How Oliver Reed Predicted His Own Death

You may best remember British actor Oliver Reed as his character Antonius Proximo, the aged former gladiator who took Russell Crowe's character, Maximus, under his wing in the 2000 film "Gladiator." In fact, that would be Reed's final role after a lengthy career in film that included turns in "Oliver!" and "The Trap." Specifically, as the Independent reports, Reed died while that movie was being filmed, forcing director Ridley Scott to finish his remaining scenes using CGI.

Reed's career in film, as described in his obituary in The Guardian, was somewhat low-brow. Yet, for a man who got into the industry on a whim one night while drinking with friends who were working as film extras, he did pretty well for himself. Prior to getting into acting, Reed worked as a boxer, a bouncer, a taxi driver, and even did some work at a mortuary, according to Difford's Guide

Besides being an actor, Reed was known for his penchant for imbibing at the pub, once saying, "You meet a better class of people in pubs," per Difford's Guide. He was regarded as somewhat of a hell-raiser in his personal life — someone who would get so drunk he'd sometimes start flashing. He even had a tattoo of a rooster on his — ahem, member— that he would show people. Still, Reed found his way into more than 90 films over the span of his 40-year career before he died suddenly in 1999. 

Reed predicted he would die of a heart attack in a bar

As it turns out, a few years before he died, Reed had eerily predicted his own death, including where and how he would die. What's more, he predicted that he would die in much the same way that he lived — hard and fast — and that's exactly how he left this world. If you are a hard drinking person, it's probably not much of a stretch to imagine your death having something to do with that lifestyle. But there are lots of ways too much alcohol can kill you, from car accidents and cirrhosis to various drunken mishaps, organ failures, and cancers, just to name a few.

For Reed's part, he thought death would come by way of heart attack in a bar, which actually happened. According to IMDb, just before the heart attack, he had consumed "three bottles of Captain Morgan's Jamaica rum, eight bottles of German beer, numerous doubles of Famous Grouse whiskey and Hennessy cognac," leaving a bar tab of nearly $600. If he didn't die that night, he probably would have wished he was dead the next morning. 

Still, Reed got a few details wrong, and indeed, nobody is claiming that he had some supernatural gift of prophecy. Rather, it's certainly just a coincidence (unless you believe in that sort of thing).

Oliver Reed predicted his death in a fake documentary

Oliver Reed eerily predicted his own death on a satirical British TV show called "Without Walls: The Obituary Show." For a while in the early 1990s, according to Neatorama, Britain's Channel Four had a documentary series, of a sort, in which living people would address the camera as if they were speaking to the audience from beyond the grave. The still-living speakers would appear on-camera and talk about how they died. Perhaps it made sense at the time.

Anyway, Oliver Reed appeared on such an episode, and you can even watch it on YouTube. During his "obituary," Reed told the audience that he'd died in a bar full of laughter while he was participating in a "cabbage competition" (whatever that means). 

In fact, Reed did die in a bar filled with people. According to Air Malta, he died in Valletta, Malta, at a bar known simply as "The Pub," after drinking copious amounts of liquor, arm-wrestling (and beating) members of the British Navy, and picking up the tab for the entire room. Then, according to the Independent, he "dropped down dead," as Ridley Scott described it. About the only thing missing was the mysterious "cabbage competition."

Reed predicted his headstone would say, 'He made the air move'

Still, it had to be a scary and awful end to the night. The Irish Times reported that Reed's wife was there, along with some friends. One of the friends, who The Irish Times noted did not want to be identified, described the final moments. "He had been drinking on the floor when he felt sick. I tried giving him artificial respiration on a bench as an ambulance was called," the friend recalled.

By then, all the laughter likely had dissipated. Reed's death is forever enshrined at the infamous pub, where the owners changed the name to "Ollie's Last Pub," per Air Malta, but it's generally just referred to as "The Pub." One thing Reed didn't predict about his death at age 61 was that the bar would then start selling Oliver Reed souvenirs, cashing in on his demise at the booze establishment. 

Reed said on the episode of "Without Walls" (available via YouTube) that his headstone would read, "He made the air move." And that he did.