Albert David Hedison, Jr. (born May 20, 1927) is an American film, television, and stage actor. He was billed as Al Hedison in his early film work. In 1959, when he was cast in the role of Victor Sebastian in the short-lived espionage television series Five Fingers, NBC insisted that he change his name. He proposed that he use his middle name and he has been billed as David Hedison ever since. He is known for his role as Captain Lee Crane in Irwin Allen's television series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and as CIA agent Felix Leiter in two James Bond films, Live and Let Die and Licence to Kill.
Hedison decided he wanted to be an actor after he saw Tyrone Power in the film Blood and Sand. He began his acting career with the Sock and Buskin Players at Brown University before moving to New York to study with Sanford Meisner and Martha Graham at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre and with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. Hedison enlisted in the United States Navy in 1945, but the war ended before he completed basic training. He served 18 months, then mustered out.
His work on the New York stage includes the off-Broadway production of A Month in the Country, directed by Michael Redgrave, which starred Uta Hagen, for which role Hedison won a Theater World Award. Hedison toured with Barbara Anderson and Anita Gillette in Neil Simon's Chapter Two in 1979 and 1980 and appeared in the West Coast premiere of Forty Deuce in 1985. He toured with Elizabeth Ashley in Come into My Parlour in 1988, and was in the world premiere run of Bernard Slade's Return Engagements that same year. He appeared at the Cape Playhouse in 1998 in Alone Together with Anita Gillette. He also starred in the New York City premiere of First Love with Lois Nettleton in 1999. He returned to the Cape Playhouse to appear in Tale of the Allergist's Wife (2002), and at Monmouth University's Pollak Theatre, in Love Letters with Nancy Dussault in 2007.
In 2006, he acted in The Scent of Jasmine at the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles on November 13. In 2008, David performed Uncle Vanya at the Actor's Studio West. He also participated in performances of The Cherry Orchard and I Never Sang for my Father in Los Angeles in 2009. David most recently appeared in The Marriage Play by Edward Albee.
After his role in A Month in the Country, Hedison signed a film contract with 20th Century-Fox. His first movie with them was the classic war film The Enemy Below (1957), which also starred Robert Mitchum. He followed that up with the 1958 horror classic The Fly. Other films in which he appeared include The Son of Robin Hood (1958), The Lost World (1960), Marines, Let's Go! (1961), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), North Sea Hijack (1979) and The Naked Face (1984). He later appeared in Fugitive Mind (1999), the movie Mach 2 (2001), Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 (2001) and the film Spectres (2005). His most recent role was in The Reality Trap (2005).
James Bond movies
Hedison was the first actor to play James Bond's ally Felix Leiter in more than one film, Live and Let Die (1973) and Licence to Kill (1989).
He then wrote an introduction to the James Bond comic The Paradise Plot that was released in the United States on July 8.
In 2012, he appeared at the Hollywood show in Burbank, CA (April), at Crypticon in Bloomington, MN (September 28 and 29) and at Memorabilia in Birmingham, UK at the NEC (November 24 and 25) to commemorate 50 years of James Bond. David attended a screening of Licence to Kill at the historic Alex Theatre in Glendale, California on April 2, 2013. David was interviewed for the documentary, The Green Girl, about the life of actress Susan Oliver. It won the Grand Jury prize at the Valley Film Festival.
He recorded an interview for the 2007 DVD re-release of The Fly (1958) in London and an audio commentary track in Los Angeles as part of the bonus features on The Fly Collection, which includes all three of the early films.
Hedison spent from June 2007 until March 2008 working on the trade paperback The Fly at 50! in collaboration with Diane Kachmar and David Goudsward. The Fly at 50! was published in 2008. He ended the celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Fly by attending the Chiller Theater convention in Parsippany, New Jersey, in October and the SuperMegafest show in Framingham, Massachusetts (Boston) in November 2008.
He took part in and was interviewed for the Vincentennial celebration - 100 years of Vincent Price - that began in St. Louis In June 2011 and ended in Pittsburgh in late October with a stop in Nashville along the way. In Pittsburgh at Monsterbash, Hedison was "Dad" to two of his sons, Charles Herbert and Brett Halsey, at the first ever The Fly movie reunion.
In 2012, Hedison was interviewed about his work in The Fly for the documentary Monsters, Martians and Mad Scientists: Horror in the Atomic Age.
Much of Hedison's acting career has been on television. In 1961, he appeared with Geraldine Brooks (1925–1977) in an episode of ABC's Bus Stop with Marilyn Maxwell, for which Brooks was nominated for an Emmy Award. In 1962, he was cast as defendant Damion White in the Perry Mason episode, "The Case of the Dodging Domino".
He was cast as a counter espionage agent who travelled the world as a Hollywood talent agent in the 16-episode series Five Fingers.
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
He followed that up with a starring role as Captain Lee Crane in the ABC television version of Irwin Allen's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea with Richard Basehart that ran from September 14, 1964 to March 31, 1968. Hedison had been the original choice for Captain Crane in the motion picture Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea but turned down the role as he was dissatisfied with Allen's The Lost World. The show ran for four years.
Fox released the first episodes of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea on DVD on February 21, 2006. All three season releases included clips from Hedison's interview for The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen in 1995. The final season was released in 2010 and 2011. The entire run was released in Region 2 DVD in the UK in 2011. A Region 4 release (Australia) began in 2014. David attended a 50th anniversary Voyage reunion at the Hollywood show in October 2014.
He had a semi-regular role on ABC's The Colbys, as well as guesting in The Saint, Family, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, The Bob Newhart Show, Charlie's Angels, The A-Team, Knight Rider, Who's the Boss? and Wonder Woman, among many others.
He appeared in television movies such as The Cat Creature (1973), The Lives of Jenny Dolan (1975), Murder in Peyton Place (1977) and A.D. (1985).
In 1990, he was the series host for Phenomenal World. He played Spencer Harrison on the American soap opera Another World from 1991 to 1996. He followed that up in 2004 with a role on The Young and the Restless as Arthur Hendricks.
In 2006 and 2007, Hedison worked on four audio books. The first, McKnight's Memory, was first released in October 2007. The second, The King, McQueen and the Love Machine, was released June 15, 2008. The third project was a 12-minute introduction to the reissue of The James Bond Lifestyle that came out June 7, 2007. His fourth audio book project, The Casino Caper, was released in August 2007.
A book on Hedison's 1959 television series, Five Fingers, was published by BearManor Media in 2015. The book was written by Diane Kachmar.
His parents were Albert David Hedison (Heditisian), Sr. and Rose Boghosian; they were Armenian. He and his wife Bridget were married in London on June 29, 1968. Bridget Hedison died of breast cancer on 22 February 2016. They had two daughters, actress/director/photographer Alexandra Hedison and editor/producer Serena Hedison. Alexandra Hedison has appeared in L.A. Firefighters and The L Word and is married to actress and director Jodie Foster.