Alan Howard, a celebrated English actor whose regal bearing and imposing voice gave life to a spate of Shakespearean kings, died on Feb. 14 in London. He was 77.
His death, following a recent bout of pneumonia, was announced on the website of the Royal Shakespeare Company, of which he was a mainstay in the 1960s, ’70s and early ’80s.
In his years with the company, Mr. Howard played Richards II and III; Henrys IV, V and VI; Lear; and Macbeth, among others. He was known to New York audiences for his acclaimed performance in the title role of the company’s production of “Henry V” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1976.
Mr. Howard was seen twice on Broadway, first in 1971, playing the dual roles of Theseus and Oberon in the company’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” directed by Peter Brook. He appeared again in the leading role in “Good,” C. P. Taylor’s drama, set in Germany, about a professor’s gradual involvement in Nazism, which the company brought to Broadway in 1982.
Possessed of diction that was considered orotund even by the plummy standards of the British stage, Mr. Howard was heard but not seen as the voice of the Ring in two installments of Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy — “The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001) and “The Return of the King” (2003) — delivering his lines in a combination of English and the sibilant-infused language of Mordor.
He was also known to moviegoers for his portrayal of Michael, Helen Mirren’s doomed lover in “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover”(1989), directed by Peter Greenaway.
Descended from theatrical families on both sides, Alan Mackenzie Howard was born in London on Aug. 5, 1937. His mother, Jean Compton Mackenzie, came from a long line of actors; his father, Arthur Howard, was a British film and television comedian. An uncle was the noted film actorLeslie Howard.
Knowing the hardships it involved, young Alan’s parents tried to dissuade him from entering the family business, to no avail. He began his career as a stagehand at the Belgrade Theater in Coventry, first appearing on stage there in the late 1950s. After a stint with the Chichester Festival Theater, under the artistic directorship of Laurence Olivier, he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in the mid-1960s.
Mr. Howard’s other notable roles include Antony opposite Glenda Jackson’s Cleopatra in a Royal Shakespeare Company production from the late ’70s, and Vladimir opposite Ben Kingsley’s Estragon in a production of“Waiting for Godot,” directed by Peter Hall, at the Old Vic in London in 1997.
On television, he was seen by American audiences in the title role of“Coriolanus,” broadcast on PBS in 1984. After losing a leg to diabetes in later years, Mr. Howard continued acting on stage with the aid of a prosthesis.
His first marriage, to Stephanie Hinchcliffe Davies, ended in divorce. Survivors include his second wife, Sally Beauman, and their son, James.
Mr. Howard, who had homes in London and the Outer Hebrides in Scotland, was named a Commander of the British Empire in 1998.
If, over the years, critics sometimes took Mr. Howard’s theatrical work to task for being too ... theatrical, he seemed unconcerned. By his lights, an actor’s voice should resound to the last balcony by virtue of the fact that a proper theater always had a last balcony. In that vein, he deplored younger actors who disparaged the grand old theaters as bourgeois relics.
“They only wanted to work in an elitist space the size of a lavatory and be seen by two people,” Mr. Howard told The Independent, the British newspaper, in 1992. “That was the way they would redeem the world. Well, that’s bollocks.”