Ian Edmund Bannen
29 June 1928
|Died||3 November 1999 (aged 71)|
Knockies Straight (near Loch Ness), Scotland, UK
|Resting place||Kilchuimen Burial Ground, Fort Augustus, Scotland, UK|
Ian Edmund Bannen (29 June 1928 – 3 November 1999) was a British actor with a long career in film, on stage, and on television. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in The Flight of the Phoenix (1965), the first Scottish actor to receive the honour, as well as two BAFTA Film Awards for his performances in Sidney Lumet's The Offence (1973) and John Boorman's Hope and Glory (1987).
On stage, he was renowned for his interpretations of William Shakespeare and Eugene O'Neill, and was an original member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. He won the 1981 Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Brian Friel's Translations.
Bannen was born in Airdrie, Lanarkshire, the son of Clare (née Galloway) and John James Bannen, a lawyer. After attending St Aloysius' College, Glasgow and Ratcliffe College, Leicestershire, Bannen served in Egypt as a corporal in the British Army. His first acting role came in a 1947 Dublin stage production of Armlet of Jade. He became a successful figure on the London stage, making a name for himself in the plays of both Shakespeare and Eugene O'Neill. He was an original member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and appeared on Broadway.
Bannen's film debut was in the early 1950s with a small role in Pool of London (1951), and he quickly rose to prominence, primarily in a wide range of supporting roles. He had a very significant role as Stoker Samuel Bannister in Yangtse Incident. During the early stages of his career he worked with the Boulting Brothers on Private's Progress and Carlton-Browne of the F.O.. His performance as Crow in The Flight of the Phoenix (1965 film) earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, making him the first Scottish actor to receive this honour; he also received a Golden Globe nomination for New Star of the Year - Actor. That same year, he starred alongside Sean Connery in the WWII prison drama, The Hill.
Director John Schlesinger cast him as a replacement for Alan Bates in the part of well-off homosexual doctor Daniel Hirsh in his controversial film Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971), after Bates was deemed unavailable to shoot. According to screenwriter Penelope Gilliatt, Bannen never felt comfortable with the part. The anxiety adversely affected his performance during the early filming. Schlesinger replaced Bannen with Peter Finch, who received an Oscar nomination for the role. Bannen later regretted this, saying not taking the role had set back his career.
In 1979 he played Jim Prideaux in the BBC adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Bannen received an Academy Award nomination in 1965 for Best Supporting Actor, for his performance in The Flight of the Phoenix as Ratbags Crow, one of the survivors of a plane crash. He also received a BAFTA Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as suspected child molester Kenneth Baxter in The Offence (1973). He also won acclaim for his roles as Brother Benedict in Lamb (1986), Grandfather George in John Boorman's Hope and Glory (1987) (for which he received a second Best Supporting Actor BAFTA nomination), the elder Robert de Brus in Braveheart (1995) and as the touchingly crafty villager in Waking Ned Devine (1998).
In 1996, he was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award from BAFTA Scotland.
He was the subject of an episode of This is Your Life in 1999, when he was surprised by Michael Aspel.
Bannen was killed, aged 71, in a car accident near Loch Ness in November 1999. He and his wife, Marilyn Salisbury, who had been driving, were discovered in an overturned vehicle in Knockies Straight between Inverness and Fort Augustus. Marilyn, a veterinarian for the Ministry of Agriculture, suffered only minor injuries. The couple had been married since 1978. They had no children. She died on 28 August 2019.
Coatbridge College, Lanarkshire annually presents the Ian Bannen Memorial Award to the best actor or actress in its classes.
Bannen was posthumously given the 2000 Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Award.