Irish actor David Kelly has died in hospital after a short illness. The Dubliner, who was best known for his roles in Waking Ned and as Grandpa Joe Bucket in Tim Burton's Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, was 82.
Kelly's first break on the screen came with two small role but noteworthy roles: the vicar presiding over Great Aunt Nelly's funeral in The Italian Job and inept builder O'Reilly in Fawlty Towers.
He went on to combine work on the stage with stalwart TV turns in Ballykissangel, On The Buses and Emmerdale Farm. Samuel Beckett's one-man play Krapp’s Last Tape, in which Kelly played the title role to great acclaim, was a high-water mark for his career in theatre.
Kelly also scored notable sucesses on the big screen. As elderly chancer Michael O'Sullivan in Kirk Jones' knockabout comedy Waking Ned, he landed a SAG award nod and generated talk of an Oscar nomination. It was a part that cleared a space for him on Hollywood's casting couches and led to a role as Charlie Bucket's benevolent grandpa, Joe, in Burton's trippy adaptation of Roald Dahl's novel.
As Kelly himself joked, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory was a part tailor made for a professional septuagenarian. “I remember on my 70th birthday," he told The Irish Times in 2005, "some journalist writing: 'David Kelly is 70 today. But what I want to know is how come he’s been 70 for the past 40 years.’ And it’s perfectly true. It’s a very strange thing.” He went on to discount the possibility of retiring. “Oh God, no. I will continue hanging on to the script until they prise it from my cold, dead hands.”
Kelly is survived by his wife Laurie and two children.