Ray Stevenson, who in his 30-year career has played a wide range of television and film roles, including a talkative soldier in the HBO historical drama “Rome”, the pirate Blackbeard in the Starz series “Black Sails” and the Asgardian warrior Volstagg in the “Thor” fantasy films, died on Sunday. He was 58 years old.
His publicist, Nicki Fioravante, confirmed his death but provided no further details. Italian newspaper La Repubblica said Mr Stevenson died on the Italian island of Ischia, where he was filming.
Mr. Stevenson was born on May 25, 1964, in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, according to the Internet Movie Database. He had started a career in interior design when, in his mid-twenties, he decided to try acting. Seeing John Malkovich in Lanford Wilson’s play “Burn This” in London’s West End in the early 1990s was the catalyst.
“I was stunned by John’s performance,” he told California newspaper The Fresno Bee in 2008. “Everyone else was gone. I knew in that moment there was something very valuable thing about being an actor.
He studied at the Bristol Old Vic Theater School in England, where in 1993 he played the title role in a production of “Macbeth”. Before the end of the year, he had landed a recurring role in a British mini-series, “The Dwelling Place”. He had worked more or less steadily since.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, Mr Stevenson appeared in various British television series, including the crime drama ‘Band of Gold’. He landed his first major film role in 2004, playing the Chevalier Dagonet in “King Arthur”, with Clive Owen in the title role.
Then came “Rome,” a breakthrough role in a big-budget HBO series about ancient Rome that was the network’s attempt to create the next buzz-generating series after “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos.”
Mr. Stevenson’s character, Titus Pullo, was, as Alessandra Stanley put it in a 2005 New York Times review, “a drunken, womanizing thug – a football hooligan in sandals”. Titus Pullo’s friendship with another Roman soldier was among the show’s most appealing subplots, and Mr. Stevenson, a tall 6-foot-4 man, looked like he was on the verge of something big.
“It’s a bit like George Clooney on steroids,” wrote Chase Squires of Florida’s St. Petersburg Times in 2005. “By the time ‘Rome’ finishes its run, the Irish-born English actor will likely be a star, true. candidate to replace Russell Crowe when Hollywood tires of the notoriously bad behavior of this actor.
But “Rome” died out after two seasons, and Mr. Stevenson never quite reached Clooneyesque stature. He did, however, land a number of meaty roles in lavish projects, including three films from the Marvel Comics universe: “Thor” (2011), “Thor: The Dark World” (2013) and “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017). ) . All three were box office hits.
He’s often referred to ‘Thor’ stories as ‘Vikings in space’, and in 2020 he got a taste of Earth’s version of that life when he joined the cast of the long-running channel series historical “Vikings”. He appeared throughout its sixth season.
His other roles included a gangster in the 2011 film “Kill the Irishman” and a British colonial official in the Indian film “RRR” (2022). He also played vigilante Frank Castle, aka the Punisher, another comic book-based character. He took on the role in 2008’s “Punisher: War Zone,” after Dolph Lundgren played Castle in a 1989 film and Thomas Jane took his turn in 2004.
The 2008 film was an orgy of violence, as AO Scott noted in his review for The Times.
“Guys are getting their heads ripped off, or chopped off, or drilled with chair legs, or pulverized with fists,” he wrote, “because that’s what they got to come and c is what the fanbase will pay to see.”
His character, Mr Stevenson told The Oklahoman, was not meant to be a hero but an anti-hero.
“He’s really on a one-way street and in his own hell,” he said. “You don’t want to be Frank Castle.”
Mr Stevenson’s marriage to actress Ruth Gemmell ended in divorce. He and his partner, Elisabetta Caraccia, had three children.