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Obituary: Derrick O’Connor – ‘helped transform fringe theatre in the 1970s’

Dublin-born and raised in London, Derrick O’Connor was part of the generation of actors who helped transform fringe theatre in the 1970s. He enjoyed fruitful relationships with Edinburgh’s Traverse and Royal Lyceum theatres and, after moving to the United States, established himself there in television and on film and stage.

Having trained at the East 15 Acting School in London, he made his professional debut at the Traverse in 1968 in Stanley Eveling’s absurdist The Lunatic, The Secret Sportsman and the Woman Next Door and Megan Terry’s experimental Comings and Goings.

He returned to Edinburgh regularly in the early 1970s where, during Richard Eyre’s tenure at the Lyceum, he was seen in The Taming of the Shrew, Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker and Oh What a Lovely War.

At the Royal Court Theatre, he made a memorable contribution to The Merry-Go-Round, the third of Peter Gill’s revelatory DH Lawrence trilogy, in 1973.

In the second half of the decade, he found himself in Keith Johnstone’s two-hander Moby Dick and alongside Simon Callow in David Edgar’s caustic compendium Blood Sports at the Bush Theatre. Appearances with the Royal Shakespeare Company included Colin in Ann Jellicoe’s The Knack (1967) and Ron Hutchinson’s The Irish Play (1980).

After moving to California in 1990, he produced and directed several plays for companies in San Francisco and appeared in Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter in Los Angeles.

British television credits included Stephen Poliakoff’s Bloody Kids, where he replaced Richard Beckinsale after his death early in production, and as the son of Peter Vaughan and brother to Ray Winstone in the family crime drama Fox, both in 1980.

Alongside Adrian Edmondson, in 1985 he co-devised Les Blair’s biting critique of the advertising world, Adman, and was seen in Ben Elton’s three-part dystopian satire Stark in 1993. In his adopted US, he appeared in three hit television series: Alias, Monk and Murder, She Wrote.

His cinema credits included three Terry Gilliam films (including 1981’s Time Bandits), John Boorman’s Hope and Glory (1987) and the second instalment of the Johnny Depp-led franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006).

Other memorable film appearances include playing adversaries to Hollywood stars Mel Gibson and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) and End of Days (1999).

Derrick O’Connor was born on January 3, 1941 and died on June 29, aged 77.

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