Peaky Blinders pays tribute to Helen McCrory following death aged 52

Lizzie Edmonds
·4-min read
 (Robert Viglasky/BBC/Mandabach/Tiger Aspect)
(Robert Viglasky/BBC/Mandabach/Tiger Aspect)

Peaky Blinders has paid tribute to Helen McCrory, who died aged 52.

The star’s husband - actor Damian Lewis - announced the mother-of-two had died following a battle with cancer on Friday.

Among her many celebrated roles was playing Polly Gray in Peaky Blinders. Now the show has paid tribute to the actress.

On the show’s official Instagram account, an image was posted showing a filming board illustrated with an image of Helen as Aunt Polly with the word: “Rest in Peace Helen”. The caption read: “Forever part of the Peaky Blinders family.”

Days ago, the show’s account posted a longer tribute to the star.

It read: “Helen’s performance as Polly Gray was inspirational, joyous, transgressive, hilarious and incredibly moving.

“As a person she was off-the-scale charismatic, and deeply caring. We feel so privileged to have worked with her over the last decade. All our thoughts and love are with Damian and family.”

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Actor Lewis previously paid tribute to his wife of 15 years describing her as “a meteor in our life”.

The actress was best known for playing powerful women such as Shelby family matriarch Aunt Polly in the BBC gang drama Peaky Blinders, Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter films and the home secretary in James Bond film Skyfall.

Lewis said his wife had “lived by the principle of kindness and generosity” and always took an interest in others and “made them feel special”.

Writing in the Sunday Times, he said: “I’ve never known anyone so consciously spread happiness.

“Even when dying in her last few days, when talking to our wonderful carers, she repeatedly said, ‘thank you so much’ in her half-delirious state.

“She always asked people how they were, always took an interest, made each person she met feel special, as though they were the only person in the room.

“Gave them her full attention.

“Made them laugh, always. There were few funnier people — she was funny as hell.”

Damian and Helen together at the Evening Standard Theatre AwardsDave Benett
Damian and Helen together at the Evening Standard Theatre AwardsDave Benett

Lewis said that in the weeks before her death his wife had joked about his future relationships with women, saying that “love isn’t possessive”.

“She said to us from her bed, ‘I want Daddy to have girlfriends, lots of them, you must all love again, love isn’t possessive, but you know, Damian, try at least to get though the funeral without snogging someone’,” he said.

Her Peaky Blinders co-star Cillian Murphy, who plays Thomas Shelby, said: “I am broken-hearted to lose such a dear friend.”

He continued: “Helen was a beautiful, caring, funny, compassionate human being. She was also a gifted actor – fearless and magnificent. She elevated and made humane every scene, every character she played.

“It was a privilege to have worked with this brilliant woman, to have shared so many laughs over the years. I will dearly miss my pal. My love and thoughts are with Damian and her family.”

Helen died aged 52 following a secret battle with cancerJoel Ryan/Invision/AP
Helen died aged 52 following a secret battle with cancerJoel Ryan/Invision/AP

McCrory was born in Paddington, London, to a Welsh mother and Scottish father, and was the eldest of three children.

She attended school in Hertfordshire, then spent a year living in Italy, before returning to London to study acting at the Drama Centre.

She has been a regular figure in prestige TV dramas, including the ITV hit Quiz, the BBC political series Roadkill, psychological thriller MotherFatherSon and the adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.

She was made an OBE in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to drama.

Lewis said that his wife was “fiercely proud” of her career as an actress and approached it with “a rigour, an honesty and an intelligence that made others rise to meet her”.

McCrory and Lewis married in 2007 and share a daughter Manon, born in 2006, and son Gulliver, born in 2007.

Lewis said his wife had been “utterly heroic” in her illness and told her children repeatedly she had “lived the life I wanted to”.

“She has exhorted us to be courageous and not afraid,” he said.

“She’s shown no fear, no bitterness, no self-pity, only armed us with the courage to go on and insisted that no one be sad, because she is happy,” he said.

“I’m staggered by her. She’s been a meteor in our life.”

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