Freddie Jones: Tributes paid to Emmerdale and Elephant Man star

Freddie Jones in EmmerdaleImage copyright

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Jones appeared in Emmerdale from 2005 to 2018

Tributes have been paid to the British actor Freddie Jones, known to millions as Sandy Thomas in Emmerdale, following his death at the age of 91.

His agent Lesley Duff said he died on 9 July after a short illness.

She remembered Jones – the father of fellow actor Toby – as “a much loved and admired actor, known for his triumphs in theatre, film and TV.”

His many feature films include the David Lynch films Dune, Wild at Heart and The Elephant Man.

In the latter he played Bytes, the circus ringmaster who cruelly exploits the physically deformed John Merrick.

He also appeared in such horror films as Frankenstein Must be Destroyed and The Satanic Rites of Dracula as well as 1983 sci-fi Krull.

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His other roles included Sir Pitt Crawley in a 1987 adaptation of Vanity Fair

Jones was most recently known for playing Woolpack regular Sandy in Emmerdale, a role he played for 13 years.

He made his final appearance on the ITV soap last year after saying he could no longer justify staying.

“The company generously offered me another 12 months,” he told the Radio Times.

“But I just thought, ‘I have no idea what I’m going to do in another bloody year!'”

Katherine Dow Blyton – Harriet Finch in Emmerdale – said she felt “so lucky” to have worked with him.

Mark Charnock, aka Marlon Dingle, said Jones was “an amazing man” who “would light up the set with his wit and charm”.

“People like Freddie don’t come along very often and everyone at Emmerdale knew what it meant to have him in our cast.”

Charlotte Bellamy, who plays Sandy’s daughter-in-law Laurel, said she spent her time working with him “in awe of his professionalism, humour and his zest for life”.

The programme posted its own tribute, remembering Jones as “one of the show’s most brilliant actors and favourite human beings”.

Jones started out as a laboratory assistant before turning his love of amateur theatre into a professional career.

After working in repertory theatre and television, he made his film debut in Peter Brook’s Marat/Sade in 1967.

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Getty Images

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Toby Jones (left) has been acting since the early 1990s

Jones was married for more than 50 years to actress Jennie Heslewood, with whom he had three sons.

Both Toby and Caspar followed him into the acting profession, while Rupert became a director.

In 2009 Freddie and Toby Jones appeared together on The Film Programme to discuss the art of being a character actor.

Speaking to broadcaster Matthew Sweet, Jones senior said the secret of making an impression was “not leaving it on the page, but lifting it up and flying it a bit”.

He also revealed he had initially turned down The Elephant Man because he found it “over-larded with mawkish sentimentality”.

“It didn’t need it,” he said of the film’s script, which went on to be nominated for an Oscar and a Bafta. “The man [John Merrick] was a living tragedy.”

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