Legendary actor William Needles dies at 97

Legendary actor William Needles dies at 97

William "Bill" Needles playing the title role in "The Bourgeois Gentleman," by Molière. 1982, directed by Robert Cohen

William "Bill" Needles, former professor of Drama and one of Canada's best-known Shakespearean actors, has died at age 97.

Needles served as an acting teacher at the University of California for a number of years and was a mentor to hundreds.

"Perhaps the greatest of his many talents was his gift of mentorship to several ‎generations of young actors," Cimolino said. "In what can be a difficult way of life, Bill was there for so many during the tough times. His honesty, decency and kindness could balm almost any hurt and soothe a bruised spirit. After a talk with Bill, you'd be ready to get up, smile and try again."

One of his students, actor Jon Lovitz, tweeted he was sad to hear the news of "my great professor of Shakespeare."

"He was the kindest, nicest man. A great actor," Lovitz tweeted. "I based [my Saturday Night Live] character Master Thespian a lot on him. He was the nicest teacher, ever."