Helen Mirren is mourning the loss of British stage and film actor Antony Sher, who died on Thursday at the age of 72.
The Oscar winner, 76, shared an emotional tribute to Sher on Friday. "I am devastated to hear of the death of Antony Sher," Mirren wrote, in a statement. "The theater has lost a brilliant light."
She went on to recall first meeting Sher in the mid-1970s, writing, "I will never forget the moment I met the actor in Antony. We were doing the first reading rehearsal of the play Teeth and Smiles by David Hare. Antony was a comparatively unknown actor at the time. We were buried in our scripts."
"I read the first words of our scene together and he answered. I raised my eyes above the pages to look at him more precisely, as with simply those minimal words I immediately realized I was opposite a great actor," the Woman In Gold actress added.
"Of course he went on to become the celebrated artist he was, but the extraordinary ability was born in him, as natural to him as breathing: it was as clear as a summer sky," said Mirren.
RELATED VIDEO: Helen Mirren Says She Loves Taking Off in Airplanes: It's 'so Exciting'
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free weekly newsletter to get the biggest news of the week delivered to your inbox every Friday.
Sher — who was knighted by the British Empire in 2000 for services to theater — was commemorated Friday by the Royal Shakespeare Company, which said the respected actor died after being diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier this year.
"'Antony was deeply loved and hugely admired by so many colleagues. He was a ground-breaking role model for many young actors, and it is impossible to comprehend that he is no longer with us," the statement read in part.
In addition to his celebrated and Tony-nominated stage career, Sher is remembered as having played Dr. Moth in 1998's Oscar-winning Best Picture Shakespeare in Love, along with roles in Mrs. Brown and The Wolfman.
Sher is survived by husband Gregory Doran, artistic director for the Royal Shakespeare Company.