Character Actor Robert Hardy Dies At 91

Aug 4, 2017
Originally published on August 4, 2017 6:49 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

A great character actor has died. Robert Hardy was 91 years old. Here he is in 1960, playing Shakespeare's Henry V and wooing a French princess played by Judi Dench.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AN AGE OF KINGS")

ROBERT HARDY: (As King Henry V) Donc votre est France, et vous etes mienne. It is as easy for me, Kate, to conquer the kingdom...

JUDI DENCH: (As Katharine, laughing).

MARTIN: Robert Hardy died yesterday near London. He was a stalwart of the British stage. He appeared in more than 130 movies, including a few that will be very familiar to American audiences. Here's NPR's Neda Ulaby.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: In the "Harry Potter" films, Hardy played an antagonist, a bumbling official who prosecutes the hero for illegally practicing magic.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE")

HARDY: (As Cornelius Fudge) Do you deny producing said Patronus?

DANIEL RADCLIFFE: (As Harry Potter) No, but...

HARDY: (As Cornelius Fudge) And you were aware that you were forbidden to use magic outside school while under the age of 17?

RADCLIFFE: (As Harry Potter) Yes, I was. But...

HARDY: (As Cornelius Fudge) Witches and wizards of the Wizengamot...

RADCLIFFE: (As Harry Potter) I was only doing it because of the Dementors.

ULABY: The role of Cornelius Fudge capped a career that stretched over seven decades. Robert Hardy first endeared himself to American audiences a generation ago, in the TV series "All Creatures Great And Small" that aired on PBS.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHNNY PEARSON'S "ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL")

ULABY: Hardy played a crusty, Yorkshire veterinarian who tootles through the 1930s countryside and invents some of his own cures.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL")

HARDY: (As Siegfried Farnon) But that inflammation under the horn is the very devil. Now, why can't we give the horse something that'll really go to the root of the trouble and cure it?

ULABY: Born Timothy Sydney Robert Charles Hardy in 1925, the future actor trained with the Royal Air Force during World War II and attended Oxford University. His tutors included two legendary authors, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HARDY: Who taught Anglo-Saxon, (speaking Old English).

ULABY: That's Hardy entertaining a room full of students at a speech last year at Hillsdale College in Michigan. He told them about playing Winston Churchill multiple times and his days trotting the boards at The Old Vic Theatre as Hamlet and Henry V.

That play sparked Hardy's interest in English longbows. He ended up an expert, writing two books on the subject and restoring dozens that were found in an old Tudor shipwreck. When it came to acting, Hardy advised the students not to do it unless, he said, they had determination, patience and a spine of absolute steel.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HARDY: You have, also, to be, in my opinion, slightly, what we call in England, round the bend, off the trolley - mad. There should be a touch of madness in you.

ULABY: But his family used different words in their statement on Robert Hardy's passing. They called him elegant, twinkly and always dignified. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHNNY PEARSON'S "ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.