He was born in Ysterplaat, Cape Town and attended Plumstead primary and high schools. He was married twice, first to Anne Power and later to Jana Cilliers. Bill died in Johannesburg of an apparent heart attack in July 2007 at the age of 58.
His highly successful career included leading roles in over 140 stage plays, musicals, 42 films, dozens of TV shows and thousands of radio and TV commercials.
Working as a professional actor all his life he began his career as a founder member of the Space Theatre in the early 1970s and, as a very serious and excellent young actor, he worked on 47 productions in three years. In this period he worked with Athol Fugard and Yvonne Bryceland.
Besides working regularly with Slabolepszy, the 1980s saw Flynn also working for Pieter Toerien. As he gained weight and lost hair, he endeared himself to the public as a comedian and worked widely on stage, film and TV. However, in 2000/1 Flynn made a resounding comeback as a serious actor in what must be the finest theatre production of the year, playing “Willy Loman” in Miller’s Death of a Salesman at the Grahamstown Festival, then touring the country.
He was also a talented singer and sang everything from comedy opera to rock ’n roll. After his years with Vinnie and the Viscounts, his next band, The Rock Rebels, developed a committed group of followers.
Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance
Bill has appeared on stage in productions of Hello and Goodbye1975, Enemy – An Anti-War Collage, People are Living There, Long Day's Journey into Night, Don't Drink the Water, Play it again, Sam (at the Market Theatre), The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and in Tsafendas; Waiting for Godot; Skelms; Magic is Alive; Grinders War; Kill and Kill Again; Playland.
In addition he did Popcorn (Pieter-Dirk Uys, 1973), Ruffian on the Stair, School Play, Skyvers/Jollers, Superman, 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, A Touch of 1900s, We Bombed in New Haven, What the Butler Saw, Workplay, You’ll Come (chuckle) to Love Your ????? (snigger) Test, After Liverpool, Ashes, Don't Walk About with Nothing On, Drivers, The Four Seasons, Fragments, The Glass Menagerie, Going to Pot, The Happy Prince, I'll Ring for more Toast, The Indian wants the Bronx, Madly in Love, Muzeeka and Outcry.
He played "Biff" in PACT's Death of a Salesman (1975) and had roles in The Duchess of Malfi (PACT, 1975), The Tempest (PACT 1975), Fortune and Men's Eyes (1975), Fangs (PACT 1977), The Norman Conquests (1979), The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1981), Glengarry Glen Ross (1985), Black Coffee (1985) , The Foreigner (1986), Doubles (1986-7), Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (1988).
Slabolepszy and Flynn collaborated in several successful productions over the years. The superb Saturday Night at the Palace premiéred at the Market Theatre in 1983, as did Pale Natives later. Keen sports-lovers, they then moved into pure farce with such successes as Under the Okes, Over the Hill, Heel Against the Head (the latter filmed as well). One of his most well-loved characters was "Tjokkie" in the hit comedies Heel Against the Head and Running Riot.
He appeared as one of the dames in the pantomime Sinbad's African Adventures in 1992.
In 2000/1 Flynn made a resounding comeback as a serious actor in what must be the finest theatre production of the year, playing “Willy Loman” in Miller’s Death of a Salesman at the Grahamstown Festival.
Film and television
His TV credits include Hello and Goodbye, People are Living There, Senor **, The Toasty Show, The Carruthers Brothers, Jozi Streets. Whites; A role in the film City Lovers (directed by Barney Simon, 1982 ). Film credits include Saturday Night at the Palace, Heel Against the Head, Aw Schucks it's UNTAG?*, The Sunflower, Oh Schucks..I'm Gatvol?*, **.
Won a 1975 Three Leaf Award for best actor for Hello and Goodbye and The Glass Menagerie. Was Dublin Critic Circle Award Best Actor for 1976 for Hello and Goodbye. Won a Sammy Award in 1979 for Play it again, Sam in Johannesburg.
In all, Bill won 13 Best Actor Awards. He also won the Dublin Critics Award as well as a Golden Entertainer Award. Bill won a Best Screenplay Award for writing Saturday Night at the Palace.
His role as Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman garnered him every available Best Actor Award for 2000/2001.
Playland programme notes, 1992.
Die Burger 14 July 2007.
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