6 Jun 2017

Wallace and Gromit actor Peter Sallis dies

8:53 am on 6 June 2017

Peter Sallis has died at the age of 96, his agents have announced.

The actor was best known for appearing in Last of the Summer Wine and was also famous as the voice of Wallace in Wallace and Gromit.

Peter Sallis, who acted in Wallace and Gromit and Last of the Summer Wine, has died aged 96.

Peter Sallis was 96. Photo: BBC / Screenshot

His agent confirmed he died peacefully with his family by his side.

Sallis played Norman "Cleggy" Clegg in Last of the Summer Wine from its first episode in 1973 until the series concluded in 2010.

He was the only actor to appear in all 295 episodes of the sitcom.

The Wallace and Gromit films won three Oscars and Sallis often spoke about how glad he was to have such success late in life.

A still from the 1993 film "Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers".

A still from the 1993 film "Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers". Photo: AFP

"It is pleasing knowing millions are going to see your work and enjoy it," he said. "To still be involved in a project like this at my age is heartwarming.

"To have a legacy like this is very comforting. I am very lucky to have been involved."

The franchise's creator Nick Park led tributes to Sallis, describing him as a "unique character".

"I'm so sad, but feel so grateful and privileged to have known and worked with Peter over so many years. He was always my first and only choice for Wallace," Park said in a statement.

"Peter had naturally funny bones and was a great storyteller and raconteur off stage too and would keep us amused for hours."

Asked for the inspiration behind Wallace, Nick Park called Sallis his automatic choice and explained how the actor had even helped influence the character's face.

He said: "There was something about his voice that somehow insisted I make Wallace's mouth really wide to get it around the syllables."

BBC director general Tony Hall said Sallis was a "marvellous" actor.

"Who could forget that remarkable voice?"

"Peter will be greatly missed by his many fans. Our thoughts are with his family and friends."

The acting bug first struck Sallis during his wartime service in the RAF, when he was asked to play the lead role in an amateur production of Noel Coward's play Hay Fever.

When hostilities ceased he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada).

Sallis also appeared in The Pallisers and The Diary of Samuel Pepys and wrote a stage play, End of Term, and a handful of radio plays.

But it was with the mild-mannered Clegg that he felt most at home.

"I am like him in many ways. I am fairly retiring and do not like to be the centre of attention. I think I'm well cast," he once said.