Legendary broadcaster Sir Michael Parkinson has died aged 88.
The news was confirmed in a statement from his family.
“After a short illness, Sir Michael Parkinson passed away peacefully at home last night surrounded by his family,” they said.
“The family is asking that they be given privacy and time to grieve.”
Parkinson’s illustrious career on television saw him interviewing many of the world’s most well-known figures over a period of seven decades.
Muhammad Ali, Sir Elton John, Madonna, Sir Michael Caine, John Lennon and Orson Welles were among the names who appeared in the Parkinson’s series.
Parkinson’sthe presenter’s flagship talk show, ran on the BBC for 11 years from 1971. It was later revived in 1998 and ended in 2007.
After retiring from presenting that year, Parkinson returned to airwaves in 2012 for the Sky Arts series Parkinson’s: Master Class.
He also hosted the BBC’s famous radio series Lonely Island Discs between 1986 and 1988, following the death of creator Roy Plomley.
Parkinson was born in Cudworth, South Yorkshire in 1935, the son of a miner.
His career began in local journalism, compiling sports scores. After two years of military service from 1955, around the time of the Suez Crisis, he became the youngest captain in the British Army at the time. Jobs followed at The Manchester Guardian And The Daily Express before moving to television, with roles on Granada and the BBC.
After Parkinson’s Parkinson completed its first run in 1982 presenting a short-lived Sunday morning show for ITV His other projects have included ITVs Give us a hint and BBC One’s Looking for a song.
In 2008, Parkinson was made a Knight Bachelor in the annual New Year’s Honors Roll.
Parkinson was successfully treated for prostate cancer after being diagnosed in 2013 and underwent spinal surgery in 2017.
Throughout his career, Parkinson has conducted a number of memorable interviews. When boxer Ali performed Parkinson’s In 1971, he spread a powerful message about racism that resonated with audiences decades later.
Some of his interviews became infamous for more unfortunate reasons, such as an infamous meeting with Dame Helen Mirren in 1975. In the footage, Parkinson controversially asked the actress if her physical attributes had “hindered” her career. Mirren was blunt in answering the question, asking him, “Because serious actresses can’t have big boobs, is that what you mean?”
Parkinson reflected on the incident in a 2017 interview The Telegraph. “All that fuss was silly,” he said. “You have to look at each situation according to the mood of the time, and I didn’t cause a riot at the time. We had a fight, but no one thought I was overly sexist. But now some people are realizing it was like WWIII.”
An interview with Meg Ryan in 2003 also made headlines when the actor continued speaking Parkinson’s to promote her divisive erotic thriller On average. After Parkinson appeared to criticize Ryan’s involvement in the film, Ryan asked him to “bring it up” and call off the interview.
Parkinson apologized to that When Harry met Sally star in 2021, admitting, “I wish I hadn’t lost my temper on Meg Ryan. I wish I’d been more polite about it. I was obviously angry with them and it’s not my job to be angry with the guests. I came across as pompous and could have done better.”
Parkinson estimated that he interviewed 2,000 celebrities over the course of his life. He once described the chat show format as “an unnatural act between consenting adults in public.”
Michael Parkinson’s infamous 2003 interview with Meg Ryan
A lifelong cricket fanatic, Parkinson played at a high level from a young age.
Reflecting on the changing nature of television interviews today in 2021, Parkinson’s praised Graham Norton radio times: “In this highly sensitive world, I doubt I could actually do an interview these days without being sent off. There are so many pitfalls and pitfalls in life these days. I think I got the best of it.”
In a tribute, BBC presenter Nick Robinson tweeted: “He was the greatest interviewer of our time to own Saturday Night TV year after year.”
BBC Director General Tim Davie also paid tribute to the moderator in a statement. “Michael was the king of the chat show and he defined the format for all the hosts and shows that followed,” he said.
“He interviewed the biggest stars of the 20th century and did it in a way that wowed audiences. Not only was Michael brilliant at asking questions, he was a wonderful listener. Michael was truly one of a kind, an incredible broadcaster and journalist who will be sorely missed.”
Comedian and TV personality Eddie Izzard wrote: “It is very sad to hear that Michael Parkinson has passed away. He was the king of intelligent interviewing.”
There is more to come…