Stage veteran Nigel Hawthorne died today, 26 December 2001, at his home in Hertfordshire. The award-winning British actor, born in Coventry, was 72. For the past 18 months, Hawthorne had been battling cancer but, ultimately, he died from a heart attack.

Hawthorne is most famous to British television audiences for the long-running television comedy series Yes, Minister and its sequel Yes, Prime Minister, in which he played the obsequious civil servant, Sir Humphrey Appleby. He also achieved recognition internationally in films such as The Madness of King George (for which he won a BAFTA and was nominated for an Oscar), Amistad, The Object of My Affection, The Winslow Boy and The Clandestine Marriage.

Throughout his career, Hawthorne also returned regularly to the stage, perhaps most famously in the title role of the National Theatre production of Alan Bennett’s The Madness of George III (later adapted on film as The Madness of King George), which won him numerous awards including the Olivier, Evening Standard and London Critics Circle Awards for Best Actor.

His other notable stage credits include Shadowlands, The Clandestine Marriage, Hapgood, The Magistrate, Uncle Vanya and Privates on Parade for which he won a SWET (Society of West End Theatres) Award for Best Supporting Actor. He was last seen on stage in 1999-2000 playing the title role in the RSC-Japanese co-production of King Lear, directed by Yukio Ninagawa.

Hawthorne was knighted in 1999.

- by Terri Paddock