British actress Emma Chambers, best known Stateside for a winning turn as Hugh Grant’s sister in the 1999 romantic comedy Notting Hill, has died. Chambers—who also had a starring role for many years in the BBC’s gently comic The Vicar Of Dibley—was 53.
Originally a theater actress, Chambers was frequently cast in the role of optimistic, slightly daffy women with a talent for humorous misunderstanding. Comparing herself to her Dibley character, Alice, she once noted, “Like Alice I am vulnerable, emotional and caring, but I am not thick. I think she is gorgeously naïve, like a child. And that is one thing I am not: I am a cynical old bitch.”
Still, Chambers managed to radiate an unconscious earnestness in Roger Michell’s well-regarded story of a regular joe falling in love with a Hollywood actress; in her most famous scene from the film, she manages to push past starstruck into a sort of beautifully confident daze, promising Julia Roberts’ movie star that she’s sincerely convinced “we could be best friends.” (Off-camera, she remarked, “I just remember thinking, ‘You are completely beautiful’ and smiling a lot, so she probably thought I was a lesbian, which I am not.”)
Chambers was remembered today by some of her co-stars; Dibley star Dawn French called her “a very bright spark and the most loyal and loving friend anyone could wish for,” while Grant noted on Twitter that she was “a hilarious and very warm person and of course a brilliant actress.”
According to Variety, Chambers died of natural causes.