Billy Connolly undergoes prostate cancer surgery and is diagnosed with Parkinson's - but will keep working

A spokesman said the comedian will continue to work in TV and on stage

Adam Sherwin
Monday 16 September 2013 10:45 BST
Billy Connolly opts for a smart moustache and beard combination that matches his long grey hair
Billy Connolly opts for a smart moustache and beard combination that matches his long grey hair

Billy Connolly has vowed to continue his stage and screen career after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and undergoing surgery for prostate cancer.

A spokeswoman for the 70-year old comedian and actor, known as “The Big Yin”, said: “Billy Connolly recently underwent minor surgery in America after being diagnosed with the very early stages of prostate cancer. The operation was a total success, and Billy is fully recovered.

“In addition, Billy has been assessed as having the initial symptoms of Parkinson's disease, for which he is receiving the appropriate treatment.”

Connolly, who began working as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards but quit in the late 1960s to become a folk singer before turning to stand-up, is determined to return to work.

The spokeswoman added: “Billy has been assured by experts that the findings will in no way inhibit or affect his ability to work, and he will start filming a TV series in the near future, as well as undertaking an extensive theatrical tour of New Zealand in the new year.”

Connolly, who played a dwarf warrior in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit franchise, admitted earlier this year that he had started to forget his lines during performances.

Speaking about it, he said: “This is f*****g terrifying. I feel like I’m going out of my mind.”

There is no cure for the disease but symptoms, which include memory loss, can be controlled using a combination of drugs, therapies and occasionally surgery.

The star joins the 127,000 people in the UK currently living with Parkinson’s. Last year Bob Hoskins disclosed that he had been diagnosed with the disease, at the age of 69, and announced his immediate retirement from acting.

However Michael J. Fox, the US actor diagnosed with the disease in 1991, has continued to work and is now starring in a new sitcom in which he plays a television reporter who returns to the screen five years after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

Steve Ford, Chief Executive at Parkinson’s UK, said: “Billy Connolly is a much loved comedy legend and we are sorry to hear that he is being treated for the early symptoms of Parkinson’s. One person every hour will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the UK, despite this it remains a little understood condition and we salute Billy’s bravery in speaking out about his condition at this difficult time.”

Mr Ford added: “Parkinson’s can be a very difficult condition to diagnose, as no two people with Parkinson’s are the same, with symptoms – such a slowness of movement or tremor – changing on a daily, or even hourly basis.”

“Many people, with the right medication, continue to live a full and active live with Parkinson’s, but for some, it can be life changing and it is vital that Billy gets the support he needs to live with this complex condition. We wish Billy and his family all the best as they come to terms with this upsetting diagnosis.”

One in eight men will develop prostate cancer at some point during their life, according to official research. But the mortality rate has been dropping since 1992 and the survival rate for men aged 70 and over, if the diagnosis is made before the cancer becomes aggressive, is 87 per cent.

Connolly, married to New Zealand-born actress and psychologist Pamela Stephenson, has maintained a busy work schedule. He starred in the Oscar-winning film Brave where he voiced the lead male character and Quartet, which saw him play a womanising former opera star.

He finished filming the third film in The Hobbit franchise at the end of last year.

In December 2012, Connolly was given the Bafta Scotland award for outstanding contribution. He was due to investigate his family background in an episode of the BBC series, Who Do You Think You Are?

In an interview with the BBC earlier this year, Connolly said he wanted to stay young at heart: “Stay young. Me? I'm 37! I haven't changed my attitude to things since I was 37.”

Watch Billy Connolly's stand-up about having a prostate examination:

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in