Liz Smith as Grandma Georgina with the cast of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory Photo: Warner Bros
Smith, who became a household name for her small-screen role as Nana in BBC's The Royle Family, was a veteran of both television and film - even though she didn't land her first role until she was almost 50.
Recalling her role in Mike Leigh's Play For Today later, she said: “The moment that my life transformed was when I was standing in Hamley’s one Christmas, flogging toys and I got a message from this young director named Mike Leigh.
“I was nearly 50 at the time, but he wanted a middle-aged woman to do improvisations. I went to an audition and I got the job of the mother in this improvised film – Bleak Moments, his first film – and it changed my life.”
From that point on Smith, who was born Betty Gleadle in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, went on to carve a career as a character actress.
Leigh told Radio 4's Today Programme Smith was refreshingly down to earth. He added: "She was a complete breath of fresh air. She was not your bog standard middle-aged actress."
Smith's most memorable roles may have come on the small screen in shows including I Didn't Know You Cared, The Royle Family and Lark Rise To Candleford, but she also had a number of notable film roles, including the role of Maggie Smith's mother in A Private Function and - for which she won a BAFTA.
The death of Smith, who had two children, comes just months after The Royle Family creator Catherine Aherne passed away. Co-star Ralf Little tweeted: Devastating to lose two members of my second family in one awful year. RIP Liz Smith. Goodbye Nana. Xxx"
Leigh said: "She was eccentric, she was a bohemian, a kind of hippy in a way. She had a lot of cats, was a vegetarian, the most generous person you would ever hope to meet."
Richard E Grant, who starred alongside Smith in 1997's Keep The Aspidistra Flying, also paid tribute on Twitter, writing: "Liz Smith-I loved working with you on the George Orwell film & privileged to have played & danced together R.I.P."
Liz, who announced her retirement in acting in 2009 following a series of strokes, was appointed an MBE in the same year.