Veteran British actor Peter Sallis has died at the age of 96, his agent has confirmed.
Best known for his role as Norman “Cleggy” Clegg in long-running BBC comedy Last of the Summer Wine, Sallis is also known to a global audience of younger fans as the voice of Wallace in the Oscar-winning Wallace and Gromit animated films.
Sallis began his acting career on the stage on London in the 1950s and 1960s before graduating to British films in the 1960s and 1970s including Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Doctor in Love and The Curse of the Werewolf.
His first television appearance in 1958 as Samuel Pepys in a BBC drama of the same name also began a long career on the small screen. He appeared in classic Doctor Who episode The Ice Warriors in 1967, before landing a regular comedy gig opposite Leslie Phillips in 1970 sitcom The Culture Vultures.
But it was after appearing in a Comedy Playhouse “one off” called Last of the Summer Wine in 1973, that Sallis began his accent to legendary status in British television. Roy Clarke’s Last of the Summer Wine pilot was commissioned to series and ran from 1973 until 2010, with Sallis playing Cleggy in every episode of the show – the only actor or actress to have played a character in the Yorkshire comedy from beginning to end.
A huge ratings hit for the BBC, Last of the Summer Wine made Cleggy (and Sallis) a household name, and spurred a spin-off prequel First of the Summer Wine in 1988, also starring Sallis.
The actor enjoyed a new found fame, especially with a younger audience, after voicing the character of Wallace in Nick Park’s Oscar and Bafta-winning Wallace and Gromit film series, starting in 1989 with Wallace and Gromit: A Grand Day Out. These features were followed by The Wrong Trousers in 1993 and A Close Shave in 1995. The character returned after a hiatus for a series of short films and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit in 2005, with Sallis retiring from playing Wallis in 2010 after appearing in theTV show Wallace and Gromit’s World of Invention. The role has since been played by Ben Whitehead.
Sallis was awarded an OBE in 2007 for his services to drama.