Stars including Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson and Tim Roth have paid tribute to writer, director and actor David Leland following his death at the age of 82.
The British star died on Christmas Eve, “held tight by his loving family”, his agent confirmed.
In a career spanning more than five decades, he was known for writing two hit films about British madam Cynthia Payne, the first titled Personal Services and starring Dame Julie Walters.
The second, Wish You Were Here, marked his directorial debut and won a BAFTA for best original screenplay, as well as the Fipresci prize at the Cannes film festival.
Leland also won an Emmy for his directing of an episode of the US war drama Band Of Brothers in 2002, and was both a director and writer for The Borgias.
‘An essential part of my story’
Image: Pic: AP/Chris Pizzello Paying tribute, Brosnan, 70, said Leland held “a mighty place in my heart” for giving him a chance not long after he had left the former Drama Centre school in London, of which Leland was an alumni.
He had given the James Bond star his first stage role in the British premiere of Tennessee Williams’ The Red Devil Battery Sign at the Roundhouse.
“It was the thrill of my young lifetime to be cast as McCabe, working with David and Tennessee,” Brosnan said. “David will forever be an essential part of my story and of all who knew and loved him.”
Leland’s directorial credits also included The Big Man in 1990, starring Neeson, Sir Billy Connolly and Hugh Grant.
‘You are always in my heart, old friend’
Image: Pic: Scott Garfitt/Invision/AP Neeson, 71, described him as “a dream” to work with.
“He was a real collaborator,” he said. “He genuinely loved and admired actors. We formed a close bond.
“I loved his mischievous sense of humour. You are always in my heart, old friend. See you down the road.”
Leland initially trained as an actor at the Central Speech of School and Drama, and appeared in several productions before moving into stage management at the Crucible Theatre.
His credits for screenwriting and directing include Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa, starring Sir Michael Caine and Bob Hoskins, and Made In Britain, starring Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs star Tim Roth in his first film role.
“David was there at the very beginning of this crazy adventure,” Roth, 62, said. “He changed my life, and I love him for it. I’ll keep him with me always.”
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Leland directed films including The Land Girls with Rachel Weisz and Anna Friel, and returned to the stage to direct the musical A Tribute To The Blues Brothers – which played in the West End and toured for 10 years across the UK and Australia.
In a statement, BAFTA paid tribute, saying: “We are saddened to hear that director and writer David Leland has died at the age of 82.”
Leland won a Grammy for best long-form music video for Concert For George – a memorial music event at the Royal Albert Hall in honour of George Harrison. He was a close friend of the late Beatles star and worked as a director on the guitarist’s 1988 film Checking Out.
He also directed videos for other musical stars including Tom Petty and The Traveling Wilburys.
He is survived by his wife Sabrina, his four daughters and six grandchildren “all of whom he loved almost as much as Arsenal Football Club”.