I've been lucky enough to keep going
With his mellow northern accent, Peter Sallis was the perfect choice to play Wallace, the hapless cheese-obsessed inventor who embarks on a lunar expedition in the animated short, Wallace And Gromit: A Grand Day Out.
“I realise now, though it’s taken me nearly 100 years, “ he later said, “that my voice is distinctive. I’m very lucky indeed.”
Wallace and Gromit animator Nick Park was still a student when he first contacted the actor to see if he’d voice Wallace, six years before the film was released. Sallis took the part for free (in exchange for a £50 charity donation). The characters were a huge hit and Sallis returned as Wallace in three more shorts and the full-length film, Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, over the next 30 years.
Peter was one of the trio of actors to first appear in long-running Yorkshire-based sitcom, Last of the Summer Wine, playing the part of Norman “Cleggy” Clegg in almost 300 episodes, from 1973 until 2010. Although the cast changed a lot in that time, Peter Sallis was the only person to be in every single programme.
After the actor died, writer Roy Clarke confessed he’d given him all the funniest lines because Peter, blessed with a dry sense of humour, “always knew what to do with them.”
Best known for playing characters born north of the Watford Gap, Peter actually grew up in London. Beginning his career on stage, where he acted with the great John Gielgud, he began his TV career in 1948 and made his name a few years later in the title role of a drama series based on the life of Samuel Pepys.
Retiring just shy of his 90th birthday, Peter enjoyed a busy and varied acting career, but will probably be most fondly remembered as cheese-loving Wallace.
Paying tribute to a charming, kind and unique man, Nick Park said: “I’m so blessed and fortunate that he had the generosity of spirit to help out a poor film school student ... when neither of us had any idea what Wallace & Gromit might become.”