Helen McCrory: Peaky Blinders star dies after 'heroic battle with cancer', husband Damian Lewis confirms

16 April 2021, 16:56 | Updated: 17 April 2021, 05:56

Actress Helen McCrory, best known for starring in Peaky Blinders and the Harry Potter films, has died after a "heroic battle with cancer", her husband Damian Lewis has said.

The actress, who also appeared in the James Bond film Skyfall and was seen on screen in the TV series Quiz and Roadkill last year, was 52.

"I'm heartbroken to announce that after an heroic battle with cancer, the beautiful and mighty woman that is Helen McCrory has died peacefully at home, surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family," Lewis posted in a statement on Twitter.

"She died as she lived. Fearlessly. God we love her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives. She blazed so brightly. Go now, Little One, into the air, and thank you."

McCrory was a versatile actress with a career on stage and screen spanning almost 30 years.

But it was Peaky Blinders' crime family matriarch Polly she was best known for playing, appearing in the show from 2013 to 2019. The actress also portrayed Cherie Blair, wife of former prime minister Tony Blair, in both The Queen and The Special Relationship.

The eldest of three children, she was born in Paddington, west London, to a Welsh mother and Scottish-born father. She attended school in Hertfordshire, then spent a year living in Italy before returning to London to study acting at the Drama Centre.

McCrory and fellow actor Lewis, star of dramas including Homeland and Billions, married in 2007 and the couple had two children - daughter Manon, born in 2006, and son Gulliver, born in 2007. She was made an OBE in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to drama.

Stars have been paying tribute on social media, with her Peaky Blinders co-star Cillian Murphy describing her as a "gifted actor" and a "brilliant woman".

"I am broken-hearted to lose such a dear friend. Helen was a beautiful, caring, funny, compassionate human being," he said in a statement.

"She was also a gifted actor - fearless and magnificent. She elevated and made humane every scene, every character she played.

"It was a privilege to have worked with this brilliant woman, to have shared so many laughs over the years.

"I will dearly miss my pal. My love and thoughts are with Damian and her family."

Actor Jim Howick, who worked with both McCrory and Lewis on the 2015 comedy film Bill, said they were both "terrific fun", adding: "What a talent we have lost."

The Wizarding World Twitter account, home to the Harry Potter franchise, described the star as "a wonderful actor and a very dear friend" and added: "Harry Potter fans will miss her very much."

Actor and director Noel Clarke posted: "RIP #HelenMcCrory you were the best and always lovely to me. It was a pleasure to work with you. Love ya. Blessings to Damian and the family."

Former EastEnders and Coronation Street actress Michelle Collins said she had briefly worked with McCrory and described her as "a tour de force, clever, charming and fierce and a brilliant actor".

Kevin McKidd, who starred opposite McCrory in the 2000 TV miniseries Anna Karenina, tweeted: "I am utterly heartbroken to hear this. Damian I'm sending you and the family all my love and warmth at this time."

Comedian John Bishop, who starred with McCrory in the drama Fearless, said he was "shattered" by the news.

"Helen was a beautiful supportive person to those of us who had the honour to know or work with her. The world has just lost some of its sparkle," he wrote.

Actor Michael Sheen, who worked with the star on ITV drama Quiz - which told the story of the infamous Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? cheating scandal - described her as: "So funny, so passionate, so smart and one of the greatest actors of our time.

"From the first moment I met her when we were just kids it was obvious she was very special. It was an honour to work with her and know her. Much love to Damian and her family. Heartbreaking."

Comedian Matt Lucas, who worked with the star on the FeedNHS campaign to supply food for NHS staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, said she would be remembered "not just for her remarkable stage and screen performances, but also for her selflessness and generosity".

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