Veteran broadcaster Sir David Frost has died of a heart attack at the age of 74, his family said in a statement.
He died on Saturday night on the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship, where he was due to give a speech.
A family statement said: “His family are devastated and ask for privacy at this difficult time. A family funeral will be held in the near future and details of a memorial service will be announced in due course.”
Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: “My heart goes out to David Frost’s family. He could be – and certainly was with me – both a friend and a fearsome interviewer.”
He added: “Sir David was an extraordinary man – with charm, wit, talent, intelligence and warmth in equal measure. He made a huge impact on television and politics.
“The Nixon interviews were among the great broadcast moments – but there were many other brilliant interviews.”
Sir David leaves behind his wife Carina and three sons.
The media personality, journalist and comedian mixed political satire programmes with serious big name interviews – the most notable of which was with Richard Nixon and provided the inspiration for an Oscar-nominated Hollywood movie.
During a career that spanned 50 years, he presented The Frost Report, Breakfast With Frost and That Was The Week That Was.
Paying tribute to the icon, television personality Esther Rantzen said: “I think fellow interviewers have always been awestruck by David Frost’s capacity to illicit memorable, sometimes historically significant quotes from all the movers and shakers or our time – presidents, prime ministers, A list celebrities – but for all of us who had the pleasure of knowing him socially, it is his kindness, generosity, loyalty and humour that we will miss so much.
“His summer party was always the best party of the year. His fund of anecdotes and his constant wit was a joy. In fact, it was always his greeting: ‘a joy to meet you’ and it was always a joy to meet him.”
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls tweeted: “Very sorry to hear of the sudden death of Sir David Frost – he was such a friendly man, but also a brilliantly beguiling interviewer.
Stephen Fry tweeted: “Oh heavens, David Frost dead? No!! I only spoke to him on Friday and he sounded so well. Excited about a house move, full of plans … how sad.”
Former PM Tony Blair said: “This is very sad. Being interviewed by him was always a pleasure but also you knew that there would be multiple stories the next day arising from it.
“David was a great professional and a good friend. My deepest condolences to his lovely wife Carina and family. ”
Born on April 7, 1939, the son of a Methodist preacher, at Tenterden, Kent, he was educated at Gillingham Grammar School, Wellingborough Grammar School and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.
At Cambridge he joined the renowned revue society Footlights and got his first experience doing television for the regional station in Norwich with a programme called Town and Gown.
His big break came when he co-created and hosted satirical show That Was The Week Was in the early 1960s.
Another of his early programmes, The Frost Report, effectively launched John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett on their subsequent glittering careers.
n more recent times, he had hosted Breakfast with Frost on Sunday mornings (1993-2005) and panel game show Through The Keyhole (1987-2008).
He was currently working for Al Jazeera English and had recently interviewed the Chilean novelist Isabel Allende and F1 driver Lewis Hamilton.
Sir David’s list of interviewees included virtually every US president and British prime minister during his working life.
During his series of five interviews with Nixon, the notoriously slippery former president known as ‘Tricky Dicky’ dramatically admitted that he had “let down the country”.
His appeal to American audiences saw him become one of the Concorde’s most assiduous users, and he claimed to have been on the supersonic plane “somewhere between 300 and 500 times”.
Other historic moments in his career included a tense interview with Margaret Thatcher over the sinking of the Argentine warship the Belgrano during the Falklands conflict in which he suddenly introduced the word “bonkers”.
He was also the last person to interview Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran.
Outside world affairs, his roster ranged from Orson Welles, Tennessee Williams, Noel Coward, Peter Ustinov, Woody Allen, Muhammad Ali, the Beatles, Clint Eastwood, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sir John Gielgud, Norman Mailer, Warren Beatty and many more.