Dame Judi Dench described Sir Antony Sher as an “outstanding” actor who performed with “incredible intensity” after his death at the age of 72.
The Olivier Award-winning actor and director was diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier this year, and his death was announced on Friday by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC).
Dame Judy, who starred alongside Sir Antony in the 1997 film Mrs. Brown, was among those paying tribute.
The 86-year-old described his performance as former prime minister Benjamin Disraeli as “fantastic”.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, she said: “He can completely immerse himself in a character and make it completely remarkable, but not necessarily on his own terms.
“He was fantastic. He used to be completely engrossed whenever he was working in that part and that character.
“He was one of those remarkable actors who retained that incredible intensity from the time he was on stage.
“And he could be very relaxed and part of a company away from it, but he was very much his own person.
“Very maintained, very principled, very focused about the decisions he made. Which is kind of what made him so remarkable.”
Brian Blessed, who performed with Sir Antony at Richard III at Stratford-upon-Avon, told the programme: “He completely revolutionized Richard III. Amazing imagery, amazing vocal power. He set like a great bottlenose spider.” kept spinning around. He would scare the audience in the first few lines.”
Blessed said it was “mind-blowing” to be on stage with Sir Antony and added: “It was from another century. It was from another galaxy.”
The National Theater posted a statement from director Rufus Norris on Twitter, saying: “With the tragic passing of Antony Sher, one of the great titans has left us.
“His contribution and example to our theater world was exemplary, and his place within the ranks of national theater actors could not be higher.”
Sir Antony’s husband, RSC’s artistic director, Gregory Doran, announced in September that he was taking a period of compassionate leave to care for Sir Antony.
The South African-born actor tied the knot with Doran on 21 December 2005, the first day same-sex couples could legally form a civil partnership in the UK.
Sir Antony starred in several RSC productions, including a role in King Lear in 2016 as well as Falstaff in the Henry IV plays and Willie Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.
He was the Prince of Wales’ favorite actor – a fact the royal revealed during his 2017 Commonwealth tour.
Earlier historical performances included Leontes in The Winter’s Tale, Iago in Othello, Prospero in The Tempest and title roles in Macbeth and Tambourine the Great, as well as his career-defining Richard III.
He moved to Britain in the late 1960s to study drama and joined the RSC in 1982. His breakthrough role came two years later in Richard III, a part that earned him a Best Actor accolade at the Olivier Theater Awards.
His theatrical skills were not limited to the West End, and his adaptation of If This Is a Man by Primo Levi went on to play on Broadway in a one-man show called Primo.
Off stage he played roles in films including Shakespeare in Love and Mrs Brown, and in 2004 played Adolf Hitler in Churchill: The Hollywood Years.
His final production with RSC was Kanye’s Kunen and the King, in which he starred alongside Kanye as Jack, an actor acclaimed for his roles in Shakespeare, who was diagnosed with liver cancer.
RSC Executive Director Kathryn Malyon and Acting Artistic Director Erica Whyman said in a statement: “We are deeply saddened by this news, and our thoughts and sincere condolences are with Greg, and Antony’s family and their friends at this devastating time.
“Antony had a long association with RSC and had a stellar career on stage and screen.
“Antony’s last production with the company was in the two-handed Kunen and the King, written by his friend and fellow South African actor, writer and activist, John Kanye.”
The statement said: “Antony was greatly loved and immensely admired by many colleagues.
“He was a phenomenal role model for many young actors, and it is impossible to fathom that he is no longer with us.
“We’ll make sure friends far and wide have a chance to share tributes and memories in the days to come.”
The RSC said Doran will be on compassionate leave and is expected to return to work in 2022.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /