The rollercoaster life and career of Leslie Grantham

The EastEnders star has passed away

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Former EastEnders actor Leslie Grantham, famed for his role as ‘Dirty’ Den Watts, died today.

His rep said in a statement: “We formally announce the loss of Leslie Grantham, who passed away at 10.20am on the morning of Friday 15 June 2018.

“His ex-wife and sons have asked for their privacy to be respected at this difficult time, and for there to be no approaches to them for information or comment.

“They will not be making any statements to the media. They also ask that no photographs be taken of them in their grief.

“There will be a private funeral which will be attended by close family and friends only.”

Here’s a look back on the life and career of the EastEnders legend.

When was Leslie Grantham born?

Leslie Michael Grantham was born in London in 1947. He was best known for playing the role of ‘Dirty’ Den Watts in EastEnders.

He spent his early years in Camberwell, South East London, and it’s reported he had been a promising netball player while at school. He played as wing attack.

Former EastEnders actor Leslie Grantham
Leslie is currently in hospital (Credit: PA)

He joined the army when he was 18 years old in 1965.

In 1966 Leslie shot a taxi driver in West Germany after attempting to rob him. The two men were involved in a scuffle which resulted in the driver – Felix Reese – being shot in the head.

Leslie claimed he didn’t know the gun was loaded, but he was convicted of murder following a trial in 1967. Leslie was sentenced to life imprisonment.

He served 10 years of his sentence and was released in 1977. It was during his decade of incarceration that Leslie became interested in acting.

It’s believed he acted in many plays in Leyhill prison during his time there and was convinced to go into the industry professionally by labour politician T. Dan Smith who was also an inmate at Leyhill during the 70s.

Leslie is best known for playing Dirty Den in EastEnders (Credit: Rex/Shutterstock)

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When he left prison he enrolled on an acting course and trained at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts. He made his television debut in 1982 playing a character called Boollie in a BBC2 Playhouse production called Jake’s End.

Leslie also wrote plays and won an award in 1984 for his original play called A Reason to Live. During this time he had various bit-parts on TV.

Leslie Grantham joins EastEnders

In 1984, Leslie auditioned for a new BBC soap called EastEnders, having been recommended by his friend – producer Matthew Robinson – who went on to become a key member on the ‘Enders production team.

Leslie originally auditioned for the role of market trader Pete Beale – Ian’s dad and Kathy’s husband. He was instead offered the role of pub landlord Dennis Watts.

Why was he known as Dirty Den?

His character was given the nickname Dirty Den because of his dodgy behaviours and frequent affairs behind the back of his long-suffering wife Angie – who was played by Anita Dobson.

One of his most famous affairs was when he fathered a child with his daughter Sharon’s best friend Michelle Fowler – who was then played by Susan Tully. Michelle was only 16 at the time.

Dirty Den serve divorce papers on Angie

He was also featured in some high profile storylines, including the Christmas Day episode in 1986 when he served Angie with divorce papers. The episode was watched by 30 million viewers, which was about half the British population.

When did Leslie Grantham first leave EastEnders?

In 1989 Den was seemingly killed off after he became involved with The Firm. A gun was seen shooting at him from inside some daffodils.

Den gave Angie divorce papers on Christmas Day (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

Show bosses were reluctant to show Den’s dead body as they hoped they’d be able to persuade Grantham to reprise the role at some point in the future.

Leslie then went on to star as Danny Kane in crime series The Paradise Club and presented Fort Boyard alongside Melinda Messenger from 1998-2001.

Den Watts makes shock return to EastEnders

He returned to EastEnders as Dirty Den in September 2003 and scammed the Queen Vic pub back from Sam Mitchell.

In 2004, Leslie was involved in a sex scandal when a Sunday tabloid printed pics of him masturbating and sucking his finger in a sexually provocative manner.

He was captured as he exposed himself via webcam to an undercover reporter and he also insulted some of his EastEnders cast mates including Shane Richie and Jessie Wallace.

He apologised and said he was ashamed of his actions. He issued a statement which read: “I am wholeheartedly ashamed of my behaviour and feel that I have let down my colleagues, as well as my friends and family.”

Leslie in his most recent TV role The English Neighbour (Credit: Rex/Shutterstock)

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“In some small recompense I intend to make a donation to charity as a mark of my apology.”

When did Dirty Den die and who killed him?

Leslie allegedly tried to kill himself three times over the scandal which led to Den being permanently killed off in when he was whacked round the head with an iron doorstop by wife Chrissie in the Queen Vic, during the soap’s 20th anniversary episode in February 2005.

What did Leslie Grantham do after EastEnders?

After leaving EastEnders, Leslie appeared on Bulgarian TV series The English Neighbour. He also worked in theatre and has been a popular choice for playing the villain in several productions.

Den Watts is undoubtedly one of the most iconic characters ever in EastEnders, and Leslie Grantham has earned his place in the British soap Hall of Fame. Where does he feature in your list of favourites?

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