Forsyte Saga's Margaret Tyzack dies after short illness

Margaret Tyzack Margaret Tyzack played Antonia in I, Claudius

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Actress Margaret Tyzack has died after a brief illness, her agent has said.

The 79-year-old made her name in the Forsyte Saga and recently appeared in BBC One soap opera EastEnders, but had to withdraw after a short stint.

Her agent said Tyzack, who is thought to have had cancer, "died peacefully at home" on Saturday with her family by her side.

A statement issued by her agent said the actress "will be greatly missed by her family and friends".

It said she will be remembered for "her outstanding contribution to the world of theatre, film and television and for the support and inspiration she gave to young actors".

"Maggie faced her illness with the strength, courage, dignity and even humour with which she lived her life," it said.

Margaret Tyzack Margaret Tyzack was made a CBE in July 2010

Brian Blessed, who starred with Tyzack in I, Claudius, told the BBC: "She was one of the most natural and great actresses of our times and also one of the greatest actresses I've ever worked with.

"She completed a huge array of work over the years in TV, film and theatre and it's such a terrible loss. She should have been made a Dame 10 times over."

Michael Grandage directed her in The Chalk Garden three years ago.

"I was fortunate enough to work with Margaret Tyzack at the Donmar where, according to many critics, she gave one of the greatest performances of her career in The Chalk Garden," he told the BBC.

"She brought an extraordinary depth to the role as well as her impeccable comic timing. There was a lot of herself invested in Mrs St Maugham - a lack of sentimentality, a great pragmatism, incredible loyalty and a huge heart. We will all miss her."

Tyzack, who was awarded the CBE last year, was best-known for her classical stage roles and won numerous awards for her stage work including two Oliviers and a Tony.

The actress landed the role of Winifred, Soames's sister, in The Forsyte Saga in 1967.

The programme became so popular vicars complained it affected attendance at Sunday evening services.

Tyzack also played Sir Derek Jacobi's mother Antonia in Roman saga I, Claudius.

'An inspiration'

She won a Tony award in 1991 for her role opposite Dame Maggie Smith in Lettice and Lovage and was seen at the National Theatre in 2009 alongside Dame Helen Mirren in Phedre.

Margaret Tyzak in EastEnders Tyzak appeared briefly in EastEnders as Janine's grandmother

In April, it was announced that Tyzack was to join EastEnders to play Lydia Simmonds, the maternal grandmother of Albert Square regular Janine Butcher.

Bryan Kirkwood, executive producer of EastEnders, said: "I'm so sad to hear the tragic news about Margaret.

"Even though we only worked together for a brief time, Margaret made a great impact with EastEnders. She was a fabulous actress and an inspiration to us all and she will be sorely missed.

Our thoughts are with her family."

Film roles

Tyzack won an Olivier award for best actress for her performance as Martha in the National Theatre's revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf in 1981.

In 2008, she picked up another Olivier for her role as the eccentric Mrs St Maugham in Grandage's revival of Enid Bagnold's The Chalk Garden at the Donmar Warehouse in London with Penelope Wilton.

After her Olivier win, she spoke out about the lack of roles for older women in theatre and television.

She also appeared in several films including Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange and Woody Allen's Match Point.

Her other TV credits include Midsomer Murders, Rosemary and Thyme, Doc Martin and Quatermass.

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