Oscar-winning actor Paul Scofield, who had strong connections with the Birmingham theatre scene has died peacefully in a hospital near his Sussex home, aged 86.
He had been diagnosed with leukaemia, his agent Rosalind Ms Chatto added.
Scofield was considered one of the greatest actors of his generation, winning an Oscar in 1966 for his portrayal of the Tudor statesman Sir Thomas More in the film of Robert Bolt’s A Man For All Seasons.
He made his name on the London stage, playing many of the greatest roles in theatre and winning several Baftas. Scofield was appointed a CBE in 1956 after an appearance in Peter Brook’s Hamlet in Moscow. But he twice rejected a knighthood - because he wanted to remain "plain Mister".
However, in the 2001 New Year Honours he became a Companion of Honour, which ranks with a knighthood but is only held by 65 people at any one time.
Scofield was born on January 21, 1922 in Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex, where his father was the village schoolmaster. He was educated at Varndean School for Boys in Brighton, where, wearing blond plaits, he played Juliet and Rosalind.
He joined Croydon Repertory Theatre at the age of 17 to train as a professional actor. His first professional role was a walk-on part in Desire Under The Elms at the Westminster Theatre in 1940.
But his first real break came when he joined Basil C Langton's touring company in Birmingham in 1942. He played Horatio in Hamlet, and his wife-to-be Joy Parker played Ophelia. They married in 1943.
He returned to Birmingham and the repertory company where his most notable roles were as Konstantin in The Seagull, Philip the Bastard in King John, and Doctor Wangel in Ibsen's The Lady From The Sea.
It was towards the end of the war, that Scofield met Peter Brook, and a lifelong friendship ensued.
Scofield went to Stratford-upon-Avon for three years, where he played some of the great Shakespearean roles, including Henry V, Lucio in Measure For Measure, Mercutio in Romeo And Juliet, a long, blond-haired Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Pericles, rounding off that period with a highly-acclaimed performance of Hamlet - and he was still only 26.
His career never faltered. Although his first love was the stage, he appeared in more than a dozen films, including Robert Redford's film Quiz Show in 1995, while his TV work included the BBC's £4 million adaptation of Charles Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit the previous year. Other roles which brought him fame included Alexander the Great in Adventure Story, written for him by Terence Rattigan, the whisky priest in The Power And The Glory, King Lear, Frederic in Anouilh's Ring Around The Moon, and Macbeth.
Other than his Oscar-winning performance, he was probably best known as the tormented composer Salieri in Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus.
He became noted for being highly selective about the roles he took on - and, as a notoriously private person, for steering clear of interviews. His presence was described as "monumental but reassuring" and his voice compared variously to a Rolls-Royce being started up and a sound rumbling up from an antique crypt.
Scofield leaves a widow, a son and a daughter.