On Wednesday February 21, Emma Chambers, best known as Hugh Grant’s quirky sister Honey in Notting Hill, and the scatterbrained and naive Alice Tinker in The Vicar of Dibley, died aged 53.
When Chambers’ agent John Grant shared the news on Saturday, tributes to the talented, comedic actress poured in immediately. Her former co-star, Dawn French, described Chambers as a “unique and beautiful spark,” while Hugh Grant remembered her as “a hilarious and very warm person and of course a brilliant actress”.
While Chambers’ cause of death is officially recorded as due to “natural causes,” BBC executive producer, Jon Plowman, told Radio 4 it was a heart attack that killed her.
“It’s no age to have a heart attack, as I understand it,” he said.
I was regularly humped like this by the unique & beautiful spark that was Emma Chambers. I never minded. I loved her. A lot . pic.twitter.com/imzkoyKja9
— Dawn French (@Dawn_French) February 24, 2018Advertisement
It appears Chambers had a long history of health challenges that affected her quality of life.
In an interview with the Telegraph in 2002, she spoke about her severe animal allergies, which left her at risk of asthma attacks and sometimes needed to be treated with steroid injections. She was first diagnosed when she was eight.
Recalling an experience backstage during a London play, Chambers said she spotted a cat and “nearly died”.
“I had to dash up to wardrobe, I had to leave. I was itching, wheezy. My voice was husky the next day — from being in here for a few minutes — and I looked horrendous.
She also described filming a scene for The Vicar of Dibley with farm animals.
Robin Bailey and Bec Sparrow reflect on the concept of death, and speak to professionals about what we can learn from those who have passed. Post continues after audio.
“It was in the days when I used to go, ‘Oh, I’m fine’ — but, now, at the grand old age of 38, I don’t do that any more. I shout ‘GET THEM OUT!’,” she said.
“I remember seeing a take afterwards and nearly dying with embarrassment, as I looked horrendous. My eyes were out here.
“People don’t take it seriously. My mother would just say, ‘Get on with it’. There was no understanding of how chronic allergies can be.”
Despite her allergies, she lived on a farm, and adored her dog, Hattie. “The temptation to just pick up that big paw and kiss it is huge,” she told the Telegraph. “But I can’t. I cannot touch animals.”
In addition to allergies, Chambers struggled with eczema, sharing that she received acupuncture every ten days to cope.
Emma Chambers leaves behind her husband, actor Ian Dunn, who she married in 1991, and her siblings.