David Jason, Arsenal and Ice-T pay tribute to Only Fools and Horses star John Challis after Boycie actor dies, aged 79

20 September 2021, 09:54

David Jason, Ice-T, Del Boy and Boycie
David Jason, Ice-T, Del Boy and Boycie. Picture: Getty

By Mayer Nissim

David Jason hails John Challis as "a gentleman in the true sense of the word" after the actor's death at the weekend.

Sir David Jason has led tributes to John Challis after the actor's death at the age of 79.

Challis was best known for playing devious second-hand car dealer Terrance Aubrey 'Boycie' Boyce opposite Jason's Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses.

"It is with heavy hearts that we bring you such sad news," a statement from Challis's family read on Sunday (September 19).

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"Our dear friend and yours, John Challis, has died peacefully in his sleep, after a long battle with cancer.

It continued: "He will always be loved for being 'Boycie' and leaves a great legacy of work that will continue to bring pleasure and smiles for many years to come.

"Please respect the privacy of John's family and friends at this difficult time, and be assured that in the future there will be an occasion to celebrate John's life - when everyone will be welcome to come along."

Leading tributes, Jason said: "It is with much sadness to hear that John Challis, a dear friend, has passed away.

"He was a wonderful actor, a gentleman in the true sense of the word and I know he will be missed by so many."

Sue Holderness, who played Boycie's wife Marlene in Only Fools and Horses and its spinoff The Green Green Grass, said: "Marlene without Boycie - it's unthinkable.

"John Challis was my partner on screen and stage for 36 years and my beloved friend. R.I.P. darling John. I will miss you every day."

In recent years, Challis had struck up an unexpected online friendship with rapper and actor Ice-T, and the Body Count frontman also expressed sadness at Challis's passing.

Ice-T said: "I just heard John passed away.. He somehow became a Twitter friend.. I’m very sad. Although I never met him in person.. Internet friends can become close.. RIP"

Challis was known to be a fan of Arsenal Football Club, having recently posted a proud photograph of himself in the team's kit and scarf despite their poor start to the season.

The club paid its respects in turn, hailing "a lifelong Gooner" as "one of our own".

Other stars from across the world of entertainment also paid their respects to Challis.

"Shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of Wonderful John Challis such a fabulous man," said 'Allo 'Allo star Vickie Michelle.

"Loved by the Nation. Condolences to his family and loved ones."

Crissy Rock starred alongside Challis in Benidorm and shared her own tribute to her co-star.

"I am heartbroken to hear the news that the legendary actor @BeingBoycie has sadly passed away.

"John you were a true gentleman and always so loving and supportive towards me. I am thinking of your family and close friends at this hard time. Rest well. Crissy xx."

Colin Baker, Paddy McGuinness and Paul Chuckle were also among the many celebrities and former colleagues to share their memories of Challis after his passing.

John Challis was born in Bristol in 1942, and notched up countless TV roles during his career, though he was best known for being Boycie in Only Fools and Horses from 1981 to 2003, and in its spinoff The Green Green Grass from 2005 to 2009.

Prior to Only Fools and Horses, he played DC Phillips in eight episodes of Coronation Street between 1974 and 1977, the villain Scorby in all six episodes of Doctor Who serial 'The Seeds of Doom' in 1976 and Sgt. Culshaw in 11 episodes of Z-Cars from 1971 to 1975.

More recently, he played Monty Staines in Benidorm from 2015 to 2018.

He also had credits in Crossroads, Open All Hours, The Bill, Casualty, and many more.