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Ray Stevenson, Actor in the Thor Movies and ‘RRR,’ Dies at 58

Ray Stevenson, the burly British actor who starred as Volstagg in the Thor movies and as the brutally evil governor in the recent Oscar-winning Indian hit RRR, has died. He was 58.

Stevenson died Sunday, four days shy of his birthday, his publicist Nicki Fioravante told The Hollywood Reporter. The Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported he had been hospitalized on the island of Ischia while in production on the film Cassino on Ischia, directed by Frank Ciota.

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No other details of his death were immediately available.

The 6-foot-3 actor was an imposing presence onscreen and commanded attention when he took to the stage in April for a public appearance at Star Wars Celebration in London. He is one of the main antagonists in the upcoming Star Wars series Ahsoka.

“Getting to wield the light saber is just the best feeling in the world,” he said then. “The first time they handed it to me for the camera test, I couldn’t help myself, I made the noise.”

Stevenson became known to U.S. audiences as the charming, if morally questionable, soldier Titus Pullo on the big-budget 2005-07 HBO series Rome.

A year after that series ended, he was onscreen in Punisher: War Zone (2008) as Marvel antihero Frank Castle, and he would return to the Marvel well several more times with small roles in Thor (2011) as Volstagg, a member of Thor’s pals known as the Warriors Three. He last played the part in Thor: Ragnarok (2017).

He was a regular supporting player in multiple franchises, popping up in G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013) as the classic toy character Firefly and in Divergent (2014) and its two sequels, The Divergent Series: Insurgent (2015) and The Divergent Series: Allegient (2016) as Marcus Eaton.

He played Scott Buxton, the brutal and racist governor and villain in RRR (2022), the action movie that became a sensation on Netflix, one of the highest-grossing films in India, and an awards contender that captured the best song prize at the Oscars.

Production had only recently begun on Cassino on Ischia, in which Stevenson was playing an older action movie star who seeks to revitalize his career by going to Italy to make a gritty film only to be forced to reckon with family drama. He was also recently cast to replace Kevin Spacey in the feature 1242: Gateway to the West.

The son of a pilot in the Royal Air Force, George Raymond Stevenson was born on a British army base on May 25, 1964, in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. He worked as a designer with an architectural firm in London before he decided to pursue acting, and he attended Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, graduating at age 29.

The charming Stevenson made his film debut as a gigolo in Paul Greengrass’ The Theory of Flight (1998), starring Helena Bonham Carter, and played detective inspector Tony Baynham on the BBC police procedural City Central for its first two seasons in 1998-99.

He starred in King Arthur (2004) as the knight Dagonet and as a mercenary battling Nazi zombies in Outpost (2008) and appeared in such other films as Kill the Irishman (2011), Paul W.S. Anderson’s The Three Musketeers (2011), Jayne Mansfield’s Car (2012), Big Game (2014) and Accident Man: Hitman’s Holiday (2022).

He also portrayed Blackbeard on the Michael Bay-produced Starz series Black Sails in 2016-17 and the Icelandic wanderer Othere on History’s Vikings in 2020.

His stint on Rome marked a turning point for him, he recalled three years ago.

“At that time I realized what it was to get out of your own way and trust your instincts, and trust that a lot of your work has been done subconsciously and silently,” he noted. “And also focusing on the career I’m having rather than the career I should be having; it’s this moment now and that’s all that matters — this moment, this production, the actors around me, the director I’m working with. It’s where my life completely changed.”

Stevenson was married to English actress Ruth Gemmell from 1997 until their 2005 divorce. Survivors include three children he had with Italian anthropologist Elisabetta Caraccia: Sebastiano, Leonardo and Lodovico. He met Caraccia when he was working on Rome and she was his landlady.

In a 2016 interview, Stevenson said he didn’t choose acting — acting chose him.

“I had to face up to the realization and it was an epiphany: that what I thought was a decision to be an actor was false. There was no decision to make. It’s a vocation. I had no choice. I had to accept to throw myself into it with no guarantee but to launch and just go,” he said.

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