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Gareth Hunt

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Gareth Hunt, actor, was born on February 7, 1942. He died of cancer on March 14, 2007, aged 65

Actor who became a household name with his role as tough man Mike Gambit in The New Avengers

Gareth Hunt's acting roots were firmly in the world of theatre but it was as Mike Gambit in the TV series The New Avengers that he achieved international fame.

After the controversial demise of the original Avengers in 1969, the suave secret agent John Steed (Patrick Macnee) returned to television screens seven years later assisted by the newcomers Purdey and Gambit. Purdey (Joanna Lumley) was classy, elegant and hard as nails, but it was Gambit, a former mercenary and martial arts expert, who provided the muscle which the ageing Steed lacked. Hunt, with his good looks and adventurous personality, was ideal casting.

"Gambit is like a dream really," he said. "He's what a lot of people would like to be. I'm just acting out other people's fantasies, like James Bond."

Although not a patch on the original series, The New Avengers ran for 26 episodes and topped the ratings. Hunt's face adorned women's magazines, and he had enormous fan mail. Even when the series finished, repeats and videos turned it into something of a cult.

He was born Alan Leonard Hunt in Battersea, South London, in 1942 and had an interest in acting from an early age. His aunt was the actress Martita Hunt who played Miss Havisham in David Lean's 1946 film Great Expectations. Hunt served in the Merchant Navy for six years from the age of 15, before jumping ship in New Zealand and ending up in a military prison for three months.

On returning to Britain he had a variety of jobs, including road digger, a door-to-door salesman and a stagehand, be-fore training at the Webber Douglas School of Dramatic Art. Hunt was fortunate in 1earning his stagecraft in the last days of repertory theatre in Britain. He did spells at Ipswich, Coventry and the Bristol Old Vic, appearing in a different play each week. In the early 1970s he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company and later the National Theatre, where he was seen in a number of supporting roles.

His stage credits included Twelfth Night, Oh! What a Lovely War, West Side Story, The Caucasian Chalk Circle and the lead role in Ira Levin's Deathtrap.

His first television exposure came in 1963 as Arak in Dr Who, followed by a run in Upstairs, Downstairs, where he had some memorable scenes as Frederick the footman.

Playing Mike Gambit from October 1976 to December 1977 was the highlight of Hunt's career. The New Avengers was tongue-in-cheek adventure with bizarre villains and comic strip action. Memorable episodes included The Last of the Cybernauts...? Angels of Death and Gnaws, in which Gambit grappled with monsters, a murderous health spa and a giant rat in the sewers.

There was an obvious natural rapport between Hunt and Lumley, and although the series was beset by financial problems, it was very popular.

Despite the success of The New Avengers, Hunt was never able to maintain the high profile of Macnee and Lumley. He made several films, including The World is Full of Married Men (1979), Bloodbath at the House of Death (1984), A Chorus of Disapproval (1988) and Michael Winner's Parting Shots (1988).

On television he turned to comedy and starred in the sitcom That Beryl Marston, playing Gerry Bodley, and, later, in Side by Side as Vince Tulley. He also played Thomas Warner in The Love School and was in Family at War, Hammer House of Horror and Minder. He was also in the BBC's popular version of Charles Dickens's The Old Curiosity Shop in 1981. But his greatest television exposure came through a series of highly lucrative coffee commercials in which he appeared for more than ten years. He was occasionally in pantomime, including Jack and the Beanstalk, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Aladdin.

At one point he abandoned acting and pursued an unsuccessful business venture developing a CD-Rom of British actors.

Hunt returned to the stage in recent years, touring the country in a variety of thrillers and comedies. He was also cast in several productions in North America, including Run for Your Wife in Florida and New York in 1988, and Sleuth in To-ronto in 1991.

He made something of a comeback on TV in 2001 with a cameo as a hitman in EastEnders, one of the suspects in the "who shot Phil Mitchell?" storyline and in the same year joined the cast of the soap Night and Day as Charlie Doyle. He also appeared in the BBC series Doctors and New Tricks.

He continued making films and appeared in Two's Company (2004) and will feature in The Riddle, with Vinnie Jones, Derek Jacobi and Vanessa Redgrave, expected to be released this year.

He had frequent bouts of ill health and in 1999 had to withdraw from a pantomime in Malvern after a heart attack, and three years later collapsed on stage with a suspected heart attack in Bournemouth.

Hunt was married three times, and is survived by his third wife, Amanda, and by three sons.

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  • APA 6th ed.: (2007-03-15). Gareth Hunt. The Times p. 65.
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  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Gareth Hunt | url= | work=The Times | pages=65 | date=2007-03-15 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 April 2024 }}</ref>
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