Leslie Phillips, ‘Harry Potter’ Actor, Dead at 98

by Craig Garrett
(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Leslie Phillips, known for his roles in British tv comedies and as the voice of the Sorting Hat in the Harry Potter films, has passed away. Phillips died Monday morning in his sleep, confirmed by his agent Jonathan Lloyd to Sky News. The veteran actor died from an undisclosed long illness at the age of 98. Over the course of his 80-year career, the comic actor starred in more than 200 films, TV shows, and radio series.

“I’ve lost a wonderful husband and the public has lost a truly great showman,” Phillips’ wife Zara told The Sun. She then stated how much “people loved him” and that Phillips “was mobbed everywhere he went.” Phillips’ cause of death has not yet been confirmed. According to the BBC, the actor had previously suffered two strokes six months apart when he was 90 years old.

Leslie Phillips was born in April 1924 in Tottenham, North London. He attended Italia Conti stage school. He later served as a lieutenant for the Durham Light Infantry during WWII from 1942 to 1945. However, just before D-Day, he was declared unfit for service due to a nervous illness that caused partial paralysis.

However, Leslie Phillips’ acting career began much earlier than that. At only 14 years old when he was in West End plays with Hollywood stars Vivien Leigh and Rex Harrison. His film debut came even sooner in 1938  in Lassie From Lancashire. During the next few decades, his 200+ roles in films, TV series, and radio increased rapidly following WWII.

Leslie Phillips worked with many iconic filmmakers over his prolific career

He was in several successful British comedies, including Carry On Nurse, Carry On Teacher, Carry On Columbus, and Carry On Constable. Phillips was also well-known as the voice behind the memorable Sorting Hat in the Harry Potter films. His death follows the October passing of fellow Harry Potter star Robbie Coltrane.

Besides appearing in Carry On and Harry Potter, Phillips also had a role on the BBC radio show The Navy Lark for 17 years alongside Ronnie Barker and Jon Pertwee. He was even nominated for a BAFTA in 2006 for his part in Hanif Kurieshi’s Venus.

Phillips enjoyed a long and successful career, working with some of the biggest names in Hollywood including Steven Spielberg, Laurence Olivier, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, and more. His credits include well-known titles such as Heartbeat, Midsomer Murders, Monarch Of The Glen, Empire Of The Sun, Scandal, and Out of Africa. In 1998 he was made an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the Birthday Honours. He was later promoted to CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2008 New Year Honours.