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Saturday, 26 October, 2002, 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK
Harris family plans memorials
Richard Harris with family
Richard Harris's family will hold a private funeral
Memorial services will be held in London and Dublin to celebrate the life and work of actor Richard Harris, who died on Friday.

The Irish screen veteran, 72, had been undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin's disease, after falling ill two months ago.


Richard Harris made a tremendous contribution to the arts and entertainment world

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern

A spokeswoman for Harris's agent Steve Kenis said the memorial services would follow a low-key private family funeral.

She said Harris's ashes would be taken to his home in the Bahamas and sprinkled there.

The spokeswoman said no date had been set for the funeral or the memorial services.

"The family are understandably distraught and wish to be left to grieve in private," she said.

Outstanding artist

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern led tributes to the actor, saying he was deeply saddened by the news.

He described Harris as "one of Ireland's most outstanding artists" who had "made a tremendous contribution to the arts and entertainment world throughout his long career".

Richard Harris
Harris played 2,000-year-old Dumbledore
"I wish to extend my sympathy to his family and wide circle of friends," he said.

Harris's death was announced by sons Damian, Jarid and Jamie who said their "beloved father" had passed away peacefully at University College Hospital, London, at 1900 BST on Friday.

Harris, already a renowned actor, became known to a new generation of film fans through his role as Professor Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - the first movie based on JK Rowling's tales of the boy wizard.

He had just finished work on the second Harry Potter movie, Chamber of Secrets, when he became ill this summer.

'Lights dim'

Harris had expected to be discharged in time to work on the third Potter film, The Prisoner of Azkaban.

Film director Michael Winner said: "The lights have dimmed a lot with his passing.

"He was my neighbour for 10 years, and he was the most wonderful, warm character."

Chat show host Michael Parkinson - who interviewed Harris three times - said: "He was an extraordinary man, a great storyteller, very intelligent."

Hodgkin's disease - a form of cancer that affects the lymph glands - was diagnosed when Harris went into hospital with a severe chest infection in August.

Only a few weeks ago his agent, Sharon Thomas, told BBC News Online he was "responding well to treatment".

Seven-film contract

Harris built his reputation on his commanding performances in films such as A Man Called Horse and This Sporting Life.

He was twice nominated for Oscars for This Sporting Life and The Field and was also recently nominated for a British Independent Film award for his performance as the leader of a Liverpool crime syndicate in My Kingdom.

However, he was also renowned for his hellraiser lifestyle and heavy drinking.

He admitted his wayward nature almost lost him the role of Harry Potter's wise old wizard headmaster.

He and the rest of the cast were asked to sign up for a seven-movie deal - the number of books JK Rowling has always said she intended to write.

"The thought of doing seven films was intimidating," he said at the time.

"I'm rebellious by nature and felt it could be rather difficult to handle."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Chris Jones
"Harris said that even as a child he was excessively wild"
John Marriot, film critic
"He was one of the greats"

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30 Aug 02 | Entertainment
13 May 99 | Entertainment
09 Feb 99 | Medical notes
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