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Born: 26 August 1921, Columbia, Pennsylvania USA

Died: 10 July 1998, New York, New York USA

William Preston was an American stage, screen, and television actor. He didn't start his acting career until he was at the age of 47 but subsequently appeared in more than sixty productions of Shakespeare's plays. Prior to that, he was a bookkeeper for a trucking company in Philadelphia. He often told the story of how three events came together to cause him to try acting: He was offered a role in a Broadway play; Philadelphia planners told him his house was being razed to make room for a highway ramp; and, a New York friend said he was looking for a roommate. By the way, that Broadway play closed after one night, but he soon was offered work in the stage version of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." The parts kept coming after that.


William was a 1939 graduate of Columbia High School and later received a Master's degree in English literature from Penn State. He is perhaps best known for his role as recurring character Carl "Oldie" Olsen on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Among his many movie roles, he played John, the bum, from The Fisher King (1991), a blacksmith in Far and Away (1992), and the flask mourner in Family Business (1989). He later appeared in Waterworld (1995), Reckless (1995), Blue in the Face (1995), and The Crucible (1996). He worked with such actors as Joan Bennett, EG Marshall, Sandra Dee, Lucille Ball, Imogene Coca, Abe Vigoda, Jean Stapleton, Tom Cruise, Jeff Bridges, George C. Scott, Sean Connery, and Robin Williams.

He was the son of William and H. Louise Habel Preston.

He died at Saint Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan and was survived by a twin brother, Robert, a sister, Helen (wife of R. Dean Musser, Manheim), two nephews, and several great-nephews. 


1973 / Malatesta's Carnival of Blood / Sticker

1985 / Goodbye, New York / Elevator Man

1989 / Family Business / Flask Mourner

1990 / The Exorcist III / Old Man in Wheelchair

1991 / The Fisher King / John the Bum

1992 / Far and Away / Blacksmith

1993 / Me and Veronica / Old Man

1994 / My Summer Story / Grandpa Bumpus

1995 / Blue in the Face / Statistician

1995 / Waterworld / Depth Gauge

1995 / Reckless / The Porter

1995 / Flasher / Flasher

1996 / Joe's Apartment / Complaint Handler

1996 / The Crucible / George Jacobs

1996 / I'm Not Rappaport / Jake

1998 / Illuminata / Old Toothless Man

From EXORCIST III (1990),

playing the part "Old Man in Wheelchair"

From WATERWORLD (1995),

playing the part "Depth Gauge"

From THE CRUCIBLE (1996)

playing the part "George Jacobs"


playing the part "Sticker"

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