Sir Paul pays tribute to ‘irreverent’ actor
Sir Paul McCartney led tributes to his actor friend Victor Spinetti, who starred in three Beatles movies, praising his “irreverent wit and exuberant personality”.
Mr Spinetti, a versatile star of stage and screen, has died at the age of 82 after fighting pancreatic cancer.
The Welsh-born actor, who won a Tony award for his Broadway role in Oh! What A Lovely War, had a stage career stretching more than half a century and starred in films alongside Elizabeth Taylor.
Sir Paul − who struck up a friendship with Mr Spinetti as they filmed A Hard Day’s Night − said: “Victor was a fine man, a great pal and a fantastic actor and someone I am proud to have known for many years.
“His irreverent wit and exuberant personality will remain in my memory forever. I will miss his loyal friendship, as will all the others who were lucky enough to know and love the wonderful Mr Spinetti.”
His close friend, actress Barbara Windsor, called him a “wonderful man who was full of great stories”.
Mr Spinetti was easily able to turn his hand from serious roles with the Royal Shakespeare Company to parts in TV sitcoms. He was also a successful stage director and became known for his appearances in a Jaffa Cake advertising campaign.
However, for many, Mr Spinetti will always be known for his roles in The Beatles’ three live action films − A Hard Day’s Night, Help! and Magical Mystery Tour.
Mr Spinetti landed his role in the first of the Beatles’ films following the successful London production of Oh! What a Lovely War, which was seen by George Harrison and John Lennon, as well as the director and screenwriter for 1964’s A Hard Day’s Night, Walter Shenson and Alun Owen.
“I was known to them. But I wasn’t prepared for the fantastic and wonderful reception I got from them, which was to be totally accepted,” he recalled of their meeting.
“We just sat and talked to each other as if we’d known each other our whole lives.”
After hitting it off with the group, they insisted he appeared in their subsequent acted films.
Mr Spinetti went on to make more than 30 film appearances including The Return of the Pink Panther and Under Milk Wood with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, with whom he had also shared a screen in Franco Zeffirelli’s The Taming of the Shrew. He continued his rock and roll connections by featuring in Prince’s Under The Cherry Moon.
After a successful run in London, Mr Spinetti won a Tony for his performance in Oh! What a Lovely War, one of the productions that came out of his six-year stint with Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop.
It was during one of these productions that he struck up his lifelong friendship with Ms Windsor.
She said: “He was such a great man. Liz Taylor and Richard Burton wanted him at their parties. The Beatles loved him. They wouldn’t do a film without him.”
She added: “He was such a good actor because he took notice of people and used their characters. He portrayed them wonderfully, whatever he did.”
Comedian and actor Rob Brydon was among those to speak fondly of him. He said: “A lovely man who I was lucky to call a friend.”
Ringo Starr also paid tribute to the actor, saying: “It was a pleasure the time we worked with Victor. He was a good man and I send my condolences to his family. Peace and love, Ringo.”