Thursday, 4 September 2014

John Castle

British actor John Castle

John Castle:

A serious actor, strikingly handsome in a sullen way, looking rather like a cross between Derek Jacobi and Oliver Reed. Trained at RADA, he hit the acting scene with a modest bang, securing early appearances in 'Blow Up' (1966), 'The Lion in Winter' (1968), and the most talked-about TV show of the day, 'The Prisoner', though he didn't seem to quite grab the public imagination like some of his illustrious young contemporaries. He played Caesar in Charlton Heston's unloved film version of 'Antony & Cleopatra' (1972) and the Duke in 'The Man of La Mancha' (1972), but then things seemed to go a little bit quiet.  

As Number 12 in 'The Prisoner' episode 'The General'
At the circus with Charlton Heston in 'Antony & Cleopatra' (1972)

There was a certain amount of television drama in the late '60s and early '70s, such as Johnny Speight's 'If There Weren't Any Blacks You'd Have to Invent Them' and a sprinkling of one-offs like 'ITV Sunday Night Theatre', and 'The Wednesday Play'. His next high profile role was as Postumus in the BBC's toga-ripper 'I, Claudius', which seemed to kick-start another spate of varyingly prestigious work. There are quite a few costume dramas and period pieces, which seem to suit his austere, brooding presence, such as 'The Fight Against Slavery', 'King John', 'Lillie', 'Penmarric' and a Jeremy Brett 'Sherlock Holmes'. He also plays Teddy, the destructive love-interest in 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' with Geraldine McEwan. There were also a few action and police jobs like 'Strangers', 'The New Avengers', 'Softly, Softly' and 'The Professionals'. Not much in the way of comedy.

In the BBC's 2013 Christmas ghost story, MR James's "The Tractate Middoth'
The '80s and beyond have seen more of the same on TV, with the emphasis on providing some slightly sinister class to cosy crimes, ho-hum hospitals and political potboilers. Less cosy, perhaps, was the unenviable job of portraying racist historian David Irving in 'The Holocaust on Trial'. The big screen has also not been as forthcoming with good parts as one might hope, offering only the likes of 'RoboCop 3' (1995), Finnish mid-ocean thriller 'Merisairas' (1996), the Richard Gere Old Testament epic, 'King David (1985) and a few others.   

He is, however, in the excellent Mark Gatiss adaptation of the MR James ghost story, 'The Tractate Middoth', which is where I was reminded of his great presence and ability. 


John Castle - imdb


  1. That Jon Castle hasn't become a household name in the states is astounding. He is not only a talented actor but beautiful. I'm trying to get as much of his work on DVD but it hasn't been easy. I'm grateful for any and all information I can find online. I'm a John Castle fan. He's the secret weapon in my marriage.

  2. Derek Jacobi and Oliver Reed? No,no, no. He looks like no one and no one looks like him. But he is strikingly handsome. It's painful. A pain I'll gladly suffer.

  3. He was a fine inspector in Agatha Christie's "A Murder is Announced" with Joan Hickson.

  4. Thoroughly lovely to look at and a fine actor as well. I wish his older work was easier to find... (Not a bit like Jacobi or Reed.)

  5. I've always had a huge crush on him, then when he was in Rat In The Skull in London in 1995, I persuaded a friend in the cast to introduce me to him. Be still, my beating heart. He was beyond lovely. I think he could see how starstruck I was, so he gently interspersed his replies to my myriad questions with occasional references to going home to his wife. Quite the loveliest of men, and yes, just as handsome in real life.

  6. Don't see the Jacobi / Reed comparison at all. However, I do see some resemblance to the late Simon MacCorkindale.