British actress Helen McCrory, star of Peaky Blinders, died today at the age of 52. Her husband, fellow actor Damian Lewis, announced her death in a touching Twitter tribute to “the beautiful and mighty woman” who lost her “heroic battle with cancer.”
Exactly a year ago, Deadline’s Jake Kanter spoke with the A-list couple in the first weeks of the pandemic as part of Deadline’s “Coping With Covid-19 Crisis” series. In a lively and heartwarming interview, the two spoke of their initiative to feed frontline health care workers in the UK. In just a couple of weeks, the duo raised $1 million and built a centralized system for hot meals to be delivered to health care workers in London.
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“We haven’t slept and we’re on the phone all the time,” McCrory told Deadline in the April 2020 interview. “You’re improvising and making it up as you go along because it’s never been done before.”
McCrory was about to start filming Peaky Blinders while Lewis was shooting Billions when all Hollywood production shut down in March 2020. The one upside for the duo was that they got to be home for an unexpected extra time together Lewis and the couple’s two children will cherish following McCrory’s death. “It’s a great opportunity to spend some quality time together,” Lewis told Deadline last April. “Just doing things together, playing Monopoly, playing Risk, planting a hedge, doing some cooking together.”
In the interview, McCrory spoke about Season 6 of Peaky Blinders which was on the brink of starting production when the pandemic hit. She talked about spending one day doing hair and makeup and tests for the show, during which it dawned on much of the production team that “something very big is coming.”
“The next morning I woke and told my producer I’m not comfortable doing this anymore… Cillian Murphy did the same,” she said. “Together with the producers, we approached the BBC and said we’re going to pull this now before we have to do this down the line.” Production was halted March 16. “That all seems like a very different world at the moment. Terribly unimportant,” McCrory said three weeks later.
Postponed by the pandemic, Peaky Blinders’ sixth and final season got underway this past January. It is unclear whether McCrory shot any episodes, but her untimely death likely will change the final arc of her beloved character, Elizabeth “Polly” Gray.
McCrory also voiced Stelmaria on HBO’s His Dark Materials. She had not recorded any scenes for the fantasy drama’ upcoming third and final season when she died, so sadly her voiceover role as Asriel’s daemon will likely be recast.
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