Harry Potter star Leslie Phillips has died aged 98.
The actor – best known for lending his voice to the Sorting Hat in the JK Rowling franchise – died on Monday (7 November).
Phillips had been struggling with illness for some time and previously survived two strokes. After suffering a life-threatening stroke in 2015, he had been recovering at home in recent years.
In a statement, his wife Zara Carr, 63, remembered her husband as a “national treasure”.
“I’ve lost a wonderful husband and the public has lost a truly great showman,” she said. “He was quite simply a national treasure. People loved him. He was mobbed everywhere he went.”
Fans will also recognise the actor, whose career spanned 75 years, from his roles in the bawdy Carry On film series, where he established his trademark phrases “ding dong” and “he-llo”.
Born in Tottenham in 1924, Phillips’s family relocated to Essex when he was young. When he was just 11, his father died aged 44, which was blamed on him breathing in the “filthy, sulphurous” air while working in a factory.
Following his death, Phillips was sent by his mother to the prestigious Italia Conti theatre school, where he learnt to act and dance. Crucially, however, he learnt received pronunciation (RP) and elocution in order to get rid of his Cockney accent over fears it would hinder his acting career.
He made his stage debut in pantomime at the London Palladium in 1937 and had his first film role the following year.
While he initially worked in the West End during the early years of the Second World War, he was called up in 1942, putting his acting career on hold. However, he declared unfit for service in 1944 due to a neurological condition that caused him to be partially paralysed.
After the war, he returned to the theatre and in the 1950s cemented his talented for on-screen portrayals of English stereotypes.
He appeared in Carry On Nurse and Carry On Teacher in 1959 and Carry On Constable in 1960, after which he said he wouldn’t appear in any more films for the franchise. However, he returned in 1992 for Carry On Columbus.
Appearing in the film series, he became known for his much-quoted catchphrases: “Ding dong!” and “He-llo.”
Phillips voiced the Sorting Hat in 2001’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, a role her reprised in its sequel in 2002 and the eighth film in 2011.
He also starred opposite Angelina Jolie in 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. His last film role came one year after the final Harry Potter film in 2012.
Phillips was married three times, first to actor Penelope Bartley in 1948, with whom he had four children. The couple divorced in 1965.
He then married actor Angela Scoular in 1981, who he remained with until her death in 2011. In 2013, he and Carr tied the knot.
Tributes have poured in following the news of Phillips’s death.
“RIP Leslie Phillips,” author Martin Knight tweeted. “You didn’t quite Carry On until 100, but Ding Dong! You had a spiffing good try.”
Actor Stuart Antony commented: “The wonderful Leslie Phillips CBE has left us. Aged 98. A true gentleman, fantastic actor and the nicest man I’ve ever met. His stories were the best.. RIP Leslie Phillips.”
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