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"Harry Potter" Star Helen McCrory Has Died At 52

McCrory was best known for her work in the show Peaky Blinders and for playing Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter films.

Last updated on April 16, 2021, at 12:51 p.m. ET

Posted on April 16, 2021, at 12:09 p.m. ET

David M. Benett / Getty Images

Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory in London on Feb. 1, 2020

British actor Helen McCrory, best known for her work in the show Peaky Blinders and for playing Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter films, has died of cancer, her family announced Friday. She was 52.

Her death was announced in a statement posted to Twitter by her husband, actor Damian Lewis.

Lewis, who has starred in Homeland and Billions, said his wife died at home "surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family."

"She died as she lived," he wrote. "Fearlessly."

Twitter: @lewis_damian

McCrory played Polly Gray, matriarch to a 1920s Birmingham family of gangsters, in Peaky Blinders from the drama's debut in 2013. She told the Independent newspaper in 2016 that the role, like all those she enjoyed most, was appealing because of its complexity. "I just want to see what she feels and what she thinks,” she said.

Her costar Cillian Murphy said in a statement provided to BuzzFeed News that he was brokenhearted to have lost his friend, whom he described as a gifted actor. "She elevated and made humane every scene, every character she played," Murphy said. "It was a privilege to have worked with this brilliant woman, to have shared so many laughs over the years."

She also appeared as Madame Kali, a powerful witch, in the horror series Penny Dreadful.

McCrory had been the first choice to play murderous Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter films but had to withdraw due to pregnancy. "Insurance wouldn’t cover pregnant witches!" she later joked. The role then went to Helena Bonham Carter. In 2007, she was then cast as Narcissa, sister to Bellatrix and mother to Potter nemesis Draco Malfoy.

"Normally, it's more interesting to play the bad guy because it's usually better written," she told the Associated Press in 2011. "Good is seen in a lot of drama today as a very, very dull thing."

Potter author J.K. Rowling was among those paying tribute to the actor after her death.

I’m devastated to learn of the death of Helen McCrory, an extraordinary actress and a wonderful woman who’s left us far too soon. My deepest condolences to her family, especially her husband and children. Simply heartbreaking news.

Twitter: @jk_rowling

McCrory also played Cherie Blair, wife to former British prime minister Tony Blair, in two films: The Queen (2006) and The Special Relationship (2010). New York magazine praised her performance in the first film as "deliciously impudent": "You love Cherie when she makes an ironic show of backing out of the queen’s drawing room (one must never turn one’s back on Her Majesty)," the reviewer wrote, "and you love Elizabeth for registering the affront while keeping her smile firmly in place."

In 2017, she was honored by the real Queen Elizabeth II with an Order of the British Empire award for services to drama.

Pool New / Reuters

McCrory poses after she was awarded an OBE for services to drama by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II at an Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 2017.

McCrory started her career on the stage appearing in dozens of plays, from Chekhov to Shakespeare. Her 1995 performance as Lady Macbeth won praise from critics. "The effortlessly natural Helen McCrory's performance is from another realm," read a review in the Times newspaper.

She also portrayed Jehanne D'Alcy, a silent film actor and wife to French cinema pioneer Georges Méliès, in Martin Scorcese's 2011 film Hugo.

She and Lewis married in 2007. Together, they had two children.

Correction: McCrory and Lewis married in 2007. A previous version of this story misstated the year.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.