Stage and screen actor Treat Williams, known for his starring role in the 1979 film adaptation of Hair, was killed June 12. An avid motorcyclist, the crash that killed Mr. Williams is currently under investigation by the Vermont State Police. He was 71.
Born Richard Treat Williams, Mr. Williams was born and raised in Connecticut, the son of a corporate executive and an antiques dealer. In the early 1970s, Mr. Williams committed himself to the theatre while a student at Franklin and Marshall College, specializing in Shakespeare and Ibsen with the occasional contemporary play and musical mixed in. While a student, Mr. Williams performed with the Actors’ Company of Pennsylvania and the Fulton Opera House. He remained connected to the latter for the rest of his life, and in 1991, Mr. Williams was named an honorary chair of the fundraising campaign to renovate the venue, now called the Fulton Theatre.
In the mid 1970s, Mr. Williams made his Broadway debut as a replacement Danny Zuko in the original run of Grease, which was shortly followed by his film debut in the thriller Deadly Hero opposite James Earl Jones. In between filming for Deadly Hero and his next film project, Mr. Williams returned to Broadway in Over Here!, playing the World War II soldier Utah. From this point on, Mr. Williams would maintain careers both on screen and the stage, with a particular prevalence in screen adaptations of stage productions.
In 1976, Mr. Williams played Michael Brick in the film adaptation of Terrence McNally's The Ritz opposite Rita Moreno, who had previously won a Tony for her performance. In 1978, he played Jerry Hyland in a rare Broadway revival of Kaufman and Hart's Once in a Lifetime opposite George S. Irving and John Lithgow. Mr. Williams came to international prominence in 1979 as Berger in the film adaptation of the culture-defining musical Hair. For his efforts, Mr. Williams received a Golden Globe nomination, and became a Playgirl pinup.
In 1981, Mr. Williams replaced Kevin Kline as The Pirate King in Joe Papp's immensely popular revival of The Pirates of Penzance, the very same year Mr. Williams would net his second Golden Globe nomination for his performance in Sidney Lumet's Prince of the City. His third Globe nomination would come shortly after, honoring his performance in a television adaptation of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, where Mr. Williams played Stanley Kowalski opposite Ann-Margret as Blanche, Beverly D'Angelo as Stella, and Randy Quaid as Mitch. A new musical score for the adaptation was composed by PEGOT winner Marvin Hamlisch.
Mr. Williams was heavily associated with the play Love Letters, starring in the Los Angeles premiere of the two-hander and later playing the role on Broadway. The text continued to return to his life for more than a decade, with Mr. Williams reviving the role for fundraisers and charity productions when needed. Off-Broadway, he performed in David Mamet's Oleanna and Oh, Hell, as well as John Ford Noonan's Some Men Need Help, and Randy Newman's Maybe I'm Doing It Wrong.
An athletic man, Mr. Williams played football, was a certified flight instructor and pilot, a certified scuba diver, and a frequent motorcyclist. Flying held particular fascination for Mr. Williams, having picked up the hobby in 1969 from his high school football coach. In 2010, Mr. Williams authored an illustrated children's book, Air Show!, which fittingly depicts the aircraft that can be seen at an air show.
As Mr. Williams' power on screen rose, his filming schedule steadily chipped away at his time on the stage. In all, Mr. Williams appeared in more than 75 films and countless television series, including his own critically acclaimed drama series Everwood. His final Broadway performance came in 2001, when he portrayed the romantically conflicted travelling salesman Buddy Plummer in Stephen Sondheim's Follies, opposite Judith Ivey as Sally. Mr. Williams won the Drama League award for his performance.
In recent years, Mr. Williams had starred in the Hallmark series Chesapeake Shores, and held recurring roles on the procedural dramas Chicago Fire and Blue Bloods. He continued to participate in workshops of theatrical work, including the currently running Atlantic Theatre Company production of Adam Guettel's Days of Wine and Roses. He and his family lived in both Park City, Utah, and Manchester Center, Vermont prior to his death.
Mr. Williams is survived by his wife, Pam Van Sant, and their two children, Gille and Ellie.