Barry Norman, the veteran British movie critic and former host of the U.K.’s top TV show about cinema, who had a strong influence on movie-going in the country over several decades, has died at the age of 83. He died in his sleep on Friday, according to his family.

Norman fronted BBC movie-show “Film” from 1972 to 1998 — interviewing the hottest Hollywood actors and filmmakers of the period — and became one of the U.K.’s top celebrities. He had started his career as a print journalist on the Kensington News, and was the Daily Mail’s show-biz editor. He also contributed to several other newspapers, including the Guardian, the Times and the Observer, and wrote a number of books.

He remained a hard-nosed journalist throughout his career, and wasn’t afraid to ask tough questions, leading to dramatic confrontations with A-listers like Robert De Niro, Mel Gibson and John Wayne, with whom he clashed over the Vietnam War.

BBC director general Tony Hall, who described Norman as a “first-class” TV host and critic, said: “Film buffs always found his programs essential viewing. He dominated broadcasting about films for a generation with wit and great knowledge. He will be greatly missed and our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

Fellow British film critics paid tribute to Norman on Saturday in lengthy eulogies. The Telegraph’s Tim Robey wrote: “With his avuncular fireside manner and witty way with an eyebrows-raised verdict, he brought thousands of films into the conversation.”

He married novelist Diana Norman in 1957, and the couple had two daughters, Samantha and Emma. Diana died of heart failure in 2011. His daughters said in a statement: “He had a great life, a wonderful marriage and an enviable career. He leaves behind a family who adore him and a great roster of friends who love him too. We will miss him more than we can say.”

Barry Norman

Barry Norman with Ethan and Joel Coen (Courtesy of Alan Davidson/Silverhub/REX/Shutterstock)