C. Michael Forsyth
LONDON – Just moments after Irish actor Dennis O’Cullen thanked “all the little people” at an awards ceremony, he was hustled off the stage by men in white coats and whisked away to a loony bin!
Now, after spending four months in the Peaceful Gardens Sanitarium, the 67-year-old star is suing both his manager and two doctors for having him involuntarily committed.
“Obviously, I was talking about the peons who work behind the scenes, like the makeup girl and the fellow who points the spotlight, as anyone but those dolts would realize,” he told a London paper.
“I haven’t believed in leprechauns since I was 15. And as anyone who has set foot in my native Ireland can tell you, we call them ‘wee folk’ not ‘little people.’ ”
Although not well known to audiences in America, where he’s made only four films, O’Cullen is a respected stage actor in Britain, where he was once hailed as the “Irish Olivier.”
The incident occurred at the prestigious Christopher Marlowe Awards, after O’Cullen was handed a Best Actor statuette for his starring role in King Lear.
“O’Cullen was aglow because he’d been nominated many times before and hadn’t won,” said a reporter who was covering the star-studded show. “About 30 seconds into his acceptance speech he made the “little people” remark and he was suddenly gang-tackled by four burly men in hospital uniforms. He appeared to be quite taken aback.”
The Shakespearean actor’s manager Edwin “Reggie” Baronsett has apologized profusely for the misunderstanding. However, he insists that having two doctors and several staffers from the mental health facility on hand seemed prudent under the circumstances.
“Let’s not forget that just three years ago at another awards ceremony, Mr. O’Cullen became unhinged after losing for a fifth year in a row to Kenneth Branagh. He went after the presenter Dame Judy Dench with a wooden sword — all the while limping like Richard III,” he points out. “We simply wanted to spare my client another embarrassing spectacle like that.”
O’Cullen has refused to accept the apology.
“Receiving that award should have been the crowning moment of my career,” he declares. “Instead I was made a national laughingstock and was deprived of four months of liberty.”
Copyright C. Michael Forsyth
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