Actor known for Straw Dogs and many TV roles

Born: July 24, 1935;

Died: January 14, 2019

DEL Joseph Henney, who has died aged 83, was a subtle, understated actor capable of projecting burning intensity whilst seemingly doing very little. His impressive screen career often found him playing roles of simmering masculinity or cold villainy.

Perhaps his most enduring role is Charlie Venner in Sam Peckinpah’s violent feature film Straw Dogs (1971), in which Dustin Hoffman’s ineffectual American mathematician is besieged by thuggish locals in an isolated Cornish farmhouse. The film’s most controversial scene involves Venner sexually assaulting Susan George’s character, Amy. Despite the encounter’s violent initiation Venner’s powerful masculinity ultimately stirs her enjoyment, and Henney’s complex characterisation complements the film’s ambiguous morality well.

Born in Anfield, Liverpool, he was educated at the Liverpool Collegiate before joining the army. He then subsidised his love of amateur dramatics with various manual jobs and it was whilst washing dishes at Butlin’s that he was encouraged by a fellow employee (Jimmy Tarbuck, impressed by Henney’s deft impressions of American film stars) to consider a professional acting career.

Emboldened, he won a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and upon graduating in 1965 was awarded the medal for the student with the most potential. A middleweight with the Maple Leaf Boxing Club in Bootle in the late 1950s, his sportiness helped with early television breaks - he debuted in the football soap United (1966), starred in Colin Welland’s rugby play Bangelstein’s Boys (1969, directed by John MacKenzie) and had a stint in Coronation Street as Weatherfield FC’s star player (1971).

He also guested in most popular television of the period, including three parts in Z-Cars (1970/72/78), two in The Professionals (1978/83) and three in Juliet Bravo (1980/82/84). He played the lead character’s father in A Woman of Substance (1985) and DI Cossall in Resnick (1992/93) and popped up in everything from The Expert (1968) to Midsomer Murders (2001). He was especially memorable as a smoothly arrogant criminal in The Sweeney (1975) and an affable colonel who becomes a cold instrument of murder in Doctor Who (Resurrection of the Daleks, 1984).

Fallen Hero, about a Welsh rugby player injured at the height of his career and having to come to terms with a new life of hard work and bad luck, ran for two series (1978-79). Henney brought a sympathetic edge to the initially macho and misogynistic lead character, Gareth Hopkins. In real life, he studied for an external English degree whilst starring in the show (he had also written a play for BBC2 in 1976).

His film work was sporadic but included Villain (with Richard Burton, 1971), Going Off Big Time (2000) and Devil’s Playground (2010).

The camera loved his piercing eyes and understated simmering, but he was no less effective on the stage. He had a successful stint with the Glasgow Citizens Theatre in 1965 and then played an impressive roster of roles at the Edinburgh Lyceum: Iago in Othello, Biff in Death of a Salesman, Andrei in Three Sisters and and McCann in The Birthday Party.

Other theatre highlights included the lead in John Lennon’s play In His Own Words (Liverpool, 1969), Lenny in The Homecoming (Oxford, 1966), Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire (Gate Theatre, Dublin, 1980), Claudius in Lindsay Anderson’s Hamlet (Theatre Royal, Straford, 1981), and Eddie (a role he’d also played for the BBC) in A View From the Bridge (Ipswich). West End credits included The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (Saville Theatre, 1969) and Sleuth (Garrick Theatre, 1973).

He is survived by his partner, the actress Rosemary McHale, and children Tracy, Stella and Jack from previous relationships.