William received his theater training at the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago. After serving in the infantry in World World War II (when, during the battle of Okinawa he recalled focusing on soliloquies from Hamlet and Henry V to keep his sanity,) he performed in Toronto, first in radio drama and then television Beginning with the Festival under Sir Tyrone Guthrie, he acted under eight artistic directors over the years.
He has also appeared in over twenty motion pictures, including the Canadian Broadcasting Company"s Macbeth as Banquo opposite Sean Connery in the title role.
"We learned from listening to those very, very capable English actors reading the verse and acting", he recalls. He gave memorable performances as the Inquisitor in Shaw"s Saint Joan and as the Chaplain in Brecht"s Mother Courage.
He played in London and on stages across the North American continent, including the Manitoba Theatre Centre, South Coast Repertory in Southern California, and in New New York Critic Harry Lane praised his performances for their "apparently effortless intellectual and moral authority, combined with ironic playfulness and rich vocal sensitivity.".
(Hardcover Publisher: MCGRAW-HILL BOOK COMPANY (1949))
A member of the acting company of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival since its inception in 1953, he has appeared in over one hundred roles with the company, among which are Albany in King Lear (1964 and 1972). The Duke of Venice in The Merchant of Venice (1996). The White King in Alice Through the Looking Glass (1996).
The Lord Mayor in Richard III (1997).
The Shepherd in Oedipus Rex (1997). Merriman in The Importance of Being Earnest (2000).
Mortimer in Henry VI: Revenge in France (2002). In the mid-1950s, Needles was one of five members of the actors" union, Canadian Actors Equity, to put a symbolic dollar into a pot to launch the Actors" Fund of Canada, which supports actors and other members of the theatrical professions in financial need.