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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 February 2008, 16:32 GMT
Fez-tival atmosphere at unveiling
By Nick Dermody
BBC News

Sir Anthony Hopkins unveils a statue of Tommy Cooper watched by Tommy Cooper Society chairman Angus Donaldson (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Sir Anthony cracked Cooper gags as well as impersonating the comic

As Hollywood star Sir Anthony Hopkins unveiled a statue in tribute to the comic legend Tommy Cooper, he wowed a waiting crowd with an impersonation of the great man.

Around 2,500 people gathered in Caerphilly town centre laughing along with him as he cracked a string of classic Cooper gags... just like that, naturally.

He described Cooper - famous for his fez and the badly-performed magic tricks - as "the comedians' comedian".

The Port Talbot-born star grew up on Cooper humour. He said: "My father loved Tommy Cooper. We all did.

"Tommy Cooper was a one-off. He was a kind of tragic comedian."

Tony St John, from Blackpool, and Austin Howells, of Ynysybwl
Tony St John (left) said Cooper was 'a good friend' to him

As he posed for photographs in front of the 9ft (2.7m) bronze statue, Sir Anthony donned a fez made famous by the late comic, who died during a live televised stage show in 1984.

The statue, with 13th Century Caerphilly Castle as a backdrop, was paid for by money raised by the town's Tommy Cooper Society, of which the Hollywood actor is a patron.

It shows the comic with a wand and magician's top hat, with a rabbit at his feet.

Sculptor James Done has said he aimed to depict Cooper like a wizard.

He said: "Had he been born in medieval times, he would have been the highest-paid jester in any kingdom."

Other fez-wearing Cooper fans in the crowd included Tony St John, 62, of Blackpool, who said he worked with the comic as a compere in west Yorkshire the early 1970s.

Sir Anthony Hopkins gives autographs to fans with Caerphilly Castle in the background
Sir Anthony signed autographs for more than half an hour

He said: "My memories are all laughs. He was a great man and a good friend. He deserves this statue, it's long overdue.

"His stuff is so old now, but it made me laugh. Just looking at him, you couldn't help but laugh.

"He got the fez when he was in the army. That's where he got the idea of the magic tricks, from the street vendors."

Many in the crowd thought Cooper's spirit was among them when a gust of wind threatened to blow away the statue's red covering minutes before the unveiling.

The society's secretary Tudor Jones, who introduced Sir Anthony, said: "It's the people's statue.

"I have knighted him. I call him Sir Tommy Cooper."

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