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The BBC's Nick Higham
"An outstanding character actor"
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Ronald Neame, film producer
"He became the character that he played like a chameleon"
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Monday, 7 August, 2000, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Acting world mourns Sir Alec
Sir Alec Guinness
Sir Alec, centre, as King Charles I in Cromwell
The acting world has been paying tribute to Sir Alec Guinness, who died at the weekend aged of 86.

Sir Alec was a versatile performer whose career spanned six decades, from the Ealing comedies and adaptations of Charles Dickens' novels, to the Star Wars character, Obi Wan Kenobi and the television spymaster George Smiley.

The actor, who died at the King Edward VII Hospital in Midhurst, West Sussex on Saturday, had been suffering from ill health for a number of years.

as Obi Wan Kenobi
Sir Alec was said to have hated his part in Star Wars
He was one of the last surviving members of a great generation of UK actors, which included Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir John Mills.

Mills, who acted with Sir Alec in the classic films Great Expectations and Tunes of Glory, described him as a "very, very rare" individual.

"Alec was very, very unusual," he said. "He was first of all, as you know, a very, very great actor but he was very, very retiring, shy, very charming and he had great humility.

"I was lucky enough to know him very well indeed, we were great friends."

Sir John also revealed that Sir Alec was so keen to keep his privacy he had not even told him he was ill.

"He was a very shy man and it is not surprising that he just went away very quietly," he said.

In The Lavender Hill Mob, 1951
In The Lavender Hill Mob, 1951
He added: "I remember him as first of all a wonderful actor, one of the best actors I have ever acted with and as a sweet, lovely person."

Ronald Neame, the producer of Great Expectations and Oliver Twist in which Sir Alec starred, said he was "shattered by the news". He told BBC Radio Five Live that Sir Alec was one of the all-time greats.

"He taught me more about acting than anybody else I have ever met or am likely to meet," he said.

"He was like a chameleon - he became the character he was playing. I made six pictures with him and they were the happiest films of my entire life."

'Terribly sad news'

Christopher Sinclair-Stevenson, Sir Alec's former publicist and agent, said: "This is terribly sad news."

He told the Daily Telegraph: "I know Alec had been ill for some time and his wife is not that well either. He was a marvellous actor and will be sorely missed."

Sir Alec was taken to hospital by ambulance on Thursday from his home in the village of Steep Marsh, near Petersfield, Hampshire.

A Hampshire Ambulance spokesman said: "We received a routine call on Thursday evening from his GP and took him to hospital. It wasn't an emergency."

The hospital would not reveal the cause of death, but Sir Alec had been suffering from ill health for a number of years.

He had chronic glaucoma and had undergone cataract surgery to restore his vision.

Star Wars

The actor, whose career covered 60 years, was famous for his role in the Ealing comedy films.

His performance as the Colonel in Bridge On the River Kwai won him an Oscar and led to his knighthood in the same year, 1959.

Older cinema fans remember him tackling eight different roles in the 1949 comedy classic "Kind Hearts and Coronets," but to anyone under 30 he was probably most famous for playing the part of Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977's Star Wars.

It was, however, a role he said he disliked, throwing away all Star Wars fan-mail unopened.

Sir Alec married playwright Merula Salaman in 1938. They had one son, Matthew.

Just two months ago Sir Alec attended Sir John Gielgud's memorial service.

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01 Jun 00 | UK
Final farewell to Gielgud
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