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  1. ITV Report

Wallace and Gromit star Peter Sallis dies at age 96

Peter Sallis best known for roles in Last of the Summer Wine and as the voice of Wallace in Wallace and Gromit has died aged 96.

The actor died peacefully on Friday with his family by his side his agents have said.

The actor died peacefully on Friday with his family by his side his agents have said. Credit: PA Images

Mr Sallis became a household name as mild-mannered Norman Clegg in the comedy Last Of The Summer Wine, Britain's longest-running sitcom.

But it was his role playing loveable inventor Wallace in Nick Park and Bristol-based Aardman's animated films which made his voice known around the world.

Wallace And Gromit scooped two Oscars and Sallis was delighted to have such success late in life.

It is pleasing knowing millions are going to see your work and enjoy it.

To still be involved in a project like this at my age is heart-warming.

To have a legacy like this is very comforting. I am very lucky to have been involved.

– Peter Sallis
Peter Sallis is presented wit a cake by Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park. Credit: Aardman

Nick Park paid tribute to the actor, saying "he was always my first and only choice for Wallace".

He said: "Working with Peter was always a delight and I will miss his wry, unpredictable humour and silliness – that started the moment he greeted you at the door, and didn’t stop when the mic was switched off.

"He had naturally funny bones and was a great storyteller and raconteur off stage too and would keep us amused for hours. He could make the simplest incident sound hilarious - just by the way he said it.

"When I look back I’m so blessed and fortunate that he had the generosity of spirit to help out a poor film school student back in the early 1980’s, when we first recorded together, when neither of us had any idea what Wallace & Gromit might become."

Peter's unique, charming quality, together with oversized vowels and endearing performance, helped me fashion Wallace from the beginning; the way he first said "We've forgotten the Crackers Gromit" and "Cracking toast Gromit" or just "Cheeeese!" soon lead to Wallace's enormous 'coat-hanger mouth'.

They don't come along very often like Peter Sallis - he was a unique character, on and off screen, and an absolute honour to have known him.

– Nick Park
Mr Sallis was perhaps best known for his work on Wallace and Gromit. Credit: PA Images

Mr Sallis was born in Middlesex, and initially had little interest in drama, signing up for a career in banking.

It was the Second World War that changed the course of his life.

He joined the RAF, but failed his aircrew medical and instead became a radio instructor in Lincolnshire.

It was there that he began taking part in amateur shows and quickly realised he had found his calling.

Nick Park said Peter Sallis was always his Credit: Aardman

In 1983 student Nick Park wrote to Sallis asking him to be the voice of a clay character called Wallace.

The actor agreed to do it in exchange for a £50 fee to his favourite charity.

But it was not until 1989 that the first Wallace and Gromit film, A Grand Day Out, finally reached the screen.

The short film was nominated for an Oscar.

Its follow-ups The Wrong Trousers (1993) and A Close Shave (1995) were Oscar winners. Each also won a Bafta.

Wallace and Gromit's first feature-length movie, The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit, was released in 2005 and became a box office hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

Mr Park said his creations owed much of their popularity to Sallis.

He told ITV News that he had contacted Sallis as a "long shot" and was delighted and astonished when the actor agreed.

The animator said that it has been "wonderful and a privilege" to know and work with him.

"I feel so grateful that he agreed to do Wallace and there was never another choice for me," he said.

"The charm and the qualities that he brought have always been so endearing and appealing."

The actor received an OBE for services for drama in 2007. Credit: PA Images

Mr Sallis was given an OBE for services for drama in the Queen's Birthday Honours in 2007.

He said at the time: "I don't even dream about these things, which is probably just as well.... but it means a lot to me."

However he had said he as glad that it was his voice, not his face, that was most well known.

"No-one stops me when I speak or when they see me in the street. That's the way I like it," he said.

Credit: Aardman