British actor Robert Hardy - known in recent years for playing Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter movies - has passed away at the age of 91, according to Variety. Hardy was born Timothy Sydney Robert Hardy in Cheltenham in 1925. While he was in school he was educated by famed authors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. He left school for awhile and joined the Royal Air Force, but eventually returned to Oxford University and completed his degree.
He began his career in theater before appearing in film and television. Many of his earliest televised roles were in recorded Shakespeare productions such as Othello, Twelfth Night, and A Midsummer Night's Dream. He also played Henry V in a series called The Age of Kings, which strung together all of Shakespeare's history plays into one long story. One of his earliest breaks was playing the title character in David Copperfield - a miniseries based on the novel by Charles Dickens.
In the 1960s Hardy's career took off. He played the husband in a British remake of Rashomon in 1961 and in 1965 Hardy appeared in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold alongside Richard Burton - who was his friend from Oxford. He also appeared alongside former member of The Beatles John Lennon in the war comedy How I Won the War and was in the miniseries The Dark Island during that decade. In 1966 he was cast in the series Mogul and stayed with the show for four years.
So very sad to hear about Robert Hardy. He was such a talented actor and everybody who worked with him on Potter loved him.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) August 3, 2017
After Mogul, Hardy appeared in 10 episodes of another TV series - Manhunt. He worked steadily in the 1970s, appearing in five different movies in 1973 alone. He also returned to playing royalty, as Prince Albert in the miniseries Edward the King. He guest starred on a number of TV shows during this time, including Upstairs, Downstairs, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and Churchill's People - without realizing what a part Winston Churchill would begin to play in his life not too long after.
In 1981, Hardy played Churchill himself - in a miniseries called Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years. His performance was so good that he ended up playing the former Prime Minister a total of five times in his career. Hardy was supposed to play Churchill again - on stage - but was forced to withdraw from the play due to injury. He also played Churchill's real life ally against Hitler, President Franklin D. Roosevelt twice.
In spite of his impressive career, Hardy did not become very known outside of England until the 1990s, when he began to appear in Hollywood movies that were filmed in the UK such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Sense and Sensibility and An Ideal Husband. In 2000 he appeared in the popular fantasy made-for-TV series The 10th Kingdom.
It was in 2002 when Hardy first played the role of Cornelius Fudge in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. He played the bumbling Minister of Magic in the following three films as well, with his last appearance in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, though his voice could be heard in the following film. Hardy said that he did not appear in the last three movies because he became too old to insure. Though readers of the books know that his character's story was pretty well told by that point.
Hardy was a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He is survived by three sons and a legacy of nearly 140 roles in film and television.
R.I.P. Robert Hardy – October 29, 1925 - August 3, 2017