Legendary TV actor Dennis Waterman has died at the age of 74, his family has announced.

Waterman was one of the most popular television actors of the 1970s in 80s. He starred as bodyguard Terry McCann in Minder after first finding fame as tough nut cop George Carter in The Sweeney.

In more recent years, he starred as Gerry Standing in the BBC’s New Tricks, and throughout his career other TV roles included ITV’s Where The Heart Is, The Canterbury Tales and Moses Jones, both for the BBC..

In a statement, his family said he died today in Spain with his wife Pam at his side.

Dennis Waterman, right, was one of the most popular television actors of the 70s and 80s. Pictured here with Minder co-star George Cole

Waterman pictured in character as Terry McCann on location during filming of the television series Minder in London in October 1979

Waterman pictured in character as Terry McCann on location during filming of the television series Minder in London in October 1979

George Cole (left) and Dennis Waterman pictured together in character as Arthur Daley and Terry McCann during filming of Minder

George Cole (left) and Dennis Waterman pictured together in character as Arthur Daley and Terry McCann during filming of Minder

Waterman (pictured far right) poses for a photograph with John Thaw (left) and comedic legends Ernie Wise and Eric Morecambe (centre) in 1978

Waterman (pictured far right) poses for a photograph with John Thaw (left) and comedic legends Ernie Wise and Eric Morecambe (centre) in 1978

The actor 'passed away very peacefully' at hospital in Spain this afternoon with his wife Pam by his side, his family said in the statement

The actor ‘passed away very peacefully’ at hospital in Spain this afternoon with his wife Pam by his side, his family said in the statement

Waterman (left) and George Cole at the Theatre Royal in London in 1982. Waterman's extensive career also included numerous stints on the stage

Waterman (left) and George Cole at the Theatre Royal in London in 1982. Waterman’s extensive career also included numerous stints on the stage

Dennis Waterman pictured leaving Reading Crematorium for the funeral of Minder co-star George Cole in 2015

Dennis Waterman pictured leaving Reading Crematorium for the funeral of Minder co-star George Cole in 2015

Waterman with New Tricks co-star Amanda Redman arriving for the Galaxy British Book Awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel in March 2007

Waterman with New Tricks co-star Amanda Redman arriving for the Galaxy British Book Awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel in March 2007

They stated: ‘We are deeply saddened to announce that our beloved Dennis passed away very peacefully at his home in Spain. The family kindly ask that our privacy is respected at this very difficult time.’

Tributes have flooded in as news broke of Waterman’s death.

Producer Jonathan Sothcott tweeted: ‘Dennis Waterman was one of our biggest TV stars throughout the 70s and 80s, an everyman figure who felt like one of us. A naturalistic, nuanced actor. 

‘Terrific in The Sweeney, unforgettable in Minder (helluva song too, lampoonery aside). They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.’

Actor Stuart Anthony said: ‘Dennis Waterman has left us. What a fantastic talent and lovely man. Such a loss to the industry. RIP.’

Newsreader Kay Burley posted: ‘A brilliant actor who was a staple on our screens throughout the 70s and 80s. Loved The Sweeney. Loved Minder more.’

DIY SOS presenter Nick Knowles also today reminisced about a charity golf trip he took alongside Waterman.

Knowles tweeted: ‘I played golf on a tour to Bermuda with Dennis Waterman – I’m not much of a golfer – he was – but it was time spent with him between rounds that were well worth the trip. A genuinely lovely guy. RIP.’ 

And presenter and comedian Paddy McGuinness said he had always wanted to be the character of Waterman’s Terry McCann.

In a tweet, he wrote: ‘Myself and my Phoenix Nights cast mates used to sing the theme tune to Minder on tour and on the Karaoke! 

‘Gutted I never got to meet him, always wanted to be Terry McCann. Another icon from my childhood gone. RIP Dennis Waterman.’

Journalist John Sweeney tweeted: ‘RIP Dennis Waterman. The Sweeney was everything great TV drama should be: gritty, honest, true.’

Actor and writer Reece Shearsmith added: ‘RIP Dennis Waterman. When I worked with him on “New Tricks” he made me the best cups of tea.

‘And of course I just spent the time grilling him about “Scars of Dracula”.’

