David Hemmings

David Hemmings
David Hemmings
black and white exterior image showing a young man's upper body while aiming a bow and arrow
David Hemmings in Eye of the Devil (1967)
Born 18 November 1941(1941-11-18)
Guildford, Surrey, England
Died 3 December 2003(2003-12-03) (aged 62)
Bucharest, Romania
Education Glyn Grammar School
Occupation Actor, boy soprano, director, producer, screenwriter, singer
Spouse Four marriages including:
 • Gayle Hunnicutt
Children Nolan Hemmings

David Edward Leslie Hemmings (18 November 1941 – 3 December 2003) was an English film, theatre and television actor as well as a film and television director and producer.[1]

He is noted for his role as the photographer in the drama mystery-thriller film Blowup (1966), directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. Early in his career, Hemmings was a boy soprano appearing in operatic roles. In his later acting career, he was known for his distinctive eyebrows and gravelly voice.



Early performances

Hemmings was born in Guildford, Surrey. His education at Alleyn's School and the Glyn Grammar School (now the Glyn Technology School) led him to start his career performing as a boy soprano in several works by the composer Benjamin Britten, who formed a close friendship with him at this time. Most notably, Hemmings created the role of Miles in the opera Turn of the Screw (1954). His intimate, yet innocent, relationship with Britten is described in John Bridcut's book Britten's Children (2006). Although many commentators identified Britten's relationship with Hemmings as based on an infatuation, throughout his life Hemmings maintained categorically that Britten's conduct with him was beyond reproach at all times. Hemmings had earlier played the title role in Britten's The Little Sweep (1952), which was part of Britten's Let's Make An Opera! children's production.

Film and television work

Hemmings then moved on to acting and directing in the cinema. He made his first film appearance in The Rainbow Jacket (1954), but it was in the mid-sixties that he first became well known as a pin-up and film star.

Antonioni, who detested the "Method" way of acting, sought to find a fresh young face for the lead in his next production, Blowup. It was then that he found Hemmings, at the time acting in small stage theatre in London.

Following Blowup, Hemmings appeared in a string of major British films, including Camelot (1967), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968) and Alfred the Great (1969) (in which he played the title role). His short stature, sleepy eyes and undershot jaw made him an unconventional leading man, but unconventional was right for the times, and he became one of the princes of the "swinging London" scene. In keeping with his standing as a 1960s icon, he also appeared in Barbarella (1968).

Around 1967, Hemmings was briefly considered for the role of Alex in a planned film version of Anthony Burgess's novel A Clockwork Orange (1962), which was to be based on a screen treatment by satirist Terry Southern and British photographer Michael Cooper. Cooper and The Rolling Stones rock band were reportedly upset by the move and it was decided to return to the original plan in which Mick Jagger, the lead vocalist of The Rolling Stones, would play Alex, with the rest of The Stones as his droog gang; the production was shelved after Britain's chief censor, the Lord Chamberlain, indicated that he would not permit it to be made.[2]

Hemmings directed the film The 14 (1973), which won the Silver Bear at the 23rd Berlin International Film Festival.[3] An (Italian) cult movie in which Hemmings appeared was the thriller film Profondo Rosso (also known as Deep Red or The Hatchet Murders) (1975) directed by Dario Argento.

He directed David Bowie and Marlene Dietrich in Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo (also known as Just a Gigolo) (1978). The film was poorly received, Bowie describing it as "my 32 Elvis Presley movies rolled into one".[4] Hemmings directed The Survivor (1981), based on James Herbert's 1976 novel of the same name, starring Robert Powell and Jenny Agutter.

Throughout the 1980s he also worked extensively as a director on television programmes including Quantum Leap (e.g., the series premiere), Magnum, P.I. (in which he also played characters in several episodes), The A-Team and Airwolf, in which he also played the role of Doctor Charles Henry Moffet, Airwolf's twisted creator, in the pilot and the second-season episode "Moffett's Ghost" (a typographical error by the studio's titles unit). He once joked, "People thought I was dead. But I wasn't. I was just directing The A-Team." He directed the New Zealand film Race for the Yankee Zephyr (1981), which starred Ken Wahl, Lesley Ann Warren, Donald Pleasence and George Peppard.

