Actor Dennis Waterman said his Minder co-star George Cole was a ‘wonderful man’ with whom he ‘laughed all day every day’ following the television star’s death at the age of 90.
George, whose showbusiness career spanned 70 years, is best remembered for his portrayal of small-time wheeler dealer and crook Arthur Daley in the TV show Minder, alongside his likeable bodyguard Terry McCann, played by Dennis.
He died yesterday in hospital with his family at his side after a short illness.
George Cole and Dennis Waterman, with actress Amanda Pays (PA)
New Tricks star Dennis, 67, said: “I am so sad to hear of George’s death. His family must be devastated, and I am absolutely certain that anybody who ever knew him, will feel the same.
“I’m so grateful to have been a friend of this wonderful man. We worked together for many years and my boast is that we laughed all day every day.
“He was an amazing man, a wonderful actor and besotted with his family. I had the privilege of spending Tuesday afternoon with him and Penny and although very frail his wit was as evident as ever. Farewell old friend.”
George Cole in his younger days (PA)
As the forever scheming Daley in the hit ITV show George perfectly captured the ambitious, upwardly-mobile spirit of the 1980s.
With Daley spending each episode munching on cigars as he hatched another scheme to get rich quick, his long-suffering bodyguard McCann watching over his every step to shield him from the police, and fans always wondering who ‘Er Indoors really was, Minder was one of the most popular programmes of the decade, garnering around 17.5 million viewers at its peak.
Dennis Waterman eventually left the show, with Gary Webster stepping into the role for the last two series.
Minder eventually came to an end after 15 years and 107 episodes because Cole wanted to spend more time with his own ‘Er Indoors – his wife Penny.
Gary Webster replaced Dennis Waterman on Minder (Malcolm Croft/PA)
Fellow stars of stage and screen paid tribute to the actor, describing him as ‘immaculate’ and ‘unforgettable’.
Sir Roger Moore said: “How sad to hear George Cole has gone to that great cutting room in the sky. A lovely actor. A gentleman.”
Little Britain comic Matt Lucas said he lived in Cole’s old home, revealing: “When I found out that George Cole used to live in our flat, I dug out my old Minder poster.”
He added: “I was such a fan of Minder that me and my friend Nick infiltrated the set in 1991 and got ourselves on screen!”
And The League Of Gentlemen and Doctor Who star Mark Gatiss said: “A fond farewell to the marvellous George Cole. Immaculate as the young Scrooge, joyous as Flash Harry, unforgettable as Arthur Daley. RIP.”