Titanic and Omen actor David Warner dies at 80

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David WarnerImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
David Warner played Billy Zane's villainous sidekick in 1997 blockbuster Titanic

Actor David Warner, who starred in films such as The Omen and Tron, has died at the age of 80 from a cancer-related illness.

His family said they were sharing the news "with an overwhelmingly heavy heart".

Warner was also known for playing Billy Zane's villainous sidekick Spicer Lovejoy in James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster Titanic.

He recently appeared as naval eccentric Admiral Boom in Mary Poppins Returns.

Warner died on Sunday at Denville Hall, a care home for those in the entertainment industry.

"Over the past 18 months he approached his diagnosis with a characteristic grace and dignity," his family said in a statement given to the BBC.

"He will be missed hugely by us, his family and friends, and remembered as a kind-hearted, generous and compassionate man, partner and father, whose legacy of extraordinary work has touched the lives of so many over the years. We are heartbroken," it continued.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Warner was pictured in 1964 trying on a crown in a Royal Shakespeare Company dressing room.

Warner often played the baddie, taking on villainous roles in films such as The Thirty Nine Steps (1978) and Time Bandits (1981).

Many will recall his character, photographer Keith Jennings, who met an inglorious end in 1976's supernatural classic, The Omen.

In an interview for a programme on horror films fronted by Mark Gatiss, when asked if he knew what had happened to his severed head, Warner deadpanned: "I lost it in the divorce."

Warner played Bob Cratchit in George C Scott's 1984 adaptation of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, noting it was a pleasure to play a character that wasn't a villain for a change.

He also enjoyed a successful television career, with roles in Wallander - playing Kenneth Branagh's father - Penny Dreadful, Ripper Street, Doctor Who and the original Twin Peaks among others.

Warner was also known for playing various characters in the Star Trek franchise and starred in several Doctor Who audio plays.

Acting as an escape

The Mancunian's work was recognised early on in his career with a Bafta nomination for his lead performance in Karel Reisz's 1966 film Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment, opposite Vanessa Redgrave.

He went on to win an Emmy award in 1981 for outstanding supporting actor in a miniseries or special for his portrayal of Pomponius Falco in the television miniseries Masada.

The Rada-trained British star was also renowned for title roles in the Royal Shakespeare Company's Henry VI and Hamlet early on in his career.

Warner returned to Stratford in 2007 for the first time in more than 40 years to play Sir John Falstaff in the Courtyard Theatre revival of Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2.

Gregory Doran, artistic director emeritus of the RSC, paid tribute to Warner in a statement.

"I'm very sad to hear the news that David Warner has died.

"David's most iconic role for the RSC was as Hamlet in 1965, directed by Peter Hall, with Glenda Jackson as Ophelia, and Elizabeth Spriggs as Gertrude, with Brewster Mason as Claudius and the Ghost.

"A tortured student, in his long orange scarf, David seemed the epitome of 1960s youth, and caught the radical spirit of a turbulent age.

"He was a generous spirit, a kind man, and a huge talent."

The actor once described his upbringing as "messy" and his family as "dysfunctional", explaining that going into acting was "a means of escape".

Warner said he had a teacher who became his mentor and encouraged his interest in drama, adding that it was a choice between acting or "being a juvenile delinquent".

He is survived by "his beloved partner Lisa Bowerman, his much-loved son Luke and daughter-in-law Sarah, his good friend Jane Spencer Prior, his first wife Harriet Evans and his many gold dust friends".