Steven Berkoff

British actor Steven Berkoff was to have appeared in a revival of Harold Pinter's "The Birthday Party" at the Geffen Playhouse. (Yui Mok / EPA / January 31, 2014)

Steven Berkoff, the British stage and screen actor who was to have appeared in a revival of Harold Pinter's "The Birthday Party" at the Geffen Playhouse, said that he left the play after clashing with director William Friedkin.

"The Birthday Party" was scheduled to officially open Feb. 12, but this week, the Geffen postponed the production indefinitely. The play was to have starred Tim Roth as a pianist living in a seaside boarding house, with Berkoff playing the part of Goldberg, one of two ominous visitors who interrupts the pianist's birthday celebration.

Friedkin said Thursday that Berkoff was let go from the production and that the company was unable to find a suitable replacement for the actor. Berkoff said that he made the decision himself to leave the production.

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"I don't want to malign the man [Friedkin]. He's a very fine movie director," said Berkoff, speaking by phone from England. "At the beginning, he was charming and nice -- we got on very well."

But the actor said he and Friedkin ended up clashing heatedly over the play, including his portrayal of the character Goldberg. "The conflict grew, and as I'm provoked, I answered him back," said the actor.

Berkoff said that he resigned from the production on Jan. 16 and flew back to England the following Sunday. "It was my decision," he said. 

Friedkin said in an email on Friday that Berkoff "was allowed to resign to preserve his dignity. Had he not resigned, he would have been fired."

Randall Arney, the Geffen's artistic director, declined to comment. Friedkin has said that he is in talks with actors to fill the role of Goldberg and that he intends to mount the production at a later date.

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