Peaky Blinders star Helen McCrory has died at the age of 52 following a secret battle with cancer.
The news was confirmed on Twitter by the beloved actress’ husband, actor Damian Lewis.
Lewis wrote: “I’m heartbroken to announce that after an heroic battle with cancer, the beautiful and mighty woman that is Helen McCrory has died peacefully at home, surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family.
“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.”
— Damian Lewis (@lewis_damian) April 16, 2021
Lewis later penned a longer tribute in The Times, saying he was “staggered by her”. He added: “Some people believe happiness is a right, some people find happiness difficult. Helen believed you choose happiness.”
McCrory, who starred in Peaky Blinders as Polly Gray and was known for her role as Narcissa Malfoy in multiple Harry Potter films, kept her cancer diagnosis secret from the public.
Alongside her pair of most prominent roles, McCrory also had a long and distinguished career on the stage, and played Tony Blair’s wife Cherie in the films The Queen and The Special Relationship.
Following the news of her death, tributes are being paid from across the entertainment industry.
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
Peaky Blinders actor Cillian Murphy paid tribute, saying he was “broken-hearted to lose such a dear friend,” in a statement to the PA news agency obtained by the Evening Standard.
He continued: “Helen was a beautiful, caring, funny, compassionate human being. She was also a gifted actor – fearless and magnificent. She elevated and made humane every scene, every character she played.
“It was a privilege to have worked with this brilliant woman, to have shared so many laughs over the years.”
Other Peaky Blinders stars have been paying tribute, including Finn and Joe Cole who both paid tribute to McCrory on social media. Finn wrote: “Mother, wife, and an all round amazing role model. A force of nature [whose] advise I’ll carry forever. From day 1 on Peaky I felt blessed, and I will always aspire to be as awesome as Helen McCrory. Thank you mum. Rest easy x”
Finn’s brother Joe added: “they don’t make many like this one, let me tell you. I feel incredibly lucky to have known and been inspired by her. Thank you for all the laughs and the memories, Helen. You were an incredible talent and one in a million. My love and thoughts go out to Helen’s family and those closest to her.”
Actor Sam Neill, who starred in the first two seasons of the show added: “Goodbye. Devastated my friend #HelenMcCrory died today. That brilliant woman- the greatest of actors. I so loved our time on #PeakyBlinders. She was witty, kind, skilled. Riotously funny.. and so damn cool. So young. Heartbroken for Damien + her family.”
Goodbye .Devastated my friend #HelenMcCrory died today . That brilliant woman- the greatest of actors. I so loved our time on #PeakyBlinders . She was witty , kind , skilled . Riotously funny .. and so damn cool. So young. Heartbroken for Damien +her family. pic.twitter.com/YHDYsV1VFh
— Sam Neill (@TwoPaddocks) April 16, 2021
Elsewhere, Benjamin Zephaniah, who plays Jeremiah Jesus in the show, said: “Filming without Helen McCrory has been so difficult. Her passing away today is a real shock. She was a dear friend. She was humane, intelligent, unflinching, and a fighter to the end. A truly amazing woman. I’m speechless. I’m going offline.”
Filming without Helen McCrory has been so difficult.
Her passing away today is a real shock. She was a dear friend. She was humane, intelligent, unflinching, and a fighter to the end. A truly amazing woman. I'm speechless. I'm going offline. pic.twitter.com/nFVlxlrrPL
— Professor Benjamin Zephaniah (@BZephaniah) April 16, 2021
Adrian Brody, who appeared in season four of the show, paid tribute on Instagram saying, “It was an honour to dance with you…Rest In Peace, dear Helen, you shined magnificently.”
While Peaky Blinders director Anthony Byrne said: “Many glasses were raised to Helen in Manchester on Friday night. Helen was a force of nature and her loss to film, tv and theatre is immense.
“More than that, it is the loss of the great work she would’ve gone on to do. I am honoured to have worked with her telling the story of the Shelby’s and watching her talent shine as the matriarch Polly Gray. She will be greatly missed by the Peaky family.”
BAFTA said of McCrory: “We’re sad to hear of the death of actor Helen McCrory. As well as fearless Polly Gray in BAFTA-winning Peaky Blinders, she was in 2007 Best Film BAFTA winner The Queen, amongst many other films and TV shows.”
We're sad to hear of the death of actor Helen McCrory. As well as fearless Polly Gray in BAFTA-winning Peaky Blinders, she was in 2007 Best Film BAFTA winner The Queen, amongst many other films and TV shows. pic.twitter.com/1CzeIIYfzE
— BAFTA (@BAFTA) April 16, 2021
The official Harry Potter Twitter account also paid tribute to McCrory, who appeared in the final three films in the series.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our beloved Helen McCrory, who played Narcissa Malfoy with such depth and brilliance in the Harry Potter film series,” the tweet read.
“She was a wonderful actor and a very dear friend; Harry Potter fans will miss her very much.”
