RIP Boycie | Only Fools And Horses star John Challis dies at 79

RIP Boycie

Only Fools And Horses star John Challis dies at 79

Only Fools And Horses star John Challis has died at the age of 79, his family has announced.

The news comes just a fortnight after it was revealed that he had secretly living with cancer for two years

In a statement, his family said: ‘It is with heavy hearts that we bring you such sad news.

‘Our dear friend and yours, John Challis, has died peacefully in his sleep, after a long battle with cancer.

‘He will always be loved for being Boycie and leaves a great legacy of work that will continue to bring pleasure and smiles for many years to come.

‘Please respect the privacy of John's family and friends at this difficult time, and be assured that in the future there will be an occasion to celebrate John's life when everybody will be welcome to come along.’

Sir David, who played Del Boy’Trotter in Only Fools and Horses, said in a statement: ‘It is with much sadness to hear that John Challis, a dear friend, has passed away. He was a wonderful actor, a Gentleman in the true sense of the word, and I know he will be missed by so many.

‘We had known each other for well over 40 years when he appeared in the second episode of Only Fools and Horses as Boycie. A character so well loved by the many fans of that show so I am pleased that he witnessed the outpouring of admiration recently shown for the 40th Anniversary of the first episode in 1981. I send my love and condolences to his wife, Carol.’

Sue Holderness, who played Boycie’s wife Marlene, added: ‘Marlene without Boycie – it’s unthinkable. John Challis was my partner on screen and stage for 36 years and my beloved friend. RIP darling John. I will miss you every day.’

The actor had been due to undertake 30 ‘audience with’ shows around the UK this autumn, but cancelled the run after the first one earlier this month because of ill health A statement from the promoters at the time said: 'John received a cancer diagnosis two years [ago] and is not fit to perform.’

Challis was recently offered honorary citizenship of Serbia, where Only Fools remains a huge hit, as described in his documentary, Boycie In Belgrade.

The city’s deputy mayor Goran Vesic said: ‘Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said to me she would give the passport to him personally when he comes to Belgrade.'

Challis told the Mirror: 'I was just flabbergasted. It's the greatest thing that's ever happened to me really.’

He reprised the role of Boycie for the Only Fools spin-off The Green Green Grass from 2005 to 2009 and  is also known for playing Monty Staines from the seventh series onwards in Benidorm from 2015 to 2018.

Comedian Crissy Rock, who also appeared in the ITV sitcom, tweeted: 'John you were a true gentleman and always so loving and supportive towards me. I am thinking of your family and close friends at this hard time. Rest well. Crissy xx'

Challis was born in Bristol in 1942 but moved to south-east London with his parents when he was one.

One of his earlier screen roles was in the 1970s, when he made regular appearances in Z-Cars as Sergeant Culshaw.

The 1979  sitcom Bloomers was based on Challis's experience working at a garden centre while taking a break from acting, after writer James Saunders got chatting to him at work. Beckinsale died suddenly from a heart attack during its filming, so only five episodes were made.

Other television appearances include Dixon of Dock Green,  The Sweeney, Doctor Who , Citizen Smith, Ever Decreasing Circles,  One Foot in the Grave, Open All Hours, The New Statesman and  Brass Eye – where Chris Morris  tricked him into believing Clive Anderson had been shot by Noel Edmonds.

This month marks 40 years  since the first episode of Only Fools And Horses aired.

Published: 19 Sep 2021

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