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Saturday 16 December 2017

Tributes to an acting legend

A man of 'great wit and talent', 'Strumpet City' star dies at 82

David Kelly
David Kelly
David Kelly stars alonside Johnny Depp and Freddie Highmore as 'Grandpa Joe' in 'Charlie and The Chocolate Factory'
David Kelly with his wife Laurie
David Kelly playing the role of 'Rashers' Tierney with Cyril Cusack in 'Strumpet City'

Colm Kelpie, Ken Sweeney and Grainne Cunnigham

TRIBUTES poured in last night for renowned actor David Kelly, who has died at the age of 82.

Dublin-born Mr Kelly had a career that spanned six decades and had one of the best known voices and faces of stage and screen.

In Ireland, he was perhaps best remembered by older audiences for his portrayal of 'Rashers' Tierney in the highly regarded television adaptation of 'Strumpet City' in the 1980s.

But children will know him for his iconic performance as the loveable Grandpa Joe in Tim Burton's 2005 remake of 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'.

He also has a string of movie accolades under his belt, including 'Stardust' and 'Into the West.'

Mr Kelly's hilarious nude scene on a motorcycle in the Irish comedy 'Waking Ned' helped propel the whimsical Lotto comedy to a massive take at the box office here.

In Britain, he made a memorable performance as inept Irish builder O'Reilly in the hit comedy series 'Fawlty Towers' and Mr Kelly also played one-armed waiter Albert Riddle in 1970s sitcom 'Robin's Nest'.

Aside from his television work, he was widely known for his stage performances.

In 2005, Mr Kelly received the IFTAs' Lifetime Achievement Award. Director Tim Burton and actor Colin Farrell were among those to pay tribute to him.

Last night, Michael Colgan, Dublin's Gate Theatre's director, described him as an old fashioned gentleman, and a master craftsman.

"He was an extraordinary versatile talent," Mr Colgan told the Irish Independent.

"David was one of the funniest people I've ever met."

Mr Colgan said the Gate Theatre was his theatrical home and that Mr Kelly was adored by everybody who knew him.

"He was just a terribly brilliant man. A great actor," Mr Colgan added.

"I loved his company. He was a genuine wit. Besides being a very moving actor, he had great comic timing."

Mr Kelly had been a heavy drinker and the veteran actor once joked that it was only in 1972 that he realised that JFK had been shot.

He was also a talented painter and had once presented Mr Colgan with a painting of The Gate for his birthday.

Irish actor Bryan Murray, who appeared alongside Mr Kelly in RTE's 'Strumpet City' said: "I was a young actor of 26 when I filmed 'Strumpet City' with him.

"David was a delight to work with and very generous during filming. He taught me how to do up a bow tie.


"He was one of our best actors, and a man with style and a wit of his own.

"For instance, the first question he would always ask when he met you was, 'Are you working?'

"If you were lucky enough to say, 'I am', he would ask, 'Is the money any good', and then, 'Is there anything in it for me?'"

Mr Kelly's long time friend Niall Toibin told the Irish Independent: "David was an incredible actor with an incredible range and a wonderful comedian.

"I first bumped into him around 1957 but we didn't become friends until we were both working together in London during the 60s.

"We had some great times," he added.

When it was announced he was getting a Lifetime Achievement Award, Mr Kelly spoke of his relish at playing a bad guy in the upcoming thriller 'The Kovak Box'.

"I play the most evil man in the world. It's great fun being the bad guy," he revealed.

"I spend my time killing people off."

He also joked that while he was 76 at the time, some people "seem to think I've been 76 for years".

Mr Kelly revealed how he modelled Grandpa Joe on his own father.

"My father was the most wonderful man I ever knew. He was fantastic."

Three years ago, the veteran actor took to the stage for an intimate conversation with members of the Irish Film and Television Academy.

In his usual comic style, Mr Kelly promised to try "not to monotonise the conversation".

He is survived by his wife Laurie Norton, his son David and his daughter Miriam.

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