Peter Vaughan, the veteran British actor best known in recent years for his role as Maester Aemon on the hit fantasy series Game Of Thrones, has died. His death was confirmed by his agent, who declined to name a cause of death but said that “he died peacefully with his family around him.” He was 93.
Born in 1923 as Peter Olm, Vaughan worked as a stage actor before being drafted into military service in World War II. He began flirting with screen acting after marrying actress Billie Whitelaw in 1952, appearing in a series of small roles on British TV series throughout the 1950s. He made his official film debut in 1959 in a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps in an uncredited role as a police constable, the first in a series of roles that saw Vaughan playing touch guys on both sides of the law. His first starring role was in the B-thriller Smokescreen (1964), where he played an insurance investigator who uncovers a murder in Brighton, England.
A quintessential character actor, Vaughan appeared in 222 onscreen roles in his lifetime, and continued acting until the year before his death. Some of his many notable roles include a widely panned performance opposite Frank Sinatra in 1967’s The Naked Runner, a beloved turn as prison guard “Genial” Harry Grout on the BBC sitcom Porridge (1974-1979), another frightening turn as town patriarch Tom Hedden in Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs (1971), and as Anthony Hopkins’ father in the Merchant-Ivory production The Remains Of The Day (1993). He also played Denethor in the 1981 BBC Radio production of The Lord Of The Rings, and appeared in several films by director Terry Gilliam; he played Winston The Ogre in Time Bandits (1981) and Deputy Minister of Information Mr. Helpmann in Brazil (1985), and was slated to appear in Gilliam’s yet-to-be-completed The Man Who Killed Don Quixote when the project was first conceived in the late ’90s.
Vaughn’s last screen role would turn out to be one of his most famous: From 2011 to 2015, he appeared as elderly, blind Maester Aemon Targaryen on the HBO series of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic Game Of Thrones. (Vaughan was also partially blind when he took on the role.) A staunch ally of embattled hero Jon Snow, Maester Aemon was also one of the last remaining members of former ruling family House Targaryen. The show’s international success renewed Vaughan’s fame along with it, and he continued playing the role through its fifth season. Just last month, he told BBC Radio Surrey in an interview, “I’ve been so lucky with parts. They talk about actors resting. The only time I have ever rested in my 77 years as an actor has been when I’ve wanted to. Lucky, lucky, lucky.”