Ed Bishop

d. June 8, 2005

Ed Bishop, the London-based American actor who appeared in two James Bond movies and starred in the science fiction TV series UFO, died June 8 in Surrey, England, after a brief illness. He was 72.

The Brooklyn-born actor spent most of his adult life in England. After studying drama at Boston University, he won a Fulbright scholarship to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and fell in love with England. He soon broke into British television and theater, appearing in the West End production of “Bye Bye Birdie.” He got into movies when Stanley Kubrick cast him as an ambulance driver in 1962’s “Lolita.”

Bishop soon established himself as the go-to actor to play American characters in British productions. He appeared in episodes of The Saint, The Baron, Man in a Suitcase, Strange Report, Out of the Unknown, The Protectors, The Adventurer, Colditz, The Professionals, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Highlander, and others. He also provided the voice of Captain Blue in Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, the 1967 Supermarionation series produced by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.

Ironically, he returned to the United States to make his Broadway debut in 1963 as an Englishman in David Merrick’s production of “The Rehearsal” with Coral Browne and Keith Michell.

Back in England, Bishop continued to find steady work. He played NASA’s capsule communicator in the 1967 James Bond film “You Only Live Twice” and Tectronics employee Klaus Hergesheimer, the radiation-shield checker who Bond impersonates in 1971’s “Diamonds Are Forever.” Kubrick used him again in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but his role as the Pan Am space shuttle pilot was nearly eliminated in the picture’s final edit.

In 1969, the Andersons cast him as the lead in UFO, their first TV series filmed with live actors instead of puppets. Bishop played Commander Ed Straker, head of the secret agency SHADO — the Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation — set up to defend Earth against alien invaders from a dying world who are, among their various evil deeds, killing humans to steal their body organs for transplant.

That paranoid premise, a large cast (with Bishop the only one to appear in every episode), elaborate model work by Derek Meddings, the “futuristic” wardrobe and sets projected from 1969 to the show’s 1980 setting, and some surprisingly twisted plots that often demonstrated the heavy toll taken on SHADO operatives by their harrowing work, created another cult hit for the Andersons and ITC. Straker was shown to be so singlemindedly devoted to his job that his marriage and, in one notable episode, his son’s life were sacrificed to the defense of Earth. But the expensive series was not popular enough to continue past its initial 26 episodes, seen in Britain in 1970 and 1971 and syndicated in the United States in 1972.

Bishop’s appearance in the 1969 feature “Doppelganger,” the Andersons’ first live-action production (released in the U.S. as “Journey to the Far Side of the Sun”) led to his starring role in UFO. His other movies include “The War Lover,” “The Mouse on the Moon,” “Man in the Middle,” “The Bedford Incident,” “Battle Beneath the Earth,” “Twilight’s Last Gleaming,” “Brass Target” and “Saturn 3.”

Bishop returned briefly again to America in the early 1970s and wound up in Hollywood where he provided voices for NBC’s Saturday-morning animated version of Star Trek, and appeared in “Pets,” a low-budget crime-and-sex film. But he soon was back in England and spent the rest of his life working there, taking full advantage of the British acting custom of moving easily between film, stage, radio and television.

Top to bottom: Ed Bishop in “UFO”; in “Diamonds Are Forever”; with “UFO”

co-star Michael Billington. The popular Billington, who played Colonel Paul Foster in “UFO” and later appeared in “The Spy Who Loved Me,” died only five days before Bishop.