Aardman’s Nick Park pays tribute to ‘great storyteller and raconteur’.
Peter Sallis, the British actor who voiced Wallace from Aardman Animation’s Wallace & Gromit franchise and starred in TV show Last of The Summer Wine, has died. He was 96.
Sallis was born on February 1, 1921, in Twickenham, England. After a successful TV and stage career that had also brought great acclaim for the timbre of his voice, he signed on for his longest role as Norman Clegg alongside Brian Wilde and Bill Owen in the sitcom Last Of The Summer Wine. He appeared in all 295 episodes from 1973 until 2010.
He partnered with Bristol-based Aardman in 1993 and voiced Wallace for 15 years over various feature, short and video game iterations. He was awarded the OBE in 2007.
Sallis died at his home in London on June 2. Shortly after the news broke on Monday, Wallace & Gromit director and Aardman partner Nick Park (pictured at right with Sallis) led the tributes.
“I’m so sad, but feel so grateful and privileged to have known and worked with Peter over so many years,” Park said in a message posted on the Aardman website. “He was always my first and only choice for Wallace. I knew him of course from the very popular long running BBC series Last of the Summer Wine. He brought his unique gift and humour to all that he did, and encapsulated the very British art of the droll and understated.
“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.”
Edgar Wright tweeted: “Farewell Peter Sallis, warm and funny in Last Of The Summer Wine and just pure magic as the voice of Wallis [sic] in the Aardman animations.”