Sir Antony Sher, Acclaimed Shakespearean Actor, Dead at 72

Sir Antony Sher

Sir Antony Sher -- the acclaimed Shakespearean actor who starred as Dr. Moth in the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love -- has died. He was 72.

The Royal Shakespeare Company announced the news Friday and revealed Sher was diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier this year. 

"We are deeply saddened by this news and our thoughts and sincere condolences are with Gregory, and with Antony's family and their friends at this devastating time," the RSC said in a statement. "Antony had a long association with the RSC and a hugely celebrated career on stage and screen. Antony's last production with the Company was in the two-hander Kunene and The King, written by his friend and fellow South African actor, writer and activist John Kani."

The statement continued, "Antony was deeply loved and hugely admired by so many colleagues. He was a ground-breaking role model for many young actors, and it is impossible to comprehend that he is no longer with us. We will ensure friends far and wide have the chance to share tributes and memories in the days to come."

Born in Cape Town, Sher joined the RSC in 1982 after moving to Britain in the late 1960s. Three years after joining the RSC, Sher landed his breakthrough role as the power-hungry ruler in Richard III. His deft portrayal landed him a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor. He'd win the award again following his performance in the 1997 play Stanley. That performance -- at the National Theatre and on Broadway -- also earned him a Tony Award nomination.

Some of his other Shakespeare roles included Falstaff in Henry IV, Leontes in The Winter's Tale, Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and Iago in Othello. He also played the title characters in Macbeth and King Lear.

Sher, knighted in 2000 and once dubbed Prince Charles' favorite actor, had numerous TV roles including in the BBC series The History Man. Besides Shakespeare in Love, his other film roles included Mrs. Brown and Churchill: The Hollywood Years.

Sher's notable contributions to society also came away from the stage and screen. He and his husband, Gregory Doran, became one of the first couples to have a civil partnership in the United Kingdom after same-sex unions became legal there in 2005. The couple, who collaborated on many projects together, tied the knot in December 2015, nearly two years after the U.K. legalized gay marriage.

After news broke of Sher's death this week, a few of Hollywood's biggest names sent along their condolences, including Helen Mirren.

In a statement to ET, the actress said, "I am devastated to hear of the death of Antony Sher. The Theatre has lost a brilliant light. I will never forget the moment I met the actor in Antony. We were doing the first reading rehearsal of the play Teeth and Smiles by David Hare. Antony was a comparatively unknown actor at the time. We were buried in our scripts. I read the first words of our scene together and he answered. I raised my eyes above the pages to look at him more precisely, as with simply those minimal words I immediately realized I was opposite a great actor. Of course, he went on to become the celebrated artist he was, but the extraordinary ability was born in him, as natural to him as breathing: it was as clear as a summer sky."

Clarence House also released a statement on behalf of Prince Charles. "I am deeply saddened by the news of Sir Antony Sher’s death," the statement read. "I feel particularly blessed to have known him, but we have all lost a giant of the stage at the height of his genius."

The Shakespeare Institute also weighed in tweeting, "All of the Shakespeare Institute community are deeply grieved to learn of the death last night of Sir Antony Sher, one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of our or any time."


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