He died of a heart attack in a bar after downing three bottles of Captain Morgan’s Jamaica rum, eight bottles of German beer, numerous doubles of Famous Grouse whiskey and Hennessy cognac, and beating five much younger Royal Navy sailors at arm-wrestling. His bar bill for that final lunch time totaled 270 Maltese lira, around $650.

In 1973 McQueen flew to England to meet Oliver Reed and discuss a possible film collaboration. “Reed showed me his country mansion and we got on well,” recalled McQueen. “He then suggested he take me to his favorite London nightclub.” The drinking, which started at Reed’s home, Broome Hall, continued into the night until Reed could hardly stand. Suddenly, and with no apparent warning, he vomited over McQueen’s shirt and trousers.

“The staff rushed around and found me some new clothes, but they couldn’t get me any shoes,” said McQueen. “I had to spend the rest of the night smelling of Oliver Reed’s sick.” Amazingly, McQueen, like many who experienced the Reed drunkenness forgave him.

Mark Lester — the child actor who starred opposite him in Oliver! who was 10 years old at the time — recalls how at the end-of-filming party, Reed spiked his Cokes with vodka and got the eight-year-old completely drunk. ‘I got home and my mother put me in a cold bath with all my clothes on. I was violently ill.’

Reed had a tattoo on his penis. According to Patrick Warburton, he showed him the tattoo the first day they worked together.

Drunk As A Skunk

Sober And Still Outrageous

What father takes his 12-year-old son to the pub and lets him drink six pints of bitter? ‘When we got home I was puking in the bathroom and he was fussing around me giving me a blanket and I just wanted to be left alone to die,’ recalls Mark Reed.

What father gets his eight-year-old daughter drunk on what he called ‘traffic lights’, lined-up glasses of red cherry brandy, amber apricot brandy and green crème de menthe? She woke up with her first hangover.

Reed’s face was scarred in a 1963 bar fight after which he received 63 stitches and was in danger of losing his film career over his facial damage.

“My acting school was, and still is, life in the raw – the whole wide world as a stage. I didn’t go into a shop full of mirrors, I stayed outside and gazed at the reflections of life. I’ve got a lot of performances stored away at the back of my mind, ready to come out in front of the cameras when they are needed.”

Reed became a close friend and drinking partner of The Who drummer Keith Moon in 1974 while working together on the film version of Tommy.  With their reckless lifestyles Reed and Moon shared much in common, and both cited the hard drinking actor Robert Newton as a role model.

Christopher Lee, a friend and colleague of Reed, commented on his alcoholism in 2014: “when he started, after number eight, he became a complete monster. It was awful to see.”

Oliver Reed was born on February 13, 1938 in Wimbledon, London, England as Robert Oliver Reed. He was an actor, known for Gladiator (2000), Oliver! (1968) and Tommy (1975).  He was known for his upper-class, macho image, hellraiser lifestyle, and “tough guy” roles.

He was married to Kate Byrne (1959–1969), which produced 2 children and Josephine Burge (1985–1999, his death). He died on May 2, 1999 in Valletta, Malta.

Oliver Reed engulfed the full spectrum of what one should never do and yet, as well, he personified many things we wished we could do.  Instead of holding his demons at bay, that haunt us all, he embraced them and set them loose onto the world to see where they would lead him.