Billy Zane leads tributes to Titanic co-star David Warner following his death

·4-min read

Billy Zane has remembered his former co-star David Warner as the “finest of actors” following his death aged 80 from a cancer-related illness.

In James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster Titanic, Warner played Zane’s valet and bodyguard, Spicer Lovejoy, and also gained prominence for roles such as photographer Keith Jennings in the 1976 horror film The Omen.

Warner died on Sunday at Denville Hall, a care home for those in the entertainment industry, his family announced.

US actor Zane has paid tribute to his former co-star following the news in an Instagram post where he shared a photo of them from Titanic alongside a selection of snapshots from Warner’s career.

He wrote: “The dearest of fellows. The finest of actors. Since he set the @thersc alight at 24 years of age with his soulful and modern #hamet

“David Warner in 1965, whose tortured student with college scarf was described by Ronald Bryden [theatre critic and drama professor] as getting ‘more of humanity into the part than any previous Hamlet I’ve seen’…’,

“To a filmography that made up the fabric and foundation of ever modem actor working and the consummate pleasure of crafting despicable foils for “the better half” of a year together aboard that ill fated ship, this man was indeed a prince in every way.

“But it’s a king we set to rest. May angels sing thee to it my friend.”

David Warner (Alamy/PA)
David Warner (Alamy/PA)

Warner also featured in the Star Trek franchise in the 1991 film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and in the series Star Trek The Next Generation.

His Star Trek co-star Brent Spiner also described him as “a fine actor” and “a very lovely guy” in his tribute.

Better Call Saul actor Michael McKean also remembered Warner’s ability to steal scenes in his tribute.

He wrote on Twitter: “David Warner stole scenes from great actors throughout his career but that was collateral, not intentional: he just ran with a solid character and purpose every time. Did the work. Never not good.”

Warner’s family announced the news on Monday in a statement, saying: “He will be missed hugely by us, his family and friends, and remembered as a kind-hearted, generous and compassionate man, partner and father whose legacy of extraordinary work has touched the lives of so many over the years. We are heartbroken.

“He is survived by his beloved partner Lisa Bowerman, his much-loved son Luke and daughter in-law Sarah, his good friend Jane Spencer Prior, his first wife Harriet Evans and his many gold dust friends.”

Born in Manchester in June 1941 and educated in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, Warner took his first steps into acting by enrolling at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada) in London.

It was his role in the 1966 film Morgan: A Suitable Case For Treatment, in which he starred alongside Dame Vanessa Redgrave, that earned him a leading actor Bafta nomination.

His role in 1980s series Masada, which was fronted by Peter O’Toole and saw Warner playing Roman politician Pomponius Falco, earned him an Emmy.

Amid his success, Warner suffered chronic stage fright brought on by the skin condition psoriasis, and prioritised TV and film parts over theatre.

Warner in the movie The Ballad Of Cable Hogue in 1970
Warner in the movie The Ballad Of Cable Hogue in 1970 (Alamy/PA)

But in 2001, he returned to the stage after nearly 30 years to play Andrew Undershaft in a Broadway revival of George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara.

In 2014 he was among the cast of BBC Radio 4’s The Once And Future King, a series based on and adapted from TH White’s collection of fantasy novels by dramatist Brian Sibley.

Warner played Merlyn and told the BBC at the time: “Well, if you’re asked to play Merlyn on radio drama for the BBC, I certainly would not say no.

“It’s just such a wonderful character. But the great bonus is with audio… each individual can just picture for themselves, that’s the magic of radio.”

In later years he starred in films You, Me And Him and also featured in 2018’s Mary Poppins Returns as retired naval officer Admiral Boom, who was portrayed by Reginald Owen in the original film.

Warner also had an extensive list of theatre credits, having been a part of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) which saw him star in productions of The Tempest, Julius Caesar and Henry VI.

He is survived by his partner Lisa Bowerman, his son Luke and daughter-in-law Sarah.