Richard Harris, 72, a brooding, Irish-born actor whose screen roles included hits such as "This Sporting Life," "A Man Called Horse" and "Unforgiven" but whose career was hampered by booze and brawling, died Oct. 25 at a London hospital. He had Hodgkin's disease.
Mr. Harris's film credits included about 70 movies since the 1950s. Early on, he shunned the flattery of critics and the lure of money, turning his back on many mainstream productions.
In recent years, Mr. Harris had appeared in several immensely popular films. He played Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in "Gladiator" (2000) and professor Albus Dumbledore in the "Harry Potter" series of fantasy films.
Mr. Harris began as one of the most promising of a new breed of fiery young actors from Britain, including Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay, who played working-class heroes who were often their own worst enemy.
The role that catapulted him to fame was the lead in "This Sporting Life" (1963), a grim account of an ambitious rugby player. He was nominated for an Academy Award as best actor and won the Cannes Film Festival award for best actor.
In the mid-1960s, he gave memorably volatile performances in a series of action films and dramas. They included Anthony Mann's "The Heroes of Telemark" as a Norwegian freedom fighter in World War II, John Huston's version of "The Bible" as Cain and Sam Peckinpah's "Major Dundee" as a Confederate war prisoner.
In "A Man Called Horse" (1970), he was a 19th-century English aristocrat who is kidnapped by a Sioux tribe and tortured to prove his mettle. The film was enormously popular, and he repeated the role in two sequels.
In addition to acting, Mr. Harris was widely known for drinking and carousing with fellow actors Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton. He often found himself in physical and verbal scrapes that received much publicity because they played into his well-known penchant for intensity onscreen.
Acting, he once told the Los Angeles Times, is "what drives you to sleep in doorways and ditches and scavenge for food and put your body through hell."
His drinking and brawling led to a career decline into the 1970s in which he appeared in the type of mainstream fare he tried to avoid years earlier. He took top billing in "Juggernaut" (1974), a thriller about a threatened ship, and "Orca" (1977), about a killer whale. He also took secondary roles in shoot-'em-ups including "The Wild Geese" (1978) and "Strike Commando 2" (1989).
He went into semi-retirement in the mid-1980s to stop drinking. He made a startling return as Irish peasant Bull McCabe in "The Field" (1990), for which he received an Oscar nomination as best actor. He also played gunman English Bob in Clint Eastwood's acclaimed Western "Unforgiven" (1992).
Praise also followed for his part as a conservative South African father in "Cry, the Beloved Country" (1995), based on Alan Paton's story of apartheid pain. Film critic Roger Ebert said Mr. Harris and co-star James Earl Jones gave the film a "quiet dignity."
Mr. Harris began his career in the theater and continued in stage roles sporadically. He replaced Burton in a revival of "Camelot" in the mid-1960s and played King Arthur in the 1967 screen adaptation and 1982 television production.
He also had a surprise recording hit in 1968 with a version of Jimmy Webb's "MacArthur Park." The recording sold millions.
Richard St. John Harris was born in Limerick, Ireland, and played rugby in his youth, which helped account for his powerful build. He developed tuberculosis, which sidelined him from the sport for several years and was credited with unleashing an introspective quality he channeled into his acting style.
Also during his convalescence, he developed an interest in theater. Upon recovering, he left for London to start a stage career.
He studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts and ate and slept at the academy to save money. In 1956, he joined Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop Co.
He made his film debut in the British comedy "Alive and Kicking" (1958) and then had a secondary part in the Gary Cooper adventure film "The Wreck of the Mary Deare" (1959).
"A Terrible Beauty" (1960) with Robert Mitchum brought him the most acclaim among these early roles. He also appeared in "The Long and the Short and the Tall" (1960) and "The Guns of Navarone" (1961). He later played in "Mutiny on the Bounty," starring Marlon Brando,
His marriages to Elizabeth Rees-Williams and then Ann Turkel ended in divorce.
Survivors include three sons from his first marriage.