Maester Aemon, the ex-Prince Targaryen and Wise Man of the Night’s Watch, died on our TV screens last year in Season 5 of Game of Thrones. On the 6th December 2016, Peter Vaughan, the British actor who played the role, died for real, at the age of 93.
Although most of us may know him for his latest role best, Peter Vaughan is an actor of long-standing, and with a long and prolific career behind him. Vaughan in fact began acting in the 1950s, and became a recognisable face by playing numerous supporting roles on stage, television, radio and film. Perhaps his most famous part, apart from the one in the HBO fantasy series, was his portrayal of the character of Grout in the British sitcom Porridge (1974 – 1977), even though he was not one of the main characters.
Born in 1923, Vaughan was a second lieutenant in Normandy, Belgium, and the Eastern Front, before embarking on a lengthy career in British TV. His passion for acting had already made itself felt even before his tenure in the army, as he had joined Wolverhampton Repertory Theatre and gained experience in other repertory theatres as soon as he left school.
Vaughan made his debut on screen in 1959 in the Hitchcock’s thriller The 39 Steps. After playing several minor roles, his break came when he starred opposite Frank Sinatra in The Naked Runner in 1967. Other notable movies include The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1980) with Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons, The Remains of the Day (1983) with Anthony Hopkins, The Crucible (1993) with Winona Ryder, Fatherland (1994), and Les Misèrables (1998) alongside Liam Neeson, Uma Thurman and Claire Danes.
Vaughan also captured the public’s imagination through his portrayal of a number of historical figures. He played the Russian Alexander Izolsky in the serial Fall of Eagles (1974), the British politician Thomas Inskip in the mini-series Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (1981), the German Nazi Kurt Zeitzler in the miniseries War and Remembrance (1988), as well as Hermann Goring in the docu-drama Countdown to War (1989). Charles Dickens aficionados will also recognise him from the BBC mini-series of Bleak House (1985) and Our Mutual Friend (1988).
In 1997, Vaughan gained a Best Actor Nomination in the British Academy Television Awards for his portrayal of the Alzheimer sufferer Felix Hutchinson in the BBC Two TV series Our Friends in the North (1996).
A small aside – it may tickle Game of Thrones fans to know that like blind Maester Aemon, Vaughan too was partially blind. The role of the scholar was his last one – a glittering end to an already rich career. Needless to say, tributes continue to rain down from his many fans and admirers, especially those from the younger generations who perhaps only appreciated his latest appearance.
It is great to note Vaughan’s response during a BBC2 interview last October. When asked to explain the secret of his long career, his reply was ‘Luck, good wine and beer.’ Seriously, how cannot one miss such a personage?
RIP Peter Vaughan – the world will definitely remember you.