'Chariots of Fire' screenwriter Colin Welland dies at 81

AP News
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Posted: Nov 03, 2015 10:15 AM
'Chariots of Fire' screenwriter Colin Welland dies at 81

LONDON (AP) — Actor and writer Colin Welland, who famously told Hollywood "the British are coming" when he won an Academy Award for "Chariots of Fire," has died. He was 81.

His family said in a statement Tuesday that Welland, who had Alzheimer's disease, died peacefully in his sleep late Monday.

Welland's long acting career included TV cop shows "Z-Cars" and "The Sweeney," Sam Peckinpah thriller "Straw Dogs" and the role of a kindly teacher in Ken Loach's 1969 drama "Kes," about an unhappy boy who finds solace by training a kestrel.

His writing credits included British television dramas and the 1979 film "Yanks," with Vanessa Redgrave and Richard Gere, but his biggest success was "Chariots of Fire" in 1981.

The film was based on the true story of two British athletes at the 1924 Olympics: devout Christian Eric Liddell, who refused to compete on a Sunday, and Jewish sprinter Harold Abrahams, who faced prejudice from the British sporting world.

Combining nostalgia with grit and buoyed by Vangelis' catchy electronic score, it was an unexpected hit and took four Oscars in 1982, including best picture and best original screenplay.

Brandishing his statuette, Welland — optimistically, it turned out — quoted Paul Revere's legendary phrase: "The British are coming!"

Welland is survived by his wife Patricia, four children and six grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.