Eastenders actor Leslie Grantham has died aged 71.
Grantham was best known as Dirty Den on the popular BBC soap opera.
In a statement, the actor’s agent said:
We formally announce the loss of Leslie Grantham, who passed away at 10.20am on the morning of Friday 15 June 2018.
His ex-wife and sons have asked for their privacy to be respected at this difficult time, and for there to be no approaches to them for information or comment.
They will not be making any statements to the media. They also ask that no photographs be taken of them in their grief.
Gutted to hear about the passing of #LeslieGrantham. He was one of my all tim favourite @bbceastenders actors. I was lucky in the last few years to meet him many times although we never got to have a salt beef lunch we kept trying to plan in Golders Green #RIP #DirtyDen pic.twitter.com/FME7833V3W
— Johnny Seifert (@JohnnySeifert) June 15, 2018
The actor appeared on Eastenders from its inception in 1985 until 1989. He later returned to the role in 2003.
The news comes after it was reported Grantham had returned to the UK from Bulgaria to receive medical attention.
— Liam Williams (@liamwilliams134) June 15, 2018
— Sophie Thomas (@ellensoph) June 15, 2018
The 1986 Christmas Day episode where Grantham hands over divorce papers to his onscreen wife, Angie, broke soap opera episode ratings, pulling in a whopping 30 million viewers.
Another memorable scene was shown in 1989, when he was seemingly fatally shot with a gun hidden in a bunch of daffodils after meeting Michelle Fowler next to the canal.
A former soldier, Grantham studied acting while serving a 10-year prison sentence for the murder of a German taxi driver during his army years. He won his EastEnders role seven years after serving his time, after playing a small role in a 1984 episode of Doctor Who.
Just heard the news my friend and ex panto colleague #LeslieGrantham has passed ..RIP big man …loved working with ya in panto…you made me laugh and I learnt a lot from you too..absolutely gutted… you was West Ham ..I am spurs but that didn’t matter .x
— Antony Costa (@AntonyCosta) June 15, 2018
Grantham eventually left the show in 2005, coinciding with the soap’s 20th anniversary.
Grantham was reported to have completed filming on low-budget gangster film The Krays: Dead Man Walking just before falling ill. In the film he plays police officer Nipper Read, who arrested the notorious Ronnie and Reggie Kray in 1968.
Talking about his short stinted return, he told the Watford Gazette:
I actually went back to EastEnders only for 18 months. The option was on my side. I decided the way the show was going, it wasn’t worth me staying. And I wasn’t enjoying it, Larry. I was leaving home at six o’clock in the morning, getting to work at half past seven, quarter to eight, leaving at half past eight at night, getting home at 10 o’clock, and learning 30 to 40 to 50 pages of dialogue.
And the show was going completely different. The viewing figures shot up when I went back, high on my last episode, and they’ve now gone down. So I think the proof’s in the pudding actually.
But I do have a huge affinity with the show, and that’s only because I was in at the beginning of a wonderful, wonderful event, the wonderful show which has brought a lot of pleasure to a lot of people in a lot of countries around the world.
He told This Morning last year:
As you get older there’s new people coming along. At the same time, when I toured non-stop for ten years, I decided that if I see another motorway… so I took some time out to write.
I got a little bit bored with acting, believe it or not. I know it’s a terrible thing to say. And then I did a series out in Bulgaria which reinvigorated me, playing an Englishmen buying a property abroad.
And I’ve done a few straight-to-DVD films.
Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.
More to follow.