Interview with Michael Sheard
(Original posting: January 1, 2004)


Michael Sheard is a veteran actor who has appeared in hundreds of films including Force 10 From Navarone (with Harrison Ford), Escape to Athena, two Indiana Jones films and of course The Empire Strikes Back. He’s also known in the UK as the bow tied teacher Mr. Bronson from the TV show Grange Hill. He’s had countless roles on all kinds of TV shows ranging from Dr. Who to The Avengers. He has four books under his belt and promises more to come. Above all, however, Michael is a gentleman and a fun person to talk to. He took a little time out to answer some questions about his life and career.  (Original posting: January 1, 2004)

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Remembering Michael Sheard


I was all of 10 years old when The Empire Strikes Back was released and due to the profound effect that Star Wars had on me three years prior, I was looking forward to it very much. I loved everything about the film but I always had fond memories of the array of Imperial Officers that peppered both films, even the ones who went nameless for years afterwards. I remembered admiral Ozzel as that pompous bad guy who felt his authority was undermined by an underling. I loved how he tried to talk sense to Darth Vader but Vader would overrode him at every turn. Vader was correct, of course, although Ozzel couldn’t see it. Then there was that fabulous death scene. Poor Ozzel never saw it coming. He was mid-sentence when Vader reached out through the Force and cut off his oxygen supply while at the same time promoting captain Piett to the rank of admiral. Ozzel’s choking death was perfectly done in one take. The way he slumped to the ground was morbidly grand. That actor was Michael Sheard. Living in the USA, we weren’t privy to certain shows like Grange Hill, so Michael might not have been as well known here until The Empire Strikes Back was released, but his list of credits is astounding. The man never stopped acting. In fact, the last time I spoke to him in May of 2005 at Star Wars Celebration III, he spoke to me of going upstairs to his room to read the script for his next job.

Little did I know that 20+ years down the road, I’d be maintaining Michael’s official website. I first met him many years ago on the convention circuit and offered him some help in making a website and getting an online presence. He, of course, was very receptive and wanted to proceed, knowing that I had worked on Dave Prowse’s website. I threw together a design and he approved it. The next day the website was online. From that day on, he thanked me in every e-mail. He was the most appreciative person I’d ever worked with. He knew that I was there for him and could help him out with his site, e-mail, or whatever else he needed on the web. We’d meet at the occasional convention but mostly stayed in touch electronically since he lived “across the pond” as he’d put it. Over the years (we registered his site in 2000) I felt a real relationship developed and there was a great mutual respect. He never felt I was some random Star Wars fan, but instead, a friend. He was always open and honest, endlessly telling me how much everyone loved the site. The truth is, I was glad to provide it. I hosted his site, maintained it for him, and did whatever else he needed and never charged him a dime—nor would I.

That’s the nature of Michael Sheard. This was a man who was so gracious and so wonderful that you would give him your 110% willingly and not feel a need to ask for anything in return. I thought of him as a wonderful friend; someone to respect and look up to. He was someone who decided early on what he wanted to do in life and did it well, enjoying his great success. That’s something to be admired.

Michael left me with a lot of fond memories. He never stopped talking about his family, especially his “Dearly Beloved” Ros, his “bum actor” friends, and all the fans whom he affectionately called his “chums.” I’ll never forget how excited he was to learn that there was going to be an Admiral Ozzel action figure made. I could feel his excitement from across the ocean. He absolutely loved the toy and was always happy to sign them for fans who came to see him. I don’t think I’ll ever forget his trademark “uniform” that he’d wear to almost every convention he attended. He wore this suit jacket with an extensive array of buttons and pins all over the lapels and to top it off, a bow tie. In fact, one time that I bumped into him (I don’t remember which convention it was) he didn’t have the tie on and it took me by surprise. He was out of uniform! He was indeed a colorful character whose colors bled into everyone else’s lives that he touched. I can still hear his booming voice calling out to me in that UK (not quite Scottish, not quite British) accent, “Hello, my dear boy!” when I’d finally see him at a convention somewhere. He was such a joy to talk to; always upbeat, always charming, always funny and witty.

The last time we met up in person, at Star Wars Celebration III in May 2005, we had a great time. Although he was ill, he showed no signs but a few shed pounds. I was actually quite surprised to learn through the media that he had cancer. He mentioned often enough that he was ill and in and out of hospitals but I didn’t ask him why out of respect. I don’t think he meant to avoid the subject, it just never came up in conversation other than me wishing him well. When I saw him, he seemed like the same person so I thought nothing more of it. It’s best to be positive as possible in those circumstances anyhow. I’m sure he wouldn’t want everyone making a fuss over him. The cancer that took him from us didn’t destroy his way of life and he was a positive force to the end. I have great memories of those few hours we spent together at Celebration III. I caught up with him the last full day of the show because his table always had a huge line. When I finally got to him he said, “My dear lad, it’s been three days! Where have you been?” in that commanding voice.

We talked, took a few photos, and met up later that night at the big party in the hotel. Michael was having a drink when I found him at the party but had a quizzical look on his face. He ordered a drink of some sorts—a whiskey drink, I believe—and what he got wasn’t very recognizable. I found him, he said hello, and then asked me to have a sip of his drink to verify that it was what it was! I actually couldn’t tell either and he dumped it. From the party, we made our way out into the lobby area. It seemed like every three steps we stopped to talk to fans who wanted to say hello to Michael or get an autograph or take a photo or do a short video interview, and you would think from his reaction that it was the first time he was recognized. He greeted every one of the fans with enthusiasm and granted their every wish, never complaining that he was tired or ill or hungry, though I know he was quite hungry at the time. We were on our way to find some food. Michael would never turn down a fan request—that was the man he was. Everyone who talked to him was absolutely thrilled and it was great to stand there and respectfully take it all in.

We finally sat, and along the way I gathered a few of my friends to join us at the table. Michael grabbed a slice of pizza, talking to every fan along the way. He finally brought it back and ate some of it until he could eat no more. Then he insisted that I have the rest. I didn’t think of it at the time, but looking back, it was probably the medicine and the sickness that was bothering him, though I couldn’t tell. He only ate a few bites and I finished the rest. He entertained the entire table that night, telling stories and jokes and talking to the fans who came over. He loved being among the crowd and didn’t want to be considered a “star” who hid from people or avoided the cliché questions fans like to ask. He got a little tired and told me he needed to turn in for the night, but not before reading a script he had brought with him. We said our goodbyes fondly and he went off to his room to sleep. I didn’t know it at the time, but thatt would be the last time I’d see him in person.

The news came on August 31, 2005. Michael had passed on. I talked to his son who gave me a few small instructions for what to post on the site and I gave his family my sincere condolences. Since then, the outpouring of emotion and messages from all over the world has been astounding. Michael surely touched a lot of lives over the years and I’m proud to have been associated with him in my small way. I’ll surely miss those e-mails (or E’s, as he’d call them) all signed in his traditional way: “Yours Aye, Michael.”

He once told me in an interview, “Actors are like soldiers, they never die, they only fade away.”

Michael was a great man and a true friend. I will miss him dearly.

I want to send out my true, heartfelt condolences to Michael’s family and friends at this time. To his “kids” as he always referred to them, though they’re hardly the little tikes he will always fondly remember, I send you my positive thoughts, prayers and best wishes. I’d like to send an especially warm and tender hug and kiss from myself to Michael’s “Dearly Beloved” wife, Ros Sheard, whom I’ve never had to pleasure to meet, but feel like I’ve known for years. I can only imagine what it must be like to lose half of yourself, your life, your love. You are in my thoughts and prayers.