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Shakespearean Actor Robert Stephens Dies

Sir Robert Stephens, one of Britain’s most colorful Shakespearean actors, has died in a London hospital at 64.

Stephens, a professed “knight errant” whose hard living took a toll on his health, died in his sleep Sunday night after suffering from liver and kidney problems.

He was formerly married to Maggie Smith, the Oscar-winning actress with whom he acted in the 1960s and early ‘70s on stage and in such films as “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.” They divorced in 1975.

Among Stephens’ film roles was a cocaine-addicted Holmes in Billy Wilder’s “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” in 1970. Recent films included “Henry V,” “Empire of the Sun,” and “Bonfire of the Vanities.”

One of the last visitors at Stephens’ bedside before he died was Prince Charles, with whom he had been friendly for several years.

Stephens faded from view for most of the late 1970s and ‘80s, but resurfaced in recent years to give two of his finest Shakespearean performances.

He won the 1993 Olivier Award - London’s Tony - as the hellion Falstaff in the “Henry IV” plays. The following season, he was acclaimed as the most affecting Lear in a generation, even though ill health kept him from completing the run.

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