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Obituary: Lewis Collins

Lewis Collins

Obituary by Jack Foley

LEWIS Collins, best known for playing Bodie in the hit ’70s series The Professionals, has died at the age of 67.

According to his agent, the actor passed away in Los Angeles after a five-year struggle with cancer.

““He died peacefully at his LA home surrounded by his family. Privacy is asked for at this very sad time,” he said.

Born in May 1946 in Cheshire, Collins worked as a drummer and as a hairdresser before breaking into acting. He found early work in popular TV series such as Z Cars and The New Avengers, as well as a recurring role in The Cuckoo Waltz, before landing the part that would transform his life and career in The Professionals in 1977.

As hardman William Bodie, Collins became a household name alongside Martin Shaw as Doyle and Gordon Jackson as their boss.

The ITV show was based around the adventures of a fictional crime fighting unit called CI5 and became a huge hit in the late 1970s and early 1980s, running for six years.

It also helped Collins to land a couple of movie roles, the most prominent of which was as SAS captain Peter Skellen in 1982’s Who Dares Wins.

He also auditioned for the role of James Bond but despite claiming to have spent five minutes in the offices of Albert R Broccoli, he later said “it was really over for me in seconds”.

Future roles came in 1999 TV series The Grimleys and The Bill (in 2002) but he was never able to emulate the success of his co-star Shaw.

Shaw – who is currently appearing in 12 Angry Men in London’s West End – was among the first to pay tribute, saying: “We spent a very tough four years together in making The Professionals, and shared in the production of what has become an icon of British television.

“He will be remembered as part of the childhood of so many people, and mourned by his fans. I send my love and condolences to his family, and the great many who will miss him.”

Also paying tribute was Brian Clemens, creator of The Professionals, who credited Collins with bringing a “Bond-ian quality” to the role of Bodie.

“I thought he would have made a marvellous Bond,” he told the BBC. “He was tough and he could fight, he looked good, he was handsome and he had this nice sense of humour. I knew he had auditioned [for James Bond] and I think they were wrong not to take him up.”

He also praised Collins’ preparation for the role, which saw him undertake a lot of physical training including parachute jumping.

Collins leaves his wife, Michelle – whom he married in 1992 – and three sons.

The Professionals is currently being re-run on ITV4.