Former Eastenders and Rise of the Footsoldier actor Craig Fairbrass said: ‘Truly upset & gutted hearing this news. I loved him – my days will never be the same watching ITV4 Sweeney & Minder. Quality classic TV. RIP Dennis x’

Dennis Waterman (right) pictured with fellow London cast members of My Fair Lady, Martine McCutcheon and Jonathan Pryce, making a special appearance at HMV in London's Oxford Street

Dennis Waterman (right) pictured with fellow London cast members of My Fair Lady, Martine McCutcheon and Jonathan Pryce, making a special appearance at HMV in London’s Oxford Street

Dennis Waterman and his wife Pam Flint arriving at Reading Crematorium for the funeral of George Cole in 2015

Dennis Waterman and his wife Pam Flint arriving at Reading Crematorium for the funeral of George Cole in 2015

Dennis Waterman (left) and George Cole (right) with Chris Routh during filming of Minder in 1985

Dennis Waterman (left) and George Cole (right) with Chris Routh during filming of Minder in 1985

Waterman pictured alongside Carol Lynley in 1969 film Journey to the Unknown. Waterman played Albert Baker, a young man unlucky in love who becomes attracted to a female mannequin that comes to life in his fantasies

Waterman pictured alongside Carol Lynley in 1969 film Journey to the Unknown. Waterman played Albert Baker, a young man unlucky in love who becomes attracted to a female mannequin that comes to life in his fantasies

John Thaw and Dennis Waterman on the set of their film Sweeney 2 in December 1977. The film was based on the earlier drama series

John Thaw and Dennis Waterman on the set of their film Sweeney 2 in December 1977. The film was based on the earlier drama series

Waterman (left) and John Thaw (1942-2002) in centre, pictured together in character as George Carter and Jack Regan during production of the spin-off feature film Sweeney 2

Waterman (left) and John Thaw (1942-2002) in centre, pictured together in character as George Carter and Jack Regan during production of the spin-off feature film Sweeney 2

Dennis Waterman (left) and with Minder co-star George Cole at the TV Times magazine's awards ceremony in 1985 at the height of the show's success

Dennis Waterman (left) and with Minder co-star George Cole at the TV Times magazine’s awards ceremony in 1985 at the height of the show’s success

Waterman (centre) pictured with Little Britain stars Matt Lucas and David Walliams for a special Comic Relief performance in 2006

Waterman (centre) pictured with Little Britain stars Matt Lucas and David Walliams for a special Comic Relief performance in 2006

Waterman on stage along with David Walliams (left) and Matt Lucas (right) for Little Britain's Big Night charity gala performance in aid of Comic Relief at the Hammersmith Apollo in November 2006

Waterman on stage along with David Walliams (left) and Matt Lucas (right) for Little Britain’s Big Night charity gala performance in aid of Comic Relief at the Hammersmith Apollo in November 2006

Waterman was caricatured on Little Britain by actor David Walliams and made a surprising guest appearance with Walliams and co-star Matt Lucas at the Comic Relief in 2006.

And Lucas was among many sharing tributes to the actor today, tweeting: ‘I grew up watching Dennis Waterman’s iconic performances in The Sweeney and Minder. 

‘His guest appearance in our Little Britain Live show at Hammersmith Apollo – in which he hilariously duetted with David’s absurd impersonation of him – remains the absolute highlight of my career.’

Born in London, Waterman was educated at the Corona Theatre School and began his showbiz career at a young age.

Following a role for the Children’s Film Foundation, he was invited to join Stratford’s Royal Shakespeare Company.

A role in the BBC’s adaptation of the Just William books followed and the actor would, in his later years, reflect on some of the different roles he undertook.

In 2009, he starred in the BBC’s hard-hitting drama Moses Jones, a role which he said at the time he had enjoyed because it cast him in a different light.

He added: ‘I really enjoyed it, because it was a very different kind of character – and that’s important. 

‘On television in Britain, I’m sort of the cheeky chappie, everybody’s mate, but I’ve never played anything like that in the theatre. It’s strange that you get cast as different things in different parts of the media.’

His role in 2003 drama New Tricks marked his return to a long-running show for the first time in a decade and saw him star alongside acting stalwarts James Bolam and Alun Armstrong. He initially joined the show in 2003 and featured in the role for 11 years until 2014. 

Waterman (left) pictured alongside John Thaw (right) during filming for television series The Sweeney, in which he played tough nut cop George Carter

Waterman (left) pictured alongside John Thaw (right) during filming for television series The Sweeney, in which he played tough nut cop George Carter

Waterman with Amanda Redman (left) and Diane Langton (right) promoting their then new musical Windy City, at the Victoria Palace in 1982

Waterman with Amanda Redman (left) and Diane Langton (right) promoting their then new musical Windy City, at the Victoria Palace in 1982

Waterman married actress Rula Lenska (left) in 1987, but their relationship fell apart ten years later following claims of abuse

Waterman married actress Rula Lenska (left) in 1987, but their relationship fell apart ten years later following claims of abuse

His character Gerry was part of the cold case squad, who were often at odds with their detective boss, played by Amanda Redman.

Minder was later revived by Channel 5 in 2009, but Waterman did not return for the new outing.

His extensive career also included numerous stints on the stage and he played Alfred Doolittle in a Royal National Theatre production of My Fair Lady, as well as starring in a tour production of Don’t Dress For Dinner. 

He also starred in productions of Twelfth Night, Edward Bond’s Saved at the Royal Court Theatre and Sergeant Musgrave’s Dance.

His talents did not end with acting and he had a keen interest in music, having recorded albums and singles, including songs which charted in Australia, New Zealand and Britain.

