Peter Aykroyd, a writer and actor best known for his roles in the “Saturday Night Live” series and on the British television series “Absolutely Fabulous,” died Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles after a short illness, his wife confirmed. He was 66.
Aykroyd’s death was first reported by The Guardian, but the family issued an immediate statement confirming the death: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, brother, uncle and friend, Peter Aykroyd. Peter died peacefully today at his home in Los Angeles after a short illness, surrounded by family and friends.”
Aykroyd, whose thick, bleached-blond hair and slick self-assurance were inextricably intertwined with his role as the post-modern troublemaker Ziggy Stardust on “Saturday Night Live,” had an extensive résumé. He wrote screenplays, including the crime caper “Three Amigos” and the romance “Philadelphia.” He wrote for the British series “Allo ‘Allo!” (a spoof of “Arsenic and Old Lace”) and, for a time, wrote and directed “Three Amigos,” a hit of the mid-1970s, but it isn’t credited with any major box office success.
Instead, Aykroyd was best known for his 1974 film version of “Tommy,” a musical about the legendary English hard-rock star. He also reprised his “Knights of Malta” role on the British TV series of the same name in 1978.
In 1986, Aykroyd came back to “SNL” with a three-episode special. He appeared again on the show — now led by Tina Fey and now hosted by Amy Poehler — in an episode in 2015 as a panelist on “Weekend Update,” commenting on the Republican Party.
A native of Cornwall, England, Aykroyd broke into the music business as a composer of film music, providing the score for “Tommy” (1975) and “Rocky V” (1979). He also wrote for the popular 1970s rock revue “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” in which he performed under the pseudonym “Brixton Bob.” The show was a frequent target of Aykroyd’s characteristic, endlessly manic sense of humor.
The three-album “Lumberjack Sessions” from 1981, an anthology of mostly country-music covers, also focused on Aykroyd’s love of music, with guest appearances by the likes of Emmylou Harris, Robbie Robertson and George Harrison.
He was born Peter Joseph Berridge on April 2, 1947, in Lambeth, London. His father was a craftsman and his mother an acupuncturist; the family moved when he was young and settled in Cornwall. His father committed suicide in 1950, leaving the family a financial ruin.
Aykroyd attended the University of Cornwall, where he majored in engineering, then wrote a dissertation on the Beatles at Cambridge University. By the late 1970s, he had begun to write for television and music.
In a 1983 interview with The New York Times, Aykroyd recalled that during his time at Cambridge he studied the analysis of intelligence. “In general, I’m very suspicious of people,” he said. “It’s an instinctive thing that probably comes from my upbringing. I became aware early on that people have different agendas, and it’s my job as an actor to prove that I’m wrong.”
In an interview with The Independent in February 2015, Aykroyd said he was “like a trouper, which is probably why I got into acting so early.” He added: “I like to keep the pace going. I mean, I’m trying to perform to myself now. I have a sense of being alive and what I need to do.”
Besides his wife, Susan Bolger, of Los Angeles, Aykroyd is survived by his daughters Bonnie Claire, Damien and Corinne.