Entertainment & Arts

Peter Vaughan: Thrones and Porridge star dies at 93

Peter Vaughan in Game of Thrones Image copyright Alamy
Image caption Peter Vaughan starred in Game of Thrones for five years

British actor Peter Vaughan, best known for roles in Game of Thrones and Porridge, has died at the age of 93.

He played Maester Aemon in the HBO series and Grouty in the TV sitcom.

His many other roles included parts in TV shows Citizen Smith, Chancer and Our Friends in the North.

His agent Sally Long-Innes said: "This is to confirm that very sadly Peter Vaughan passed away at approximately 10.30 this morning. He died peacefully with his family around him."

Vaughan began acting in the 1950s and became a recognisable face by playing numerous mainly supporting roles on stage, television, radio and film.

He specialised in characters with a tough edge - such as police officers, secret agents and authoritarian elders.

Media captionA look back at some of Peter Vaughan's best-known roles

His best-known parts included:

  • The menacing villain Harry Grout in Porridge, which remained his most famous part, despite the fact he only appeared in a handful of episodes
  • The strict father of Robert Lindsay's girlfriend in the first two series of another 1970s comedy, Citizen Smith
  • Town patriarch Tom Hedden in Straw Dogs, the controversial film made by Sam Peckinpah, whom Vaughan described as "one of the best directors ever"
  • Felix, the dementia-suffering father of Christopher Eccleston's character in landmark TV drama Our Friends in the North, which earned him a Bafta nomination
  • The ageing butler William Stevens, the father of Anthony Hopkins's character in Merchant Ivory's film The Remains of the Day
  • Jon Snow's blind, scholarly mentor Maester Aemon Targaryen in HBO's epic fantasy Game of Thrones
Image caption Vaughan played Bill Sikes in the BBC's Oliver Twist in 1962
Image caption He appeared in many other period dramas, including 1985's Bleak House

Vaughan described himself as a character actor, saying he did not have the looks to play romantic leads.

"If you're a character actor, you don't need to wait for the next leading role," he once said. "But if you are a leading man you have to wait for the next part. Sometimes that means long periods without work."

He was never out of work for long, but Vaughan was not overly fond of only being recognised for Porridge.

"It bores me rigid," he once said. "I only did about four episodes and the film but never has a role been written that has had more impact."

'Lucky, lucky, lucky'

However Game of Thrones brought him a new level of fame with a younger audience at the age of 86, and he remained in the show for five years.

"I've been so lucky with parts," he told BBC Surrey recently in one of his last interviews in November. "They talk about actors resting. The only time I have ever rested in my 77 years as an actor has been when I've wanted to. Lucky, lucky, lucky."

Those paying tribute included Blackadder actor Tony Robinson, who wrote on Twitter: "An amazing actor. I'll never forget his performance in Our Friends in the North."

Meanwhile, actress Kathy Burke posted a photo of Vaughan with Ronnie Barker in Porridge alongside the words: "Beautiful Peter Vaughan."

Former Doctor Who star Christopher Eccleston, who played Vaughan's son in Our Friends In The North, said he learned more from him than anyone else in his career.

"Peter was gladiatorial as an actor," he told BBC Radio 4's Front Row programme. "There was no more intense actor on that set."

Porridge writer Dick Clement told Front Row Vaughan had "made Grouty his own", adding: "He had a wonderful quality of being menacing at the same time funny, not an easy thing to pull off."

Vaughan was married to actress Billie Whitelaw for 14 years until 1966 and then married Lillias Walker.

He was the father-in-law of Gregor Fisher, the actor best known for playing comic character Rab C Nesbitt.

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