) - was a worldwide blockbuster. Ryall remained active until his death on Christmas Day, 2014, underscoring both his talent and popularity with British audiences.
Born on January 5, 1935, Ryall studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art before settling into repertory theater in the mid-1960s. He then joined the National Theatre Company in 1965 shortly before making his television debut in a BBC production of Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" (1967). For most of the late '60s and 1970s, Ryall would divide his time between the London stage and small screen, logging supporting turns in episodic anthology series ranging from an Emmy-winning 1974 adaptation of Anthony Trollope's "The Pallisers" (BBC, 1974-1975), to broader material like "Blakes 7" (BBC One, 1978-1981). During this period, Ryall also made his feature film debut with a minor role in David Lynch's "The Elephant Man" (1980).
Ryall continued to balance his stage and television careers into the 1980s, enjoying critical acclaim for National Theatre productions of "Guys and Dolls" and "Coriolanus," which earned him a 1985 Clarence Derwent Award. He also wrote, directed and performed in "A Leap in the Light" (1984), a one-man show featuring works written by controversial playwright Edward Bond. On television, he played the verbally abusive Mr. Hall, who shared a hospital room with Michael Gambon's afflicted writer in the original television production of "The Singing Detective." In the 1990s, he landed plum supporting roles in features like "Truly Madly Deeply" (1990) and "The Russia House" (1990), while netting a 1999 Helen Hayes Award nomination in the United States for a production of "Hamlet" with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He was nearly ubiquitous on stage and television in the 1990s and 2000s, with appearances in "Prime Suspect 2" (Granada Television/WGBH, 1992), and three separate turns as Winston Churchill, including the French TV drama "De Gaulle" (France 2, 2006). Ryall's most widely seen effort was unquestionably his brief turn as the venerable wizard Elphias Doge in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" (2010), but he also enjoyed a following as Grandad on the sitcom "Outnumbered" (BBC One, 2007- ), as well as the drama "The Village" (BBC One, 2013- ), in which he played the second oldest man in Britain. David Ryall died on Christmas Day 2014.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Television debut in "Much Ado About Nothing"
First feature film role in "The Elephant Man"
Wrote, directed and starred in the one-man show, "A Leap in the Light"
Clarence Derwent Award for "Coriolanus"
Helen Hayes Award nomination for "Hamlet"
Landed the role of Grandad on "Outnumbered"
Played Elphias Doge in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1"
Starred in "The Village"