Leslie Grantham was pictured looking frail as he filmed scenes for an upcoming gangster movie, four months before he was admitted to hospital.
The former EastEnders villain, 71, is gravely ill and recently sold his Bulgarian home before returning to Britain knowing ‘he wouldn’t be going back’.
In February, the star was pictured filming for new movie, The Krays: Dead Man Walking, alongside co-star Marc Pickering.
Frail: Leslie Grantham was pictured looking frail as he filmed scenes for an upcoming gangster movie, four months before he was admitted to hospital
The star was seen bundled up in a black overcoat and hat as he ran lines with his co-star whilst filming in Highgate Woods, London.
Grantham plays Nipper Read in the new film, the policeman responsible for the conviction of Ronnie and Reggie Kray.
Rita Simons, Guy Henry, Darren Day and Nathan John Carter complete the star-studded cast, with the film expected to be released in December.
On set: In February, the star was pictured filming for new movie, The Krays: Dead Man Walking, alongside co-star Marc Pickering
Four months prior: The former EastEnders villain, 71, is gravely ill and recently sold his Bulgarian home before returning to Britain knowing ‘he wouldn’t be going back’
On Monday it was revealed the EastEnders villain is gravely ill in hospital and recently sold his Bulgarian home before returning to Britain knowing ‘he wouldn’t be going back’.
The actor who played hardman ‘Dirty’ Den Watts in the BBC soap looked ‘gaunt, frail and grey’ recently, neighbours and close friends have said.
Mr Grantham’s agent has said her client ‘remains poorly and is being taken care of by medical staff’ but will not reveal the nature of his illness.
The actor returned to the UK from Bulgaria having moved abroad following the breakdown of his marriage after 31 years.
Layered up: The star was seen bundled up in a black overcoat and hat as he ran lines with his co-star whilst filming in Highgate Woods, London
New role: Grantham plays Nipper Read in the new film, the policeman responsible for the conviction of Ronnie and Reggie Kray
A sex scandal where he was caught performing a sex act on a webcam led to three failed suicide attempts.
One friend who lives close to Mr Grantham said the star was ‘frail’ and ‘gaunt’ as recently as ‘four or five weeks ago’.
He told MailOnline the actor was open about being ill: ‘I said to him, ‘you alright Les?’. He said: ‘I’m fine’. He was positive about it all He didn’t have much on him. He was alone’.
A cafe worker said: ‘He was living at a friend’s house. Leslie lived on his own’.
Soon on screen: Grantham will be seen in the flick when it is released in December this year
Filming: Grantham was seen chatting with members of the crew as he took a break
Shop assistant Jancy Kar said Grantham used to buy cigarettes almost everyday from her corner shop but thought he had quit this year.
She said: ‘He used to buy cigarettes, Davidoff ones. He was not buying every day but very often. I saw him about three or four months ago. I think he’s stopped smoking now.
‘He was very friendly and talking nicely but he never said anything like ‘I’m that guy and I’m famous’.
New role: Grantham will play a detective in the film. He famously starred on EastEnders before
Fans have been wishing him well today and said they are praying for his recovery.
Ben Ofoedu, the singer from Phats and Small, said today: ‘Producer of the panto I was in. A train journey with him was one of most fascinating journeys I had. Full of knowledge praying all will be well. @LesGranthamReal’.
Des Atkinson tweeted: @LesGranthamReal sorry to hear you are ill hope you hope you feel well soon #legend’.
Leslie Grantham played the Queen Vic landlord ‘Dirty’ Den from 1985 to 1989 – and later returned despite apparently being murdered on a canal path.
For a time he was one of Britain’s most famous men and helped EastEnders pull in its biggest-ever audience, when more than 30 million viewers tuned in to see him hand over divorce papers to lying wife Angie on Christmas Day 1986.
Iconic: He helped the soap pull in its biggest-ever audience, when 30 million viewers tuned in to see him hand over divorce papers to lying wife Angie on Christmas Day 1986 (pictured)
It is still the fourth most watched TV show in British history, narrowly beaten by Princess Diana’s funeral and the 1966 World Cup final.
Den earned his ‘Dirty’ nickname in the programme after beating up his wife and impregnating a 16-year-old girl before he was apparently killed off in 1989.
In 2003, however, Den was given a rather dubious resurrection when it was revealed that he had survived the assassination attempt and fled to Spain.
Once back in Walford, Den quickly returned to his villainous ways, spreading mayhem for another two years until new wife Chrissie battered him over the head with an iron doorstop.
One to watch: Grantham (left) is shown in the first episode to be broadcast of the BBC soap in February of 1985
She killed him off for good in the very pub he once owned and buried him in the cellar of the Queen Vic in an episode aired in 2005. It was viewed by 16.2 million people.
Grantham enlisted in the British Army in 1965, being sent to West Germany with the Royal Fusiliers.
In 1966, however, he was involved in a struggle with a taxi driver he was attempting to rob in Osnabruck, Lower Saxony.
Top 5 biggest moments in UK television history
1. The 1966 World Cup Final, 30 July 1966: 32.30 million viewers
2. Diana’s funeral, 6 September 1997: 32.10 million viewers
3. The Royal Family documentary, 21 June 1969 and 28 June 1969: 30.69 million viewers
4. EastEnders (Den handing Angie divorce papers), 25 December 1986: 30.15 million viewers
5. Apollo 13’s splashdown, 17 April 1970: 28.60 million viewers
The driver, Felix Reese, was ultimately shot in the head and died.
In 1967, Grantham was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
It was during his time behind bars – he spent ten years in British jails – that he first took to acting.
He performed in many plays during his time in prison and was encouraged to pursue acting by Labour politician T Dan Smith and actress Louise Jameson.
In 2004, Grantham was exposed by a Sunday newspaper after he took part in webcam chats while masturbating and sucking his finger in his dressing room.
He apologised to his family for the embarrassment but later said he was ‘set up’.
Grantham said he was so devastated after the scandal that he attempted suicide.
After failing in all his attempts, he explained: ‘I accepted that even at suicide I was c***.’
After leaving EastEnders, Grantham played the pantomime villain in various productions.
He also featured in two UK tours of Beyond Reasonable Doubt, a stage adaption of a Jeffrey Archer play.
Left: Leslie Grantham as Den Watts, Anita Dobson as Angie Watts, Letitia Dean as Sharon Watts with Roly the dog outside the Queen Vic pub in 1984. Right: Grantham in the Dad’s Army show at the Marina Theatre in Lowestoft, 2004
In 2006, he played Jimmy Collins – a man on the run from prison – in The Bill.
He most recently appeared in The English Neighbour, a Bulgarian TV series based on a book of the same name.
He revealed in 2015 that he would like to win a role in Coronation Street.
Despite becoming infamous as one of Walford’s most notorious residents, he confessed he had been offered a role in the ITV soap before he ever starred in EastEnders, but turned it down.
But the actor admitted that his EastEnders fame might make it hard for audiences to accept him in another soap role.
‘It’s difficult to get in now if you are well-known in another soap,’ he said. ‘I know Michelle Collins went into Corrie but I’ll always be known as Dirty Den.’
In 2016, he told The Mirror that he had made some ‘quite catastrophic’ diversions during his life.
He added: ‘But I’m safe in the knowledge that what I do now is good.
‘Of course I have regrets, but you can’t go round wearing a hair shirt all your life, otherwise you’ll never get out of bed in the morning. I f***** up, now I’m going to move on.’
As seen on screen: Tracy-Ann Oberman as Chrissie and Leslie Grantham as Den Watts in EastEnders during an episode broadcast in 2004