Peaky Blinders actress Helen McCrory who also appeared in His Dark Materials and the Harry Potter and James Bond film franchises, died today in London. She was 52.
McCrory’s husband, the Billions actor Damian Lewis, announced her death on Twitter. He said she died peacefully at home after a “heroic battle” with cancer.
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“She died as she lived. Fearlessly. God we love her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives. She blazed so brightly. Go now, Little One, into the air, and thank you,” added Lewis. Below is his statement in full:
— Damian Lewis (@lewis_damian) April 16, 2021
McCrory was a hugely accomplished and in-demand performer, with stellar credits across stage and screen. She is perhaps best known for playing Aunt Polly in BBC drama Peaky Blinders, keeping an unruly brood of Brummy gangsters in check with her sharp intellect and worldly experience.
Helen McCrory as Polly Gray
All our love and thoughts are with Helen’s family.
Rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/HBEg4Hz2Up
— Peaky Blinders (@ThePeakyBlinder) April 16, 2021
The British actress most recently appeared in BBC/HBO series His Dark Materials, in which she voiced Lord Asriel’s (James McAvoy) dæmon Stelmaria, and political drama Roadkill alongside Hugh Laurie. She played Prime Minister Dawn Ellison in the latter, which was made for the BBC and PBS.
She featured as formidable QC Sonia Woodley in ITV/AMC limited series Quiz last year, while her talents also took her to other notable TV series, including MotherFatherSon, Fearless, and Penny Dreadful. Over in film, she appeared as Narcissa Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and both parts of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, as well as featuring in the James Bond pic Skyfall, Hugo and The Queen, in which she played Tony Blair’s wife Cherie Blair.
McCrory won a BAFTA Cymru Award for 1995’s Streetlife, as well as a Broadcasting Press Guild prize in 2001 for North Square. Her work in Penny Dreadful earned her a Critics Choice Television Awards nomination.
She also had a prolific career on the stage, earning a 2003 Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play her role in Uncle Vanya. Other credits include Lady Macbeth in as 1995 production of Macbeth at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, the Bard’s As You Like It (receiving an Olivier Award nomination) and Twelfth Night. She gave acclaimed performances in 2010’s The Late Middle Classes at Donmar Warehouse, The Last Haussmans at the National Theatre, and Medea at the Olivier Theatre, among numerous others.
McCrory was born on August 17, 1968, in London, where she studied acting at the Drama Centre. She started acting in 1990 on stage, where she had a distinguished, award-winning career, earning plaudits for roles in plays including The Deep Blue Sea and Medea.
McCrory married Lewis in 2007, and they have a daughter and a son together. They met in 2003, and McCrory reflected on their relationship on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs last year. “We hit it off pretty quickly, and we had a bumpy courtship — I think we’ll leave it at that. We are completely different as people, but we’re very similar in our values. … I don’t want to say too many nice things because he’s going to be roaring with laughter at the radio and tease me!” she said.
The pair spoke to Deadline last year about their high-profile mission to feed frontline health care workers in the UK during the height of the coronavirus crisis. McCrory also appeared on British television just six weeks ago to talk about her work for charity Prince’s Trust. Asked by Good Morning Britain presenter Kate Garraway why she had a croaky voice, she wittily retorted: “I’ve got children — and no makeup artist and no hairdresser.”
Looking back on her accomplishments on Desert Island Discs, she said: “I don’t really reflect. When I was asked to look at different bits of my life for this program I had to look on the internet to see what I’d done. I’ve lived life at 150 miles an hour. I just think that is the truth of it and I’ve never really stopped.”