Hemmings also directed the puzzle-contest video Money Hunt: The Mystery of the Missing Link (1984). He directed the television film The Key to Rebecca (1985), an adaptation of Ken Follett's 1980 novel of the same name. He also briefly served as a producer on the NBC series Stingray.

Hemmings played a vindictive cop in the New Zealand film Beyond Reasonable Doubt (1980) about Arthur Allan Thomas (John Hargreaves), a New Zealand farmer jailed for the murder of Harvey and Jeanette Crewe but later pardoned. He directed the film Dark Horse (1992) and as an actor returned to the voyeuristic preoccupations of his Blowup character with a plum part as the Big Brother-esque villain in the season-three opener for the television series Tales From the Crypt.

In later years, he had film roles including appearing as Cassius in Gladiator (2000), with Russell Crowe, as well as appearing in Last Orders (2001) and Spy Game (2001). He appeared as Mr. Schemerhorn in the film Gangs of New York (2002). One of his final film appearances was a cameo appearance in the cult film, Equilibrium (2002), shortly before his death, as well as a cameo appearence in 2003's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, with Sean Connery.


In 1967 Hemmings recorded a pop single "Back Street Mirror" (written by Gene Clark) and an album, David Hemmings Happens, in Los Angeles. The album featured instrumental backing by several members of The Byrds, and was produced by Byrds mentor Jim Dickson.

In the 1970s Hemmings was jointly credited with former Easybeats members Harry Vanda and George Young as a co-composer of the song "Pasadena". The original 1973 recording of this song - the first Australian hit for singer John Paul Young - was produced by Simon Napier-Bell, in whose SNB Records label Hemmings was a partner at the time.

Hemmings also later provided the narration for Rick Wakeman's progressive-rock album Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1974) – an adaptation of Jules Verne's science-fiction novel A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) – which was recorded live.

He starred as Bertie Wooster in the short-lived Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Jeeves (1975).


Hemmings published his autobiography Blow Up... and Other Exaggerations – The Autobiography of David Hemmings (2004).

Personal life

He is survived by his wife Lucy; a daughter Deborah by his first marriage to Genista Ouvry; a son Nolan by his marriage to Gayle Hunnicutt; and four children, George, Edward, Charlotte and William, by his third marriage, to Prudence J de Casembroot


Hemmings died, age 62, of a heart attack, in Bucharest, Romania, on the film set of Blessed (working title: Samantha's Child) after playing his scenes for the day.[5]

His funeral was held in Calne, Wiltshire, where he had made his home for several years.

Filmography and television works

(includes directing work)


David Hemmings (2004). Blow Up... and Other Exaggerations – The Autobiography of David Hemmings. Robson Books (London). ISBN 978-1-861-05789-1. Airwolf 1984


  1. ^ "David Hemmings - About This Person". Movies.nytimes.com. 2007-01-18. http://movies.nytimes.com/person/93993/David-Hemmings. Retrieved 2011-06-10. 
  2. ^ Hill, Lee (2002). A Grand Guy – The Art and Life of Terry Southern. Bloomsbury Publishing (London). p. 149. ISBN 978-0-747-55835-4.
  3. ^ "Berlinale 1973: Prize Winners". berlinale.de. http://www.berlinale.de/en/archiv/jahresarchive/1973/03_preistr_ger_1973/03_Preistraeger_1973.html. Retrieved 1 July 2010. 
  4. ^ MacKinnon, Angus (13 September 1980). "The Future Isn't What It Used to Be". NME. pp. 32–37.
  5. ^ "David Hemmings, 62, a Film Star in 'Blowup'". New York Times. 2003-12-05. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/05/business/david-hemmings-62-a-film-star-in-blowup.html. Retrieved 2011-06-10. 

External links

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