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Actor Oliver Reed once drank 100 pints in 24 hours

Tom Wood

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Actor Oliver Reed once drank 100 pints in 24 hours

Oliver Reed is widely considered as one of the finest actors of his generation, with his many performances on both the screen and the stage garnering critical praise.

To those of a certain age, you might remember him for his role in Gladiator, playing slave merchant Proximo – who famously remarked that someone sold him ‘queer giraffes’.

Alternatively, you might also know him from famous turns in the Oscar winning Oliver! or The Who’s rock opera Tommy.

More likely though, if you’re not a massive fan of old films, you might have heard about Reed’s famous lifestyle, where he was known for his hard-drinking macho man persona, as much as for his impeccably turned-out appearance.

Oliver Reed. Credit: Photo 12/Alamy Stock Photo
Oliver Reed. Credit: Photo 12/Alamy Stock Photo

In fact, he was once described as ‘Britain’s thirstiest thespian’, which – given the reputation of some famous British luvvie-darlings – is no small achievement.

In one specific story, Reed is said to have consumed 100 pints over the course of 24 hours, as outlined in a book about Reed and his pals Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole, Richard Harris.

It’s called ‘Hellraisers: The Life and Inebriated Times of Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole, Richard Harris and Oliver Reed’ and it was written by Robert Sellers, who chronicled the excesses of some of the finest actors to ever treat the boards.

Sellers described the group as ‘four of the greatest hellraisers that ever walked, staggered or fell into a pub’.

He’s probably right, too.

Of their excesses, which they never denied, Harris – famous for playing the first Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films – said: “O’Toole, Burton, Reed, and I all drank to excess not because we had problems, but because we loved it.”

Reed with Russel Crowe in Gladiator. Credit: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy Stock Photo
Reed with Russel Crowe in Gladiator. Credit: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy Stock Photo

Reed himself also once said: “I don’t have a drink problem. But if that was the case and doctors told me I had to stop, I’d like to think that I would be brave enough to drink myself into the grave.”

And in the end, that’s how things turned out.

There are no direct quotes about exactly what date Reed managed to drink 100 pints in a single day, but it’s definitely believable to anyone who knows anything about him.

He also apparently performed a horizontal handstand on the bar after that particular drinking session, which there is a picture of, so that does lend some legitimacy to the story.

Oliver Reed performing a party trick on the bar. Credit: Trinity Mirror/Mirrorpix/Alamy Stock Photo
Oliver Reed performing a party trick on the bar. Credit: Trinity Mirror/Mirrorpix/Alamy Stock Photo

In another story, Burton was working on The Spy Who Came in from the Cold in Ireland when he was required to drink a glass of whisky for a scene.

When the prop department brought in the whisky substitute, Burton said: “It's only a short scene, won't need more than a couple of takes. Bring me some real whiskey.”

In the end, it took them 47 takes and Burton downed a glass for each one.

In Reed’s case, he went out the way that he would probably have imagined, reportedly dying of a heart attack after a serious drinking session in which he’d then entered an arm-wrestling contest whilst filming Gladiator.

O’Toole died in 2013, whereas Harris and Burton died in 2002 and 1984.

Their antics weren’t widely loved by all of their peers, however, with Michael Caine – who was also active during those days – describing them simply as ‘drunks’.

Featured Image Credit: Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy mauritius images GmbH / Alamy

Topics: TV and Film, Celebrity, Food And Drink

Tom Wood
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