Irish actor Gabriel Byrne has written a review of a new biography of Oliver Reed, written by Robert Sellers. A friend to Reed, the actor shares his frustration for what he refers to as, "The elephant in the room that is never addressed properly in the exhausting biography."
The elephant to which he refers is Reed's alcoholism, with which he struggled his whole adult life. Byrne describes events in their friendship where he saw the worst of Reed's demons come to light. Some of the scenes depict a man who lacks any control over his impulses and disease.
Byrne describes how at a Maltese restaurant, he once "witnessed [Reed] vomit over a waiter after the patron had proudly brought to the table a cobwebbed bottle of wine which had been in his family's cellar for more than 100 years."
He speaks about how Reed had a "disdain for the business of acting," and that his actual love "was being a star." His rampant alcoholism was only exacerbated by his fame, asserts Byrne, shielding and protecting him.
As Reed's career dwindled and began to peter out, he began to make films only for the paycheck. On this side of his career he made certain talk show appearances where he staggered drunkenly onto sets and made for a boorish, ugly display- something that show producers capitalized on.
Reed died while on his day off filming for Ridley Scott's Gladiator. He had reportedly "consumed three bottles of rum and arm-wrestled a group of 18-year-old sailors." Considering the life he'd led up until that point, Byrne remarks that "he went probably as he'd have liked, on the floor of a pub in Malta, the complex stew of melancholy, gentleness, kindness, and cruelty dead at 61."
With this review Byrne implores the world to "cease criminalizing or romanticizing the suffering of the addict," and asks that people "stop the prurient and voyeuristic media reporting of their sad travails." Alcoholism is a serious illness that needs to be treated accordingly, and not in the manner of easy entertainment at the expense of the sufferer.
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