Nigel Hawthorne

Multiple award-winning thesp was known as Sir Humphrey

Nigel Hawthorne, the actor known around the world as Machiavellian civil servant Sir Humphrey in the British television series “Yes, Minister,” died Wednesday. He was 72.

Hawthorne died of a heart attack at his home in Hertfordshire, north of London, his agent Ken McReddie said. Hawthorne had recently undergone chemotherapy for cancer.

“He was a brilliant actor and a wonderful friend. I feel very sad and extremely cut up,” McReddie said.

Born in Coventry, England, in 1929 and raised in South Africa, Hawthorne forged a theater career in Britain during the 1950s and ’60s, but achieved worldwide fame as Sir Humphrey Appleby in “Yes, Minister.” The satirical series about a hapless government minister outsmarted by devious civil servants reportedly was Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s favorite program.

The series and its sequel, “Yes, Prime Minister,” ran from 1980-87, bringing Hawthorne five BAFTA Awards for his portrayal.

On the stage, Hawthorne won a Tony Award for his depiction of writer C.S. Lewis in “Shadowlands” in 1991, and an Olivier Award as best actor for his portrayal of the English monarch in “The Madness of George III” in 1992. He was nominated for an actor Oscar for the film adaptation, “The Madness of King George.”

He most recently appeared in the TNT movie “Call Me Claus,” playing Santa Claus opposite Whoopi Goldberg.

Hawthorne was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1999.

Hawthorne is survived by his longtime companion, theater manager Trevor Bentham.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.

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