We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our beloved Helen McCrory, who played Narcissa Malfoy with such depth and brilliance in the Harry Potter film series. She was a wonderful actor and a very dear friend; Harry Potter fans will miss her very much. pic.twitter.com/wXexuxFNyG
— Wizarding World (@wizardingworld) April 16, 2021
Harry Potter author JK Rowling paid her respects too, tweeting: “I’m devastated to learn of the death of Helen McCrory, an extraordinary actress and a wonderful woman who’s left us far too soon.
“My deepest condolences to her family, especially her husband and children. Simply heartbreaking news.”
I’m devastated to learn of the death of Helen McCrory, an extraordinary actress and a wonderful woman who’s left us far too soon. My deepest condolences to her family, especially her husband and children. Simply heartbreaking news.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) April 16, 2021
Her co-stars in Harry Potter, Tom Felton and Jason Isaacs also paid tribute. Isaacs wrote: “Decades ago Helen and I auditioned together for a film. I came home and said to Emma ‘I think I’ve just met the greatest actress I’ve ever seen.’ After years of watching her mesmerize audiences I don’t think that any more…I know it.
“Luckily, I eventually found out that she was also scabrously funny, shockingly naughty and with an empathetic heart the size of a planet. As continually starstruck as I was on the Harry Potter films, being screen-married to and giggle with the great Helen McCrory will always be a highlight. Her proudest achievement, though, was building and loving the family that was her bedrock. They’ve lost so much and I send all my love to Damian and the kids. xxx”
Whilst Felton added: “So sad to say farewell so suddenly – I never took the chance to tell her, but she helped shape me as a person so much – on & off screen – She was always relentlessly herself- razor sharp wit – silver tongued – kind & warm hearted – she suffered no fools yet had time for everyone – thank you for lighting the way forward & holding my hand when I needed it xx”
The official James Bond account posted a tweet from Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli in which they said they were “devastated” to hear the news of McCrory’s passing. McCrory appeared in Skyfall in 2012.
The tweet read: “We are devastated to hear of the passing of the extraordinarily talented and gracious Helen McCrory. We were honoured to have worked with her on Skyfall and send our heartfelt condolences to Damian, Manon and Gulliver.”
“We are devastated to hear of the passing of the extraordinarily talented and gracious Helen McCrory. We were honoured to have worked with her on Skyfall and send our heartfelt condolences to Damian, Manon and Gulliver.” Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. pic.twitter.com/hMSEqle83D
— James Bond (@007) April 16, 2021
Skyfall Director Sam Mendes penned a tribute to McCrory in The Guardian, saying she had “an explosive energy”.
Speaking about directing her in Skyfall, Mendes explained: “When I was directing Skyfall, I needed an actress who could publicly haul Judi Dench’s M over the coals, whilst also making a roomful of other giant personalities and talents cower. Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear, Naomie Harris, Javier Bardem – who could impose herself on all of them without a second thought? Of course I thought of Helen, and she didn’t disappoint.
“On top of which, she was just…fun. It’s an underappreciated trait, but so important in what we do. Helen understood how to take the work seriously, but never yourself.”
Reverend Richard Coles added: “Very sorry to hear of the death of Helen McCrory, such a brilliant actor; heartfelt condolences to Damian Lewis, their children, and all who loved her.”
Very sorry to hear of the death of Helen McCrory, such a brilliant actor; heartfelt condolences to Damian Lewis, their children, and all who loved her. pic.twitter.com/NRlo3KPKWb
— Richard Coles (@RevRichardColes) April 16, 2021
Others to pay tribute include Noel Clarke, who worked with McCrory on 2010 crime thriller 22.214.171.124., and wrote: “RIP #HelenMcCrory you were the best and always lovely to me. It was a pleasure to work with you. Love ya. Blessings to Damian and the family.”
— Noel Clarke (@NoelClarke) April 16, 2021
Callum Scott Howells, star of recent Channel 4 hit It’s A Sin, also paid tribute, saying he was “absolutely gutted” at the news, and calling McCrory “one of the greats to have ever blessed our stages and our screens.”
He added: “Her talent and work was legendary and sublime. Sending love to all who knew her and was lucky enough to work with her. A true legend.”
I’m absolutely gutted by the passing of Helen McCrory. Truly, one of the greats to have ever blessed our stages and our screens. Her talent and work was legendary and sublime. Sending love to all who knew her and was lucky enough to work with her. A true legend.
— Callum Scott Howells (@callumshowells) April 16, 2021
The League Of Gentlemen creator Reece Shearsmith paid further tribute to McCrory, sharing a photo of the two together and writing: “Impossible to process the mighty Helen McCrory has passed.
“I worked with Helen on stage and of course we were lucky enough to get her in “Inside No 9″. She was always immaculate and brilliant. An unfathomable loss. RIP.”
Impossible to process the mighty Helen McCrory has passed. I worked with Helen on stage and of course we were lucky enough to get her in "Inside No 9". She was always immaculate and brilliant. An unfathomable loss. RIP . pic.twitter.com/fbau6kywzW
— reece shearsmith (@ReeceShearsmith) April 16, 2021
The official account for His Dark Materials, in which McCrory voiced Lord Asriel’s daemon Stelmaria, wrote: “We are heartbroken to report that the uniquely talented, #HelenMcCrory, who voiced Lord Asriel’s daemon Stelmaria, has passed to another world after battling cancer.
