Film legend Oliver Reed has been snubbed for a commemorative blue plaque after English Heritage decided his legacy as an actor was not ‘sufficiently strong’.
A committee at the charity – which has been accused of political correctness – rejected a bid to honour the hell-raising star of films including Oliver!, Women In Love and Gladiator, despite many considering him a towering figure in British cinema.
Last night, friends, relatives and colleagues of Reed – who died in 1999, aged 61 – reacted with dismay to the ‘crazy’ decision to not erect a blue plaque in his honour.
The actor’s son Mark said: ‘If you look back to the late 1960s and early 70s, he was one of the biggest actors of the day. It is not as if he was insignificant to a British audience.
‘It is somewhat surprising, but I don’t know how these organisations work. If you are asking me if he was deserving of it, I would have thought he was, given his impact on the film industry and entertainment of the time.’
Film legend Oliver Reed has been snubbed for a commemorative blue plaque after English Heritage decided his legacy as an actor was not ‘sufficiently strong. Pictured: Reed in Castaway in 1986 with Amanda Donohoe
Playwright and dramatist William Nicholson, who co-wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for Gladiator, said: ‘He was one of the few actors whose sheer force of personality, faults and all, were part of his greatness. I hope he’s not been denied this honour because of his wild man reputation.’
Former Monty Python member Terry Gilliam, who directed Reed in the 1988 film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, said: ‘This is crazy. Ollie was a monument to everything that was wonderful at that time in England. I think this decision proves our culture is being invaded by close-minded idealogues with no idea of either history or uniqueness.’
Actor Bill Paterson, who appeared in two films with Reed, said: ‘Of course he should have a blue plaque. He was much respected by fellow actors right across the board.’
The Mail on Sunday did a mock-up of what a blue plaque for Oliver Reed might look like
London-born Reed, who suffered a fatal heart attack after a drinking session in Malta, became eligible to be nominated for a plaque in 2019. Rules state nominees can only be considered after the 20th anniversary of their death.
There are more than 950 plaques across London on buildings associated with celebrated events and individuals as diverse as Freddie Mercury, Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill and Enid Blyton. It is thought a plaque for Reed may have been intended for the house in Wimbledon where he was born.
A spokeswoman for English Heritage said: ‘The Blue Plaques Panel considered the nomination for the actor Oliver Reed in June 2021 and, having examined the evidence, made the decision not to shortlist Reed for a blue plaque.
‘We receive up to 100 nominations for blue plaques every year and can only install around 12 annually.
‘As with all nominated figures, English Heritage historians conducted thorough background research on Oliver Reed and provided the panel with a historical overview of his life and work.
‘The panel considered that, despite Oliver Reed’s high public profile, his legacy in the field of acting was not sufficiently strong.’