The Harry Potter actor Robert Hardy has died at the age of 91, his family has said.
They paid tribute to an actor whose theatre, film and television career spanned 70 years.
His children – Emma, Justine and Paul – said: “Gruff, elegant, twinkly, and always dignified, he is celebrated by all who knew him and loved him, and everyone who enjoyed his work.
“We are immensely grateful to the team at Denville Hall [a London retirement home for actors] for the tender care they gave during his last weeks.”
Hardy was also known for his many portrayals of Winston Churchill and as the irascible vet Siegfried Farnon in All Creatures Great and Small.
His early years as an actor were at the Shakespeare Memorial theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon where, while playing Henry V, he developed what became a lifelong interest in the longbow, later publishing two books on the subject.
In his later career, Hardy played Cornelius Fudge, in the Harry Potter movies about the boy wizard, but he came to national attention in 1977 when he was offered the role of the mercurial, cantankerous Siegfried in All Creatures Great and Small, based on the memoirs of the Yorkshire vet Alf Wright who used the pseudonym James Herriot. The stories and chemistry between the actors helped it become one of the BBC’s most successful and popular family evening dramas.
His co-star Christopher Timothy paid tribute to Hardy saying: “He has left an unbelievable legacy of fantastic work for many generations to enjoy and appreciate. A fascinating man, he didn’t suffer fools I can tell you, but he was a good fellow.”
JK Rowling also shared her memories of working with Hardy on the film adaptations of her Harry Potter books. She wrote: “So very sad to hear about Robert Hardy. He was such a talented actor and everybody who worked with him on Potter loved him.”
Hardy played Churchill on numerous occasions, notably in the 1981 ITV series Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years for which he won a Bafta.
In 2015 Hardy, writing in the Daily Mail, said portraying the wartime leader had “undoubtedly been the greatest challenge of my acting career … To prepare I spent nine months listening – morning, afternoon and evening – to 24 double-sided long playing records of all the speeches he’d made. By the end of those nine months I could tell which of the recordings Churchill had made before lunch, and which he’d made after!”
Hardy had been due to play Churchill once again in the stage production of The Audience, with Helen Mirren as Elizabeth II, but, at the age of 87, was forced to pull out because of injury.
His family said Hardy was a “meticulous linguist, a fine artist, a lover of music and a champion of literature, as well as a highly respected historian. He was an essential part of the team that raised the great Tudor warship the Mary Rose”.
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