Noel Willman
in The Reptile (1966)
Born4 August 1918
Died24 December 1988 (aged 70)
Occupation(s)Theatre director, actor
Years active1953–1976

Noel Willman (4 August 1918 – 24 December 1988) was an Irish actor and theatre director. Born in Derry, Ireland, Willman died aged 70 in New York City, United States.[1]


Willman's films included The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Across the Bridge (1957), Carve Her Name with Pride (1958), The Kiss of the Vampire (1963), Doctor Zhivago (1965), The Reptile (1966), and The Odessa File (1974).[2]

He was also a theatre director and actor, and won a Tony Award in 1962 for his direction of the original Broadway production of Robert Bolt's A Man For All Seasons.[3] According to Bolt, he was instrumental in many aspects of the play's development, including the casting of Paul Scofield as Thomas More. In 1966 he was nominated in the same category for James Goldman's The Lion in Winter.[4] He later directed Katharine Hepburn and Christopher Reeve in A Matter of Gravity in 1976.[5]

He frequently collaborated with Bolt, directing The Tiger and the Horse and Gentle Jack (and appearing in Zhivago, which Bolt scripted). One of his most famous theatrical roles was opposite Alec Guinness in the stage production of Bridget Boland's The Prisoner, for which he won the Clarence Derwent Award, and which was later made into a film, starring Guinness and Jack Hawkins.[6][7]

Willman studied for the stage at the London Theatre Studio, which had been set up by Michel Saint-Denis and George Devine in 1936. Working as stage manager for John Gielgud's touring production of The Beggar's Opera, he took over the role of Macheath at short notice from Michael Redgrave, who had fallen ill and whose usual understudy had suffered a bout of laryngitis.[8]

During the war he toured with the Old Vic Company, then directed by Tyrone Guthrie, playing in The Merchant of Venice in 1941, and taking part in several productions at the Vic's Liverpool Playhouse base, including Shaw's Androcles and the Lion. Prompted by Guthrie, he became a director. In 1942, he presented his debut production Ah, Wilderness! by Eugene O'Neill.[9]


Year Title Role Notes
1952 The Pickwick Papers Mr. Perker
1952 Androcles and the Lion Spintho
1953 The Net Dr. Dennis Bord
1953 Malta Story Hobley, Navy Pilot Uncredited
1954 Beau Brummell Lord Byron
1955 The Dark Avenger Du Guesclin
1956 The Man Who Knew Too Much Woburn
1957 Seven Waves Away Aubrey Clark
1957 Across the Bridge Chief of Police
1958 Carve Her Name with Pride Interrogator
1960 Cone of Silence Nigel Pickering
1960 Never Let Go Inspector Thomas
1960 The Criminal Prison Governor
1961 Two Living, One Dead Johnson
1961 The Girl on the Boat Webster
1963 The Kiss of the Vampire Dr. Ravna
1965 Doctor Zhivago Razin
1966 The Reptile Dr. Franklyn
1968 The Vengeance of She Za-Tor
1974 The Odessa File Franz Bayer
1976 21 Hours at Munich Interior Minister Bruno Merk (final film role)


  1. ^ "Noel Willman Biography (1918-1988)". Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  2. ^ "Noel Willman". BFI. Archived from the original on 11 July 2012. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  3. ^ "Tony Winner: Noel Willman". Los Angeles Times. 27 December 1988. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  4. ^ The Broadway League. "The Lion in Winter". Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  5. ^ "A Matter of Gravity". Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  6. ^ "Noel Willman profile". Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  7. ^ K-Point Internet Solutions - Warrenpoint, Newry, County Down. "The Dictionary of Ulster Biography". Retrieved 9 July 2020.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ "Success of Young Derryman", Londonderry Journal, 29 February 1940.
  9. ^ Theatre Programme, Liverpool Playhouse (12 October 1943). "Ah, Wilderness!". ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)