Waterman starred as bodyguard Terry McCann in Minder and he first found fame as tough cop George Carter in The Sweeney opposite John Thaw.
A statement from his family said: “We are deeply saddened to announce that our beloved Dennis passed away very peacefully in hospital in Spain, on Sunday afternoon, with Pam by his side.”
Waterman played Gerry Standing in the BBC’s New Tricks, and other TV roles included Where The Heart Is, The Canterbury Tales and Moses Jones.
He became well-known for singing the theme song for many of his shows, and was caricatured by David Walliams in the comedy series Little Britain as a result.
His last film role was in Never Too Late in 2020, which was filmed in Australia.
Born in London, he was educated at the Corona Theatre School, and began his showbiz career at a young age.
Following a role for the Children’s Film Foundation he was invited to join the Royal Shakespeare Company.
A role in the BBC’s adaptation of the Just William books followed, and the actor would, in his later years, reflect on some of the different roles he undertook.
In 2009, he starred in the BBC’s hard-hitting drama Moses Jones, a role which he said at the time he enjoyed because it cast him in a different light.
“I really enjoyed it, because it was a very different kind of character – and that’s important.
“On television in Britain, I’m sort of the cheeky chappie, everybody’s mate, but I’ve never played anything like that in the theatre.
“It’s strange that you get cast as different things in different parts of the media,” he told The Press Association at the time.
His role in drama New Tricks, which began in 2004, marked his return to a long-running show for the first time in a decade and saw him star alongside acting stalwarts James Bolam and Alun Armstrong.
His character Gerry was part of the cold case squad, who were often at odds with their detective boss, played by Amanda Redman.
The hugely popular Minder was revived by Channel 5 in 2009, but Waterman did not return for the new outing.
He had been married several times, including to the actor Rula Lenska until 1998, and his daughter, Hannah, also became a TV star – landing a role in popular soap EastEnders.
Waterman’s extensive career also included numerous stints on the stage and he played Alfred Doolittle in a Royal National Theatre production of My Fair Lady, as well as starring in a tour production of Don’t Dress For Dinner.
“We are incredibly sad to hear of the passing of Dennis Waterman, an unforgettable actor who will be missed by us all,” the BBC said in a statement.
Waterman also starred in productions of Twelfth Night, Edward Bond’s Saved at the Royal Court Theatre and Sergeant Musgrave’s Dance.
His talents did not end with acting and he had a keen interest in music, having recorded albums and singles, including songs which charted in Australia, New Zealand and Britain.
He was also part of the popular music tour, Friends On Tour, which saw him take to the road alongside Sheena Easton and Gerard Kenny.
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