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Roy London; Acting Coach, Writer, Director

August 11, 1993|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Roy London, a highly respected Hollywood acting coach who made his directing debut last year with "Diary of a Hit Man," starring several of his students, has died. He was 50.

London died Sunday in his Los Angeles home of lymphoma, a complication of AIDS.

His low-budget 1992 film, which London co-wrote with Kenneth Pressman from Pressman's off-Broadway play "Insider's Price," won the Best of the Fest popularity poll when it was introduced at the Santa Barbara Film Festival.

The film starred Forest Whitaker as a hit man hired to kill the baby of Sherilyn Fenn, with Sharon Stone appearing briefly as Fenn's sister.

"Money is not why we did it," Stone said to The Times in explaining why a Hollywood star would work for scale in rural Pennsylvania in winter. "Roy London is why we did it. When you hear that he is finally going to direct a film, you crawl through broken glass to be there."

Fenn, also a London student, said: "When I was starting out, people told me that if I found one great teacher in my life, I'd be lucky. Well, I found him. He changed my career. He changed my life."

Other London students included Garry Shandling, whose TV show he had directed; Jeff Goldblum; Brad Pitt; Michelle Pfeiffer; Patrick Swayze; Faye Dunaway, and Geena Davis--who publicly thanked him when she won her Oscar as best supporting actress in "The Accidental Tourist."

Admitting that he hired a directing coach to prepare himself, London told The Times that he agreed to take on "Diary of a Hit Man" because:

"I'm always telling my students how important it is to be doing new things. I tell them that good acting is when you are hired to do something you can do well and then delivering the goods. But great acting, which is what I am interested in, is about setting things up so that you are experiencing something for the first time. I guess that's why I decided to direct."

An actor and writer before he turned to teaching, London had important roles on Broadway and off-Broadway and in England with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He was a founding member of New York's Circle Rep, which presented several plays he wrote.

His scripts included a 1981 NBC movie of the week, "California Gold Rush," and a 1988 feature film starring Swayze and Piper Laurie, "Tiger Warsaw."

London came to Los Angeles in 1975 to act in the play "The Two of Us" with Lynn Redgrave and stayed on, thinking he would become a television writer. Instead, he began to teach.

"People that I knew started asking me to help them prepare for roles," he told The Times, "and it just grew."

London is survived by his life partner, producer Tim Healey, and by his mother, Frances, and brother, Chuck, both of New York.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Roy London Creative Foundation, 1990 Westwood Blvd., Suite 200, Los Angeles, Calif. 90025.

A memorial service is planned for Thursday in Santa Barbara.

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