"Prisoner" Star Patrick McGoohan Dies

Patrick McGoohan, who created the cult 1960s TV Series "The Prisoner," died Jan. 14, 2009 at age 80. McGoohan starred as a secret agent who is abducted and held captive in a myserious village, where his overseers attempt to break his spirit and consistently fail. CBS

Patrick McGoohan, an actor who created and starred in the cult classic TV show "The Prisoner," died Tuesday in Los Angeles after a short illness. He was 80.

His son-in-law, film producer Cleve Landsberg, announced the news Wednesday.

McGoohan starred in the 1960s CBS series "Secret Agent," and won two Emmys for his guest appearances on the detective drama "Columbo." Most recently he appeared as King Edward Longshanks in the 1995 Mel Gibson Academy Award-winning film "Braveheart."

But he was most famous as the character known only as Number Six in "The Prisoner," a 1968 British series about a spy who resigns from the intelligence service, only to be abducted and held captive in a mysterious haven known as The Village. There his overseers strip him of his identity in their attempts to glean information, while thwarting his attempts to escape.

Prior to "The Prisoner," McGoohan starred in "Secret Agent" (also known as "Danger Man"), which debuted in 1964, and whose memorable theme song seemed to speak of the hazards facing the characters in both series ("They've given you a number, and taken away your name").

McGoohan's agent, Sharif Ali, said Wednesday that the actor was still active in Hollywood, with two offers for wide-release films on the table when he died. "The man was just cool," Ali said. "It was an honor to have him here and work with him. ... He was one of those actors, a real actor. He didn't have a lie."

Born in New York on March 19, 1928, McGoohan was raised in England and Ireland, where his family moved shortly after his birth. He had a busy stage career before moving to television, and won a London Drama Critics Award for playing the title role in the Henrik Ibsen play "Brand."

He married stage actress Joan Drummond in 1951. The oldest of their three daughters, Catherine, is also an actress.

After "Secret Agent"'s success," McGoohan pitched to producers the surreal and cerebral "The Prisoner" to give himself a challenge. McGoohan also wrote and directed several episodes of the series.

Although only 17 episodes were made, it became a cult favorite, and its cultural impact continues, as evident by his guest appearance playing Number Six in a 2000 episode of "The Simpsons."

The show is being remade as a series for AMC to premiere later this year.

"His creation of 'The Prisoner' made an indelible mark on the sci-fi, fantasy and political thriller genres, creating one of the most iconic characters of all time," AMC said in a statement Wednesday. "AMC hopes to honor his legacy in our re-imagining of 'The Prisoner.'"

Later came smaller roles in film and television. McGoohan won Emmys for guest spots on "Columbo" 16 years apart, in 1974 and 1990.

His film credits include "Ice Station Zebra," the 1979 Clint Eastwood film "Escape from Alcatraz," the John Grisham courtroom drama "A Time To Kill," "Silver Streak," and "Scanners." He also starred in the 1963 Disney TV film "The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh," playing an 18th century English country priest who thwarts the king's minions as a disguised avenger.

His last major role was in "Braveheart," in what The Associated Press called a "standout" performance as the brutal king who battles Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace, played by Gibson.

In his review of the film for the Los Angeles Times critic Peter Rainer said "McGoohan is in possession of perhaps the most villainous enunciation in the history of acting."

McGoohan is survived by his wife and three daughters.
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