British broadcasting veteran Sir Michael Parkinson passed away after a brief illness Wednesday, the Daily Caller reported. The 88-year-old was respected and adored after spending 70 years in the television business.
Between 1971 and 1982, Parkinson hosted a show where he'd interview celebrities and allow them to tell their unique stories. For those in entertainment, being interviewed by Parkinson was a significant step on the road to stardom.
The stars who appeared on his show included a variety of talent from the U.K. and the U.S. In 1998, the show was resurrected for another successful run.
He was known for getting a great interview from just about everyone because of his generosity and warmth. Sir David Attenborough, a star in his own right for his nature documentaries, remembered Parkinson as a professional who "always wanted the interviewee to shine" rather than spotlight on himself.
"With Michael, it was always friendly, always thorough, always intelligent, always a pleasure to do it, and I think that came over no matter who is [sic] interviewee was," Attenborough said. All told, Parkinson interviewed around 2,000 entertainers in his career.
Some superstars who sat down for a chat with Parkinson included Sir Elton John, boxing legend Muhammed Ali, and the infamous interview with Meg Ryan. Parkinson would later apologize to Ryan for his conduct through the awkward exchange with her, the UK Daily Mail reported.
Ryan was promoting her risque film "In the Cut" in 2003, which included a nude scene. The subject matter was a departure from her usual rom-com fare, and Parkinson pressed her about it.
The "When Harry Met Sally" star saw his line of questioning as an attack. "That guy was like some disapproving father! It's crazy. I don't know what he is to you guys, but he's a nut," Ryan would say of the interview years later.
Ever the class act, Parkinson publicly expressed his remorse for such combativeness. "I wish I hadn't lost my temper with Meg Ryan. I wish I'd dealt with it in a more courteous manner," he said in 2021.
However, other guests have fondly remembered chatting with Parkinson. Comedian and commentator Stephen Fry said it was "impossibly thrilling" to be interviewed by him, the BBC reported.
"The genius of Parky was that unlike most people (and most of his guests, me included) he was always 100% himself. On camera and off. 'Authentic' is the word, I suppose," Fry said.
Parkinson retired from his show in 2007 with a two-hour special. Guests included Attenborough, Sir Michael Caine, David Beckham, and others to top off the show's decades-long run.
No cause of death has been released, but Parkinson underwent treatment for prostate cancer in 2013. He was considered cancer-free two years later after successful radiotherapy.