Academy award winning UK actor Sir Alec Guinness has died after a 60-year career ranging from Shakespeare to Star Wars.

The 86 year old actor died late on Saturday after reportedly being rushed to hospital by ambulance on Thursday. He had been suffering from ill health for several years.

Guinness, who picked up an Oscar for his role in The Bridge On The River Kwai, was renowned as one of the UK's greatest and most versatile actors. He started out on the stage with roles including playing Hamlet in modern dress at London's Old Vic. After serving with the Royal Navy during World War 2, he made his feature debut with Great Expectations in 1946.

His career included famous Ealing comedies such as Kind Hearts And Coronets, The Ladykillers and The Lavender Hill Mob, plus David Lean's epics Lawrence Of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago. He reportedly asked director George Lucas to kill off his character Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars, telling British press he wanted to escape from having to say "those bloody awful lines".

Guinness married the playwright Merula Salaman in 1938 and had one son, Matthew.