Earl Cameron, one of the first black actors to forge a successful career in British film and television, has died aged 102, his family has confirmed.
Bermuda-born Cameron, who lived with his wife in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, died in his sleep on Friday.
Cameron first appeared on screen in the 1951 film Pool of London, in a rare starring role for a black actor.
His family said he “was an inspirational man who stood by his moral principles”. Cameron was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2009 New Year Honours.
His other screen credits include 1965 Bond movie Thunderball and Doctor Who. His family said they “have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and respect they have received”.
“As an artist and actor he refused to accept roles that demeaned or stereotyped the character of people of colour,” they added. “He will be very sadly missed.”
Actor David Harewood called Cameron “a total legend”.
Bermuda Premier David Burt tweeted: “I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of iconic Bermudian actor Earl Cameron.”
Paterson Joseph, who recently starred as Kamal Hadley in the BBC’s Noughts and Crosses series, said Cameron was a “giant man”, whose “pioneering shoulders are what my generation of actors stand on”.
Artistic director Sir Matthew Bourne, said he was a “groundbreaker” with a “great legacy”.
Family friend Martin Beckett said: “He’s a great character, very spiritual, very modest, we’re going to miss him.
“He would never take on roles that demeaned people of colour.” Cameron also starred alongside Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn in the 2005 film The Interpreter.
One of his final acting credits was for a small part in the 2010 film Inception, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page.
Speaking to the MM as he turned 100, Cameron said he wanted to see more black actors in roles.
He said: “There’s a lot of talent out there and I think the British film industry would prosper by using more black talent.”
Cameron joined the British merchant navy and arrived in the UK in 1939.
He told the Royal Gazette he made his debut in the chorus of Chu Chin Chow, a West End show, when he was working as a dishwasher at a restaurant and they needed someone quickly.
I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of iconic #Bermudian actor Earl Cameron. I join the Bermuda community in celebrating his long and remarkable life. On behalf of the Government and people of Bermuda I express my sincerest condolences to his wife, children and family. pic.twitter.com/J9LBGEJxMJ
— Premier David Burt – wears a mask you should too! (@BermudaPremier) July 4, 2020
RIP Earl Cameron who has died aged 102! Sad that we didn’t see more opportunities given to this fine actor during his long career… but a groundbreaker certainly and a great legacy to celebrate today! #EarlCameron #BlackActorsMatter pic.twitter.com/A0rPPBEpsI
— Matthew Bourne (@SirMattBourne) July 4, 2020