John Travolta and Kelsey Grammer lead tributes to Kirstie Alley as she dies of cancer aged 71

Kirstie Alley with her former co-star and longtime friend in 2007 (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Kirstie Alley with her former co-star and longtime friend in 2007 (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

John Travolta has paid tribute to his former co-star and longtime friend Kirstie Alley following her death from cancer at age 71.

"Kirstie was one of the most special relationships I've ever had," Mr Travolta said on Instagram on Monday night. "I love you Kirstie. I know we will see each other again."

Ms Alley, an actor who got her big break as Rebecca Howe in the TV show Cheers, starred with Mr Travolta in the Look Who's Talking movies, and both were members of the Church of Scientology.

Her Cheers costar Kelsey Grammer also told Variety: "I always believed grief for a public figure is a private matter, but I will say I loved her."

On Monday, Ms Alley's family confirmed that she had died following a short battle with cancer, which was "only recently discovered".

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Her children Lillie and William, known by his middle name True, said she had died "surrounded by her closest family" and had "fought with great strength, leaving us with a certainty of her never-ending joy of living and whatever adventures lie ahead".

Ms Alley starred three times with Mr Travolta, in the 1989 film Look Who's Talking and its two sequels, and have reportedly remained close.

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In 2015, she described him as the "greatest love" of her life, saying she had fallen in love with him during filming in 1989 but resisted an affair for the sake of both their marriages.

"Believe me, it took everything that I had – inside, outside, whatever – to not run off and marry John, and be with John for the rest of my life," she said.

When asked why she didn't leave her former husband earlier (they divorced in 1997), she said: "Because I feel like when you marry someone you're supposed to work hard at it, and you're supposed to make it work."