Dame Helen Mirren has paid tribute to British thespian Alan Howard following his death on Saturday (14Feb15), insisting his passing is a "huge loss" to the theatre.

Howard, a Royal Shakespeare Company regular, died after a bout of pneumonia, aged 77, and Mirren is among his colleagues who have remembered the actor.

The Queen star, who also performed with the Rsc from the 1960s to the 1980s, says, "Alan was a member of a very small group of actors who could truly be called a great classical actor.

"I do not know of another actor who could reinvent a line of Shakespeare, time and time again, with imagination and intelligence the way he could. He was always exciting and inspiring, always trying to find the material anew. He had prodigious talents to play with, a superb voice, an athletic frame, and a profound and subtle way of approaching the material.

"I often had the privileged position of being able to watch him from the wings of the theatre. This I would do, trying to learn something unlearnable. Because only Alan could be what Alan was."

Howard provided the voice for the ring in two of the Lord Of The Rings films.