“We have lost one of the finest actors of our generation. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.”
We are heartbroken to report that the uniquely talented, #HelenMcCrory, who voiced Lord Asriel's daemon Stelmaria, has passed to another world after battling cancer. We have lost one of the finest actors of our generation. Our thoughts are with her family and friends. pic.twitter.com/XGRykOFjc2
— His Dark Materials (@darkmaterials) April 16, 2021
Playwright James Graham, who wrote last year’s miniseries Quiz in which McCrory played Sonia Woodley QC, paid his respects.
“It’s simply devastating,” he began. “In the brief time hanging out and working with Helen she was just everything you’d hope she would be – no airs or graces, generous, naughty, kind, & total class.
“She lit up our stages and screens. I’m so sorry to her family and loved ones.”
Take a look at some more tributes shared here.
It’s simply devastating. In the brief time hanging out and working with Helen she was just everything you’d hoped she would be – no airs or graces, generous, naughty, kind, & total class. She lit up our stages and screens. I’m so sorry to her family and loved ones. pic.twitter.com/unOQQmDsc4
— James Graham (@mrJamesGraham) April 16, 2021
So sad to hear this news. Helen McCrory was an unparalleled talent and made a difference to many young Londoners through her charity work. I have fond memories of her helping us unveil the statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square. Sending love to her family. https://t.co/fOS0RU6qTB pic.twitter.com/SwuwXeY04W
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) April 16, 2021
So sad to hear about Helen McCrory. Gone far too soon. Sending love and sympathy to Damien and the family.
— Adrian Lester (@AdrianLester) April 16, 2021
Unbearable and unbelievable that Helen McCrory has gone. A genuine firecracker with an aching vulnerability. A wonderful actor and a wonderful woman. Thoughts with Damian and family. RIP
— Mark Gatiss 💙 (@Markgatiss) April 16, 2021
Helen McCrory will be remembered not just for her remarkable stage and screen performances, but also for her selflessness and generosity. She and Damian were the motor driving FeedNHS, working tirelessly during the pandemic to raise millions for others. What a tremendous loss.
— Matt Lucas (@RealMattLucas) April 16, 2021
Awful news about Helen McCrory. A sublime talent, and, from the couple of brief moments our paths crossed whilst battling Hogwarts, a very lovely person. 52 is no age. Xxx
— Chris Rankin (@chrisrankin) April 16, 2021
Heartbroken at the news that Helen McCrory has died. She was so so brilliant when she came to work on Bill. Funny, generous, some wicked stories. I was in awe. My heart goes out to Damian and their family. Rest in peace.
— Ben Willbond (@benwillbond) April 16, 2021
Helen McCrory was fearless and brilliant. Her talent astounded me . She was a shining light and is so still.
— Elizabeth McGovern (@ElizabethMcGov) April 16, 2021
— Sanjeev Bhaskar💙 (@TVSanjeev) April 16, 2021
We’re deeply saddened to hear that actor Helen McCrory has died aged 52. pic.twitter.com/aJvFTtRVsq
— BFI (@BFI) April 16, 2021
Utterly heartbreaking and unfathomable news about the exceptional Helen McCrory. Her brilliance, versatility and magnetic power on stage and screen were always a joy to behold. We’ve lost one of the greats. Sending my all love, thoughts and condolences to Damian and family 💔 https://t.co/VoQRAe2yJX pic.twitter.com/ByqqK3Jm1h
— Daniel Mays 💙 (@DanielMays9) April 16, 2021
How terribly sad that we’ve lost Helen McCrory so young. She was one of the finest, most versatile and charming actors of her generation. The thoughts of all her many fans will be with Damian and the kids right now. RIP x
— Tony Robinson (@Tony_Robinson) April 16, 2021
Oh god, the brilliant, blazing, beautiful Helen McRory. How completely devastating. She shone in everything.
— Sarah Phelps (@PhelpsieSarah) April 16, 2021
I’m so, so saddened by the loss of Helen McCrory. What a wonderful, unique person and what a fantastic Actor. We have been robbed. My thoughts are with her husband Damian and their children.
— TOBY STEPHENS (@TobyStephensInV) April 17, 2021
Every time I met you, I was a little nervous. But you were always so gracious to me. Your body of work is testament to the phenomenal actor you were. You always shined gracefully on and off screen. You’ll be missed. Love and thoughts to Damien and family #HelenMcCrory pic.twitter.com/vGuVKJKfAH
— Luke Evans (@TheRealLukevans) April 17, 2021
Deeply saddened by the news of Helen McCrory. Every performance she gave was iconic. RIP. 💔 pic.twitter.com/N59SdpGa9T
— Carrie Hope Fletcher (@CarrieHFletcher) April 16, 2021
Such awful news about Helen McCrory. I admired her from afar for so long and was thrilled (and a little nervous!) to be able to spend a short time on and off screen with her in Quiz. She was human and funny and brilliant. What a huge loss.
— Mark Bonnar (@mark_bonnar) April 16, 2021
This is a developing story and will be updated…