Lewis Collins, star of 70s TV series The Professionals
Lewis Collins as Bodie in The Professionals. ITV

The Professionals star Lewis Collins has died.

Collins, who played Bodie in the cult 1970s British TV series, lost a five-year battle against cancer. He was 67.

His agent confirmed the news saying: "He died peacefully at his LA home surrounded by his family. Privacy is asked for at this very sad time."

The actor was best known for his role in the iconic ITV series, based around the adventures of a fictional criminal intelligence unit called CI5. His crime-fighting partner in the series Doyle, was played by Martin Shaw, who is currently appearing in a West End production of 12 Angry Men.

Shaw told BBC News he was saddened to hear of his co-star's passing. "We spent a very tough four years together in making The Professionals, and shared in the production of what has become an icon of British television," he explained. "He will be remembered as part of the childhood of so many people, and mourned by his fans. I send my love and condolences to his family, and the great many who will miss him."

Lord Michael Grade, who launched the programme in 1977 as director of programmes at London Weekend Television, told BBC Radio 4 the on-screen pairing of Collins and Shaw would "never be forgotten".

"It worked perfectly and the chemistry between the two of them was magic," he said on Radio 4's World at One "[Collins] was Bodie - he was a very macho character in real life. He got us into trouble one time where he had a few days off from filming where he went parachute jumping and broke his leg which held up the filming.

"But what you saw on screen was the same as what you saw off the screen - he was just a big, hunky, macho character with a lovely innocence about him."

Bodie and Doyle in The Professionals
Collins and Shaw as intelligence officers Bodie and Doyle in The Professionals. ITV

Born in May 1946 in Cheshire, Collins first found work as a women's hairdresser and later turned musician, playing drums and guitar in pop bands. Training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art he ventured into acting and won roles in popular TV series such as Z Cars and The New Avengers.

Making his debut in The Professionals in 1977, Collins quickly became a household name as former paratrooper and SAS soldier, hard man William Bodie. He later took on the lead role in the British thriller Who Dares Wins, portraying an SAS soldier who infiltrates a terrorist group.

Combining a smouldering diffidence with subtle charm and good looks, Collins was considered the ideal choice to take on the role of James Bond, but his first audition was deemed "too aggressive."

"I was in Albert R Broccoli's office for five minutes, but it was really over for me in seconds," he is reported to have said. "He's expecting another Connery to walk through the door and there are few of them around."

Married to school teacher Michelle Larrett he had three sons, Oliver, Elliot and Cameron. Collins moved to Los Angeles where he ran a successful computer business.

Friends and colleagues of the star have taken to Twitter to offer their condolences on the much-loved actor's passing.

Former Doctor Who star Colin Baker tweeted: "Sad to hear that Lewis Collins has died. He was the year below me at drama school. Had style!"

Brian Conley, who co-starred with Collins in the 1999 TV series The Grimleys, also paid his respects: "God bless Lewis Collins, my dad in The Grimleys. A great actor and a lovely man."

"The man who should have been Bond," tweeted Gary Kemp. "RIP Lewis Collins. You were supercool."

The Professionals is currently being re-run on ITV4.