Michael Winner: stars pay tribute

Michael Winner

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Stars have paid tribute to film director and newspaper columnist Michael Winner who has died, aged 77.

During his career, he directed more than 30 films including Death Wish, starring Charles Bronson, and Burt Lancaster film Scorpio.

He was also famous for his barbed restaurant reviews, written for The Sunday Times under the banner "Winner's Dinners".

John Cleese, actor

He was the dearest, kindest, funniest and most generous of friends. I shall miss him terribly.

Simon Cowell, media mogul

I'm very sad to hear about Michael passing away. He's become a very good friend over the years and someone whose company I have always really enjoyed.

Laughter was never far away when Michael was around and he is someone who, the more I got to know, the fonder I got of him. I am sure there are a lot of other people who, like me, will really miss him.

Terry O'Neill, photographer

We were friends for over 50 years, since I was about 20. We first met when I went to photograph one of his films and got Diana Dors out of her dressing room and got her to sweep the snow off the pavements.

I worked on lots of his films. He will be greatly missed by the film industry and restaurateurs. He was very popular. He had a tremendous sense of humour and was a great character.

He was totally against marriage but we all talked him into it and thank goodness we did.

We spoke at 8am every morning without fail, even when he was on holiday. We'd have a 20-minute conversation and this went on for 20 or 30 years.

But we hadn't spoken in the last week - he wasn't up to it. He was also a great photographer. If ever you got the wrong angle he would let you know. He was an incredible character and will be greatly missed.

Andrew Lloyd Webber, composer‏

True originals come rarely in a lifetime. Madeleine and I will deeply miss you.

Martin Ivens, acting editor of The Sunday Times

For nearly 20 years, he delighted readers with his inimitable Winner's Dinners column in The Sunday Times. He could be very witty but also uncompromising in his demands for good service, which resonated with readers.

He was also not afraid to laugh at himself and rejoiced in the huge postbag of letters which poked gentle fun at him - often he would forward particularly insulting letters that had been sent straight to him for inclusion alongside his column. He will be greatly missed."

Andrew Neil, journalist

So sad to hear of death of my old mate Michael Winner. One of life's great characters.

Jay Rayner, restaurant critic

Politically I had absolutely nothing in common with him and he did make, from my point of view, some pretty atrocious films. But he was actually a very lovely man.

People often said to me 'why does the Sunday Times let that Winner review restaurants?' but really what it came down to, was just how entertaining his copy was. He gave you an insight into what his world was like and it was often an absolutely hilarious place. Whether you agreed with what he said or found it at all useful is a moot point because it really was Winner's world. He gave you an insight into what it was to be stupidly wealthy.

He could be astonishingly rude but he was also very helpful. When you actually got to meet him face-to-face he was actually very sweet. The worst thing you could ever do with Michael was take him too seriously.

Piers Morgan, journalist

Very sad to hear Michael Winner has died. Hilarious, often preposterous, always generous, highly intelligent man. And terrific writer.

Rod Gilchrist, journalist

He was one of the last of the great Hollywood showmen. Given to extravagant gestures, he lived life at 100mph. He could by turns be incredibly generous, funny, playful and kind, while at the same time Mr Winner made a formidable adversary. With friends he was very loyal, supporting many financially through times of hardship.

His films always had populist appeal, but Michael was also a man of refined tastes, enjoying great art. He was also a passionate advocate of the nation's architectural heritage which his own home, a Queen Anne revival mansion in Kensington, bore witness to.

Michael cared deeply about the society we live in. When PC Yvonne Fletcher was murdered by Libyan terrorists in St James's Square in the early '80s, he called for the founding of the Police Memorial Trust which honours officers with memorials where they fell.

When no one came forward, Michael founded the trust himself. He subsequently poured much of his fortune into supporting it and was tireless in his work for it.

Mr Winner's impeccable connections ensured that four prime ministers attended the laying of memorial stones at different times around the country and the Queen unveiled the National Police Memorial in the Mall in 2005.

I don't know anybody else who would have done this or achieved so much for the police and the memory of their officers who had given their lives fighting crime. He was utterly unique.

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