David Warner (born 29 July 1941) is an English actor who is known for playing both romantic leads and sinister or villainous characters, across a range of media, including film, animation, television, and video games. Over the course of his long career he is most famous for his roles in films such a Straw Dogs, From Beyond the Grave, The Omen, Time After Time, Time Bandits, Tron, The Company of Wolves, Star Trek V and VI, The Lost World, and Planet of the Apes. In 1981, he won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Special for his portrayal of Pomponius Falco in the television miniseries Masada.
Warner was born in Manchester, Lancashire, England, the son of Doreen (née Hattersley) and Herbert Simon Warner. He was educated at Feldon School, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire and trained for the stage at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), London.
Warner made his professional stage debut at the Royal Court Theatre in January 1962, playing Snout, a minor role in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Tony Richardson. He had a successful run of stage work for over a decade.
In 1963, he made his film debut as the villainous Blifil in Tom Jones, and in 1965, starred as Henry VI in the BBC television version of the RSC’s The Wars of the Roses. A major step in his career was the leading role in Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966) opposite Vanessa Redgrave, which established his reputation for playing slightly off-the-wall characters. He also appeared as Konstantin Treplev in Sidney Lumet’s 1968 adaptation of The Sea Gull (1968) and appeared as Reverend Joshua Duncan Sloane inThe Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970); this was to be the first of his appearances for Sam Peckinpah. He was also cast against type as Henry Niles in Straw Dogs (1971). Warner’s sympathetic side had been evident in Peckinpah’s Cross of Iron (1977), where he portrayed Captain Kiesel.
In horror films, he appeared in one of the stories of From Beyond the Grave (1974) and opposite Gregory Peck in The Omen (1976) as the ill-fated photojournalist Keith Jennings, and the 1979 thriller Nightwing. He also starred in cult classic Waxwork (1988), and featured alongside a young Viggo Mortensen in the 1990 film Tripwire.
He has often played villains, in films such as The Thirty Nine Steps (1978), Time After Time (1979), Time Bandits (1981), Tron (1982), Hanna’s War (1988), and television series such as Batman: The Animated Series playing Ra’s al Ghul, and the anti-mutant scientist Herbert Landon in Spider-Man: The Animated Series. In addition, he played German SS General Reinhard Heydrich both in the film Hitler’s SS: Portrait of Evil, and the television miniseries Holocaust; as sinister millionaire recluse Amos Hackshaw in HBO’s 1991 film Cast a Deadly Spell, who plots to use the world’s most powerful spell book – the Necronomicon – to unleash the Lovecraftian ‘Old Ones’ from eternal imprisonment upon the Earth. Warner was also considered for the role of Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street after producers were impressed with his performance as Jack the Ripper in Time After Time but had to turn it down due to scheduling conflicts.
Other notable Sci-Fi and Fantasy roles include three episodes of the second season of Twin Peaks (1991), the charismatic “Aldous Gajic” in “Grail”, a first season (1994) episode of Babylon 5 and Chancellor Gorkon in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991). In an episode of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, he played Superman’s deceased Kryptonian father Jor-El, who appeared to his son through holographic recordings. Warner has also played “ambiguous nice guys” such as Dr. Richard Madden in 1994’s Necronomicon: Book of the Dead.