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British theater director Howard Davies


Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Olivier Award-winning British theater director Howard Davies, who had hits in London and Broadway directing Kathleen Turner in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” Lindsay Duncan in “Private Lives,” and Kevin Spacey in both “A Moon for the Misbegotten” and “The Iceman Cometh,” has died. He was 71.

His family said in a statement Wednesday that Davies died Tuesday following a short battle with cancer.

In Britain he won the coveted Best Director Laurence Olivier Awards three times for his work on “The Iceman Cometh,” “All My Sons” and “The White Guard” in 2011. He was nominated for a total of six Oliviers.

On Broadway, he was nominated three times for Tony Awards for his work on Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” in 2002, “The Iceman Cometh” in 1999 and “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” in 1987.

A National Theatre statement called him “one of the very greatest” directors of his generation. He directed a remarkable 36 productions at the National Theatre during a 28-year stretch, beginning with Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” in 1988.

National Theatre director Rufus Norris said Davies had achieved “almost legendary status” in show business, particularly for his work on American, Russian and Irish plays. Davies’ revival of “The Crucible,” starring Tom Wilkinson and Zoe Wanamaker, honored Arthur Miller’s 75th birthday at the National.

“His reputation among actors, writers, directors and designers alike was beyond question, and has been for so long that his name has become a byword for quality and depth,” said Norris.

Davies directed the original Royal Shakespeare Company production of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” with Duncan and Alan Rickman which was transferred to Broadway and for which he won a Drama Desk Award for outstanding directing 1987.

He had been working on a production of “Wild Honey” at the Hampstead Theatre in north London at the time of his death. The theater said on its website the production will open in December as planned “in respectful memory” of Davies.

While most of his work was well-received, Davies told the Guardian in 2010 that his major regret was working on a revival of “My Fair Lady” on Broadway in 1993. It ran only 165 performances, starring Richard Chamberlain and Melissa Errico.

He said he took on the project for the money and that the resulting production was “horrible from beginning to end.” Critics agreed, with the New York Post saying, “It looks odd, and the effortless balance of the original has frankly been lost.”

Davies also worked in television, directing James Bond star Daniel Craig in a version of “Copenhagen” and directing the feature film version of “The Secret Rapture,” based on the 1988 play he also directed.

“He was a wonderful director, a wholly admirable man and a good friend,” said National Theatre director Richard Eyre.

Davies was born in Durham in northeast England and worked at theaters in Bristol and Birmingham early in his career before making his name in London.

He is survived by his wife, actress Clare Holman.


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