Veteran thesp won 13 best actor awards

Bill Flynn, one of South Africa’s most respected actors, died of a heart attack July 11 in Johannesberg. He was 58.

Flynn was known for his comedy roles on stage, film and television in a career that spanned more than 140 stage plays, 42 films, dozens of television shows and thousands of radio and television spots.

He was also a skilled serious actor, winning 13 best actor awards including the Dublin Critics Award for Athol Fugard’s “Hello and Goodbye” and honors for his favourite stage role, Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman.”

At the time of his death he was involved in two productions — Stephen Sondheim’s “A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum,” which has now been cancelled, and “Fiddler On The Roof.”

His long-time close friend and collaborator Paul Slabolepsky, with whom he worked closely on stage and film productions since they met at the University of Cape Town 40 years ago, said South Africa had lost a “brilliant creative artist” who was one of the world’s “top comedic talents.” He said they had spent “thousands of nights making mayhem” together on and off stage ever since they met.

Flynn and Slabolepsky wrote and starred in plays and films like “Heel Against The Head” and “Running Riot,” which successfully tapped into the South African funny bone, using real-life events like the Rugby World Cup and the annual 90 km Comrades Marathon. They showed that their comedy could also travel, receiving acclaim for “Saturday Night at the Palace” when they staged it in London at the Old Vic Theater.

Slabolepsky said they had been planning another comedy project for Tjokkie and Crispin, the well-loved characters from “Heel Against the Head” and “Running Riot,” around the 2010 Soccer World Cup to be held in South Africa, but he would not do it without his friend.

He is survived by his wife, actress Jana Cilliers, and son Ryan, who recently made his professional acting debut.

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