Peaky Blinders, Harry Potter actor Helen McCrory dies, aged 52

British actor Helen McCrory, who starred in the television show Peaky Blinders and the Harry Potter movies, has died, her husband said today. She was 52 and had been suffering from cancer.

Peaky Blinders and Harry Potter actor Helen McCrory. Source: Associated Press

Her husband, fellow actor Damian Lewis, said McCrory died “peacefully at home” after a "heroic battle with cancer.”

“She died as she lived. Fearlessly,” Lewis wrote on Twitter. "God we love her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives. She blazed so brightly. Go now, Little One, into the air, and thank you.”

McCrory was one of Britain’s most respected actors, making her mark by playing a succession of formidable and sometimes fearsome women.

She played matriarch of the Shelby crime family Polly Gray on Peaky Blinders and the scheming Voldemort ally Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies.

New Zealand actor Sam Neill, who starred as Major Chester Campbell on Peaky Blinders, paid tribute to the late actor, writing on social media that he was "devastated" over his friend's passing. 

"She was one of the great actors of our time. And a truly great woman Sharp, witty, generous and immensely skilled. Riotously funny ... and SO DAMN COOL," he wrote. 

"Heartbroken for Damien and her family she adored. So young. So unfair. What a sweetheart. I was so fortunate to work opposite her. She was the Real Deal."

McCrory also starred as a human rights lawyer dragged into international intrigue in the TV thriller Fearless, played lawyer Cherie Blair, wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in the 2006 movie The Queen, and had roles in Martin Scorsese's film Hugo and the James Bond thriller Skyfall.

Actor Michael Sheen, who played Tony Blair in The Queen, said McCrory was “so funny, so passionate, so smart and one of the greatest actors of our time.”

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling tweeted that she was “devastated to learn of the death of Helen McCrory, an extraordinary actress and a wonderful woman who’s left us far too soon.”

Onstage, McCrory's roles included the vengeful Greek heroine Medea at the National Theatre in 2014. At the same theatre, she excelled as a woman caught between a dull husband and a feckless lover in Terence Rattigan's The Deep Blue Sea in 2016.

While many performers struggle to find meaty female roles in film and television, McCrory played a string of them.

“Having said that, there are a lot of things I turn down,” she told The Associated Press in 2016, describing the sort of roles where “all your lines are ‘But what did you do at work?’ 'That’s so clever, darling.′ ‘How did you do that?’ ‘And then what did you do?’”

“Of course, there’s so much sexism within the profession," McCrory said. "But I think you approach it in different ways, and my approach is just to forge forward.”

Others remembered McCrory for her charity work, including on FeedNHS, a campaign to provide meals for frontline health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Helen McCrory will be remembered not just for her remarkable stage and screen performances, but also for her selflessness and generosity," comedian Matt Lucas tweeted. “She and Damian were the motor driving FeedNHS, working tirelessly during the pandemic to raise millions for others. What a tremendous loss.”

McCrory and Lewis, star of the TV series Homeland and Billions, married in 2007 and had two children.