British actor Richard Briers, best known for the 1970s TV sit-com The Good Life but also for his Shakespearean roles, has died at the age of 79, prompting a flood of tributes for “a national treasure”.
The actor, who spent a lifetime on the stage, had recently spoken publicly of battling a serious lung condition for years, saying that “the ciggies got me” after a lifetime smoking habit.
He said his health was failing after being diagnosed with emphysema five years ago even though he gave up smoking 10 years ago.
“I was diagnosed five years ago and didn’t think it would go quite as badly as it has,” he told a newspaper interview last month. “I used to love smoking. It’s totally my fault.”
His agent said he died on Sunday at his London home. Briers’s career ranged from television, to theatre, to film and radio with the actor, trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, making his West End debut in the late 1950s.
In The Good Life, he played alongside actress Felicity Kendal as a married couple who decide to drop out of the rat race and try out a life of self-sufficiency. His film credits included A Chorus Of Disapproval in 1989 and Watership Down in 1978 in which he was the voice of Fiver.
He also narrated the children’s cartoon series Roobarb and Custard.
But he won wide acclaim for his Shakespearean work after joining Kenneth Branagh’s Renaissance Theatre Company. He appeared in a list of Branagh’s films including Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet.
Briers, who was married with two daughters, was awarded an OBE in 1989 for services to the arts. Branagh paid tribute to Briers, telling reporters: “He was a national treasure, a great actor and a wonderful man. He was greatly loved and he will be deeply missed.” Actor Stephen Fry on Twitter described him as “the most adorable and funny man imaginable”.