He was also part of the popular tour, Friends On Tour, which saw him take to the road alongside Sheena Easton and Gerard Kenny.

The final project of his acting career came in 2020 in the form of was Australian drama-comedy film Never Too Late. 

It followed four former prisoners of war that broke out of their camp during the Vietnam War before becoming residents in the same retirement home.

Waterman was married four times and had two daughters with second wife Patricia Maynard, one of whom is former EastEnders actress Hannah Waterman – who later played his daughter in New Tricks.

He attracted headlines when he split up with Maynard in 1987 and married actress Rula Lenska, but the marriage fell apart after ten years amid claims of abuse. In 2012, Waterman attracted controversy in an interview by stating: ‘She certainly wasn’t a beaten wife, she was hit and that’s different.’

Waterman married his fourth wife Pam Flint in 2011 after being friends for many years and they remained together until his death.

Dennis Waterman: An actor and singer whose career spanned more than six decades

Dennis Waterman was a familiar face on British television for more than six decades.

From tough cop George Carter in The Sweeney to good-hearted detective sergeant Gerry Standing in New Tricks, he was known for playing action-packed characters who had more than meets the eye.

Not one to focus on a single role, Waterman was also an accomplished singer, stage actor and film star.

Born in 1948 in Clapham, south-west London, as the youngest of nine children, he was surrounded by arts at a young age thanks to his older sister Joy, who ran her own amateur dramatics society and encouraged the rest of the Waterman children to join.

His mother also dabbled in music by playing the piano in a way which Waterman once described as an ‘East End knees-up job’.

Waterman joined the Corona Theatre School in 1959 following a suggestion from another one of his sisters and soon got work in the industry.

Dennis Waterman, whose acting and singing career spanned six decades, has died aged 74

Dennis Waterman, whose acting and singing career spanned six decades, has died aged 74

His film debut came in 1960 in the Night Train For Inverness. 

Also at the age of 12, Waterman was invited to join the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon.

He followed with the television series Just William, and spent a year in the West End playing Winthrop Parroo in The Music Man.

At 16, he starred on the West End in Carving A Statue, which marked the beginning of a recording career and a three-year engagement at the Royal Court.

During that time, his versatility as an actor was stretched in productions ranging from Edward Bond’s Saved, through to Twelfth Night and Sergeant Musgrave’s Dance.

Further stints on television and in the theatre led to him landing a role in Nell Dunn’s Up The Junction in 1967, playing Pete, a man from his native Clapham, who meets an upper class girl from Chelsea, west London, and begins dating her.

Waterman became a household name after playing the role of DS George Carter in crime series The Sweeney, in which he co-starred with John Thaw. The worldwide popularity led to two film box office smashes, Sweeney I and Sweeney II.

He later reflected fondly on his time in the show, stating in his Life And Times documentary: ‘We knew we were doing something really quite special and very different from British television.

‘There was no worry then, which I think was a help. There was no great panic about whether it was going to be a success in the ratings.

‘We just knew we had very good scripts, we had great directors, and we thought we weren’t that shabby. John [Thaw] and I were great mates and, it sounds horrible, but it was just a joy to go to work every day.’

His Sweeney success was later topped with critically acclaimed television series The Minder, where Waterman played bodyguard, or ‘minder’, Terry McCann for 10 years from 1979. He demonstrated his vocal talents by singing the theme song, I Could Be So Good for You, which peaked at number three in the UK charts in 1980.

His passion for singing led Waterman to release music with record companies EMI and DJM.

He released three albums – Down Wind Of Angels, Waterman and So Good For You – in the 1970s and 1980s and performed around the UK on a tour, dubbed Friends On Tour, with Sheena Easton and Gerard Kenny.

Waterman pictured on set for The Sweeney, in which he first found fame playing the role of tough nut cop George Carter. The series launched his career on British television

Waterman pictured on set for The Sweeney, in which he first found fame playing the role of tough nut cop George Carter. The series launched his career on British television

Waterman pictured during filming for Piers Morgan's Life Stories. He is urvived by his wife, Pam, and two daughters, Julia and Hannah

Waterman pictured during filming for Piers Morgan’s Life Stories. He is urvived by his wife, Pam, and two daughters, Julia and Hannah

Echoing the success of Sweeney, Minder was adapted into a film based on the TV series entitled Minder On The Orient Express, which was broadcast on Christmas Day in 1985.

After leaving Minder, Waterman returned to the stage for several years, starring in shows including Jeffrey Bernard in Unwell in Australia, Ireland and the UK, and My Fair Lady in the West End.

In the latter part of his career, he played Gerry Standing in the show New Tricks from 2003 to 2014.

Afterwards he semi-retired, splitting his time between his homes in Berkshire and Spain. His final film role was in the Australian comedy drama Never Too Late in 2020.

Waterman is survived by his wife, Pam, and two daughters, Julia and Hannah, who were born following his marriage to actress Patricia Maynard. 

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