Victoria Wood hailed as 'brightest talent of generation' after death at 62


The older brother of comedian Victoria Wood has said her death "has robbed us of one of the brightest talents of our generation".

The actress died at home with her family at the age of 62 after a short battle with cancer.

Chris Foote Wood, 75, said his youngest sister's death came as a great shock.

In a statement, he said: "But more than that I feel that Victoria's death has robbed us of one of the brightest talents of our generation.

"It wasn't just that Victoria was hugely talented in so many different fields, she was also outstanding in her tremendous, single-minded drive and determination to pursue her chosen career. Success did not come easily to Victoria, and it was only after years of struggle that she achieved her well-deserved national acclaim.

"I am hugely proud of what my sister has done so successfully in different fields of entertainment. It has been a privilege to have her as a sister, and particularly to have been able to observe at first hand how she developed her career from the earliest beginnings.

"Victoria's two children, my niece Grace and nephew Henry (Durham) will be absolutely devastated to lose their mother at such a relatively young age.

"Another reason I admire Victoria is that she was determined from the start to give her two children as normal an upbringing as possible and to shield them from unwanted media attention.

"In this she succeeded superbly, aided in every way by her then husband Geoffrey Durham who has continued his close support for their children after he and Victoria divorced in 2002."

Wood's publicist, Neil Reading, said: "Victoria Wood has sadly passed away, after a short but brave battle with cancer.

"The multi Bafta award-winning writer, director, actor and comedian died peacefully at her north London home with family this morning. She was 62.

"The family ask for privacy at this very sad time."

Wood, who was born in Prestwich, Lancashire, was well known for her comedy series Victoria Wood: As Seen On TV, as well as her role in sitcom Dinnerladies and her TV special Victoria Wood With All The Trimmings.

She was a frequent collaborator with fellow actress Julie Walters. The pair first appeared on stage together in 1978 in a London production of In At The Death and their celebrated comedy Wood And Walters followed in 1981.

They most recently appeared together in December 2009 in Victoria Wood's Mid Life Christmas, which featured sketches including Mid Life Olympics 2009 and period drama spoof Lark Pies to Cranchesterford.

In 2006, she won two Bafta awards for acting and writing for her drama Housewife, 49, an adaptation of the diaries of Nella Last.

Wood, who got her showbusiness break as a winner on New Faces, won two other Baftas earlier in her career, both for best light entertainment performance.

The first was for Victoria Wood: As Seen On TV in 1986 and An Audience With Victoria Wood in 1989.

Victoria Wood As Seen On TV also won the Bafta for best entertainment programme in 1986, 1987 and 1988, while An Audience With Victoria Wood won the same award in 1989.

She received a special Bafta tribute award in 2005.

In 1997, she was made an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours and was then made a CBE in 2008.

Wood was also showered with accolades for her live comedy as well as her TV work, and her tours broke records.

In 1990 she performed a 60-date sell-out season at the Strand Theatre in London in Victoria Wood Up West before a six-week sell-out tour, earning her a Best Comedy Performer award at the British Comedy Awards.

She performed a record-breaking 15 nights at the Royal Albert Hall in 1993 as part of a six-month tour of the country.

In May 2001 she took on her first UK tour since 1997 and was awarded Best Live Stand Up at the British Comedy Awards.

Wood's live comedy was often interspersed with her own compositions and she frequently played the piano.

She also composed and performed the theme music for Dinnerladies.

Prime Minister David Cameron was among those paying tribute to the star, tweeting: "Victoria Wood was a national treasure loved by millions. My thoughts are with her family."

Wood's fellow comedians were also quick to pay their respects on social media, with Rory Bremner writing: "No. No. This is too much. Now lovely, warm, funny, brilliantly talented Victoria Wood has gone. Words, songs, plays, she wrote the lot. So sad."

Jack Dee tweeted: "I feel privileged to have known and worked with the great Victoria Wood. Unique and truly brilliant," while Ricky Gervais wrote: "RIP the brilliant Victoria Wood. So innovative, funny and down to earth. This has not been a good year."

Journalist and author Caitlin Moran described the early influence Wood had on her, saying: "Seeing Victoria Wood on TV - working class, bookish, silly, clever, doing stand-up, singing, acting - made me think 'Girls can do this'."

TV presenter Esther Rantzen also paid tribute to Wood, saying she admired her at the start of her career and has done ever since.

"She once said about me 'I don't know why they go on about her teeth - have you seen her dresses?', which I thought was quite fair," Rantzen said.

Wood appeared on BBC One's That's Life! in 1976.

"She did a one-woman show for Childline where I felt hugely privileged to interview her and she told the story of her life with such wit. She just held us all enchanted for a whole evening," Rantzen recalled.

"I think she is one of our greatest comic writers and performers, but she could also deal with serious issue as well, and she's a huge loss."

Wood's long-term manager and friend, Phil McIntyre, said: "Victoria has been a part of our lives as a friend, devoted mother and national treasure for 30 years. She was always modest, generous and undemanding. A super person and a super and unique talent. There will be an unfillable void left on all levels and we will miss her deeply."

Alfred Molina, who starred in Wood's film Loving Miss Hatto, wrote: "Rest In Peace, Victoria Wood. Make God laugh," while Pointless host Richard Osman tweeted: "Oh God, Victoria Wood was just the loveliest. So funny and clever and kind and melancholy and all the good stuff. So sad."

BBC director-general Tony Hall said: "Victoria Wood was a woman with a stunning array of talents - a comedian, singer, songwriter, actress and director.

"People identified with her warmth and great charm. She brought people from all walks of life together and made them laugh and cry. She will be greatly missed and our thoughts are with her friends and family."