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Ian Richardson, 72; Portrayed Evil Politician in 'House of Cards'

In addition to his many stage, screen and TV roles, Ian Richardson was known for a mustard commercial in which he asked,
In addition to his many stage, screen and TV roles, Ian Richardson was known for a mustard commercial in which he asked, "Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?" (Associated Press)

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By Robert Barr
Associated Press
Monday, February 12, 2007

Ian Richardson, 72, who brought Shakespearean depth to his portrayal of a thoroughly immoral politician in the hugely popular satirical TV drama "House of Cards," died Feb. 9 at his home in London. No cause of death was reported.

In addition to his many stage, screen and TV roles, Mr. Richardson appeared in a mustard commercial as the man in the Rolls-Royce who asked, "Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?"

Mr. Richardson played the silkily evil Francis Urquhart in three miniseries, "House of Cards" in 1990, "To Play the King" in 1993 and "The Final Cut" in 1995.

Urquhart's smooth riposte to any slur against another character -- "You may think that. I couldn't possibly comment" -- was picked up by British politicians and heard again and again in the House of Commons.

His other television roles included Bill Haydon in John Le Carre's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"; Sir Godber Evans in "Porterhouse Blue" and Sherlock Holmes in "The Hound of the Baskervilles."

In 2000, he starred in "Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes," playing Dr. Joseph Bell, the mentor of Arthur Conan Doyle, in a miniseries that was broadcast in the United States on PBS's "Mystery."

He also portrayed the British spy Anthony Blunt in the BBC play "Blunt."

On Broadway, he played Jean-Paul Marat in "Marat/Sade" in 1965, reprising the role in the United Artists film the next year, and Henry Higgins in a 1976 revival of "My Fair Lady," for which he was nominated for a Tony Award as best actor in a musical.

Other movie credits included "Brazil" in 1985, "The Fourth Protocol" in 1987, "BAPS" in 1997, and "102 Dalmatians" in 2000.

It was his role in "House of Cards" that turned him "from a jobbing actor that the cognoscenti were aware of into a star that the country's entire viewing population knew," Mr. Richardson told the Daily Mail newspaper last year.

"House of Cards" was brilliantly, if accidentally, timed. It appeared in Britain the same year that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was brought down by feuding in her Conservative Party.

The miniseries was shown in the United States as part of PBS's "Masterpiece Theatre."

"Urquhart was a wicked character, but Richardson portrayed him in such a way that everybody loved it. In anybody else's hands, that role could have fallen flat on his face," said Michael Dobbs, who wrote the book on which the miniseries was based.

In the feverish atmosphere of Thatcher's downfall in 1990, even the leadership campaign of her successor, John Major, "came to a halt at 9 p.m. on a Sunday night so that the whole campaign team could sit down and see what was happening," Dobbs said.

Mr. Richardson, born in Edinburgh in 1934, joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1960.

In 1989, Queen Elizabeth II honored him with a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his many roles.

He is survived by his wife, Maroussia, and two sons.


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