Dallas star Larry Hagman dies aged 81

Hagman at 2012 TCM Classic Film Festival
Hagman appeared at the 2012 TCM Classic Film Festival in April. Photo: Reuters

Actor Larry Hagman, who created one of American television's most famous villains as oilman J.R. Ewing in Dallas, has lost his battle with throat cancer at the age of 81.

Hagman, who had suffered from cancer and cirrhosis of the liver in the 1990s, died at a Dallas hospital on Friday afternoon.

"Larry was back in his beloved Dallas re-enacting the iconic role he loved most," his family said in a statement.

"Larry's family and close friends had joined him in Dallas for the Thanksgiving holiday. When he passed, he was surrounded by loved ones.

"It was a peaceful passing, just as he had wished for. The family requests privacy at this time."

Linda Gray, a long-time friend who starred alongside him in the TV show, called him her "best friend for 35 years", her agent told the BBC. In a statement, she added:

He was the Pied Piper of life and brought joy to everyone he knew. He was creative, generous, funny, loving and talented and I will miss him enormously.

He was an original and lived life to the full.

Hagman became a star in 1965 in the TV comedy series ‘I Dream of Jeannie’, in which he played an astronaut.

He landed the role of merciless oil magnate JR Ewing, the character at the centre of the show Dallas, in 1977.

Earlier this year, Hagman appeared in a new 10-episode series of Dallas, with a second series in production and due to run next year.