Bates began his career on the London stage in 1955 and achieved fame in the 1960s for his roles in such films as The Entertainer with Laurence Olivier, Zorba the Greek with Anthony Quinn, Georgy Girl with Lynn Redgrave, and Far From the Madding Crowd with Julie Christie. The actor had an especially good year in 1969, receiving an Academy Award nomination in the Best Actor category for his work in The Fixer and co-starring with Glenda Jackson and Oliver Reed in the film version of D.H. Lawrence's Women in Love. Among his most recent movie credits were Gosford Park (2001) and The Sum of All Fears (2002); he also has a role in the yet-to-be-released American TV miniseries Spartacus, which he filmed during a break in chemotherapy.
Born in Derbyshire, England in 1934, Bates studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Early in his career, he earned critical acclaim for his role in John Osborne's Look Back in Anger and for his work in both the stage and film versions of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker. Recognized as one his country's most accomplished actors, Bates was made a Commander of the British Empire in 1995 and was knighted in the New Year Honors of 2003.
Bates's son Benedick is also an actor; he most recently appeared on stage in Boston in the Huntington Theatre Company production of Simon Gray's Butley, starring Nathan Lane in the role that Alan Bates played on Broadway and for which Bates won his first Tony Award in 1973. The younger Bates also was in the Broadway production of Fortune's Fool that brought his father a second Tony Award. The elder Bates received great critical acclaim for his performance as Kuzovkin and, in particular, for his tour-de-force delivery of the character's long, rambling, drunken monologue. David Finkle, in his TheaterMania review of Fortune's Fool, wrote that "the enterprise is very much about the opportunities it offers Bates and [Frank] Langella. Bates, wearing a rumpled black suit, would seem to have taken the more rumpled role -- that is, until he gets to the Vyetrovo saga and turns that windy speech into something approximating an acting triathlon. The timing, the use of his body, the garbling of his speech -- all of it adds up to five or six minutes of stage astonishment. What distinguishes Bates from peers who have mastered the craft of acting as well as he has is his ability to expose the workings of his heart." Finkle ended his review with the comment that, "Satisfactory as the entire production is, what will be longest remembered about it is Bates's stumbling around the stage, comically explaining to no one's edification why he'll never live in Vyetrovo. It's the true 'bravo' segment."
Bates is also survived by two brothers and a granddaughter. Another son, Tristan, died of an asthma attack in 1990, and Bates's wife, actress Victoria Ford, died in 1992. For more information on Alan Bates, click here.