Alan Rickman (1946-2016): Alan Rickman, whose dramatic breadth and distinctive vocal delivery made him a legend among cinematic villains and a versatile supporting player in a long list of critically acclaimed films, has passed away at the age of 69 after a battle with cancer. Alan Rickman, whose dramatic breadth and distinctive vocal delivery made him a legend among cinematic villains and a versatile supporting player in a long list of critically acclaimed films, has passed away at the age of 69 after a battle with cancer. Born in the Acton Ward of London’s Ealing Borough, Rickman gained his first acting experience as a teenager, although his working-class background prevented him from immediately seeking it out as a profession. Initially pursuing a career in graphic design, he eventually auditioned with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, earning a spot among the student body and winning several awards during his tenure at the school. Initially focusing his efforts on the stage, Rickman picked up some early TV credits — including an appearance in the 1982 BBC program “The Barchester Chronicles” — but his first taste of widespread acclaim came courtesy of his Tony-winning portrayal of the Vicomte de Valmont in “Les Liaisons Dangereuses”, a role he held during the play’s 1985 Royal Shakespeare Company run and reprised when the production moved to Broadway in 1987. Rickman’s first major film appearance arrived in 1988’s “Die Hard”, in which he played Hans Gruber, the delightfully snide terrorist whose takeover of a Los Angeles high rise is foiled by the indefatigable efforts of New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) — but not before hero and heavy engage in a battle of wits and one-liners that spawned several sequels and a legion of countless action-thriller imitators. It was followed by a number of memorable roles that included eminently loathsome bad guys such as the Sheriff of Nottingham in 1991’s “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”), comedic turns in films such as “Dogma” and “Galaxy Quest”, and several appearances as Professor Severus Snape in the “Harry Potter” franchise. Along the way, Rickman continued to compile a varied list of stage and television credits along with building an impressively eclectic film career. He tried his hand at direction with reasonable critical acclaim, helming “The Winter Guest” (1995) and “A Little Chaos” (2015). His voice could be heard in episodes of King of the Hill and Back at the Barnyard. He won a Golden Globe Award, an Emmy Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award for his work in the 1996 HBO movie “Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny”. As a recent testament to his range, in 2013, he portrayed Ronald Reagan in Lee Daniels’ “The Butler” as well as legendary club owner Hilly Kristal in Randall Miller’s “CBGB”. One of Rickman’s most frequent collaborators, Emma Thompson, was among the first to pay tribute after news of his passing broke, sharing that she’d “just kissed him goodbye” and offering a tender eulogy filled with fond memories of their relationship. “He was the ultimate ally. In life, art, and politics,” wrote Thompson. “I trusted him absolutely. He was, above all things, a rare and unique human being and we shall not see his like again.”
Rajesh Vivek (1949-2016): “Actor Rajesh Vivek Upadhyay, popular for playing the role of “Guran” in Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Oscar nominated Hindi film “Lagaan”, died due to a heart attack in Hyderabad on Thursday. He was 66. Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan, who played the lead in the 2001 classic, paid tribute to the actor on his Facebook page: “Yesterday we lost someone from the Lagaan family…. Rajesh Vivek. You will always remain in our hearts Baba. Your spirit, your energy and your love for humanity will always inspire us. Love. a.” It was veteran director Shyam Benegal, who had first introduced Vivek in his 1978 classic “Junoon”. A famous character actor who always managed to leave a mark even while sharing screen-space with huge superstars; he played several small but prominent roles in more than 30 films, including “Swades”, “Tridev”, “Bunty Aur Babli”, “Jodhaa Akbar”, “Joshilaay”, and “Bandit Queen”. Check out Guran’s famous cricket shot – an indelible image from “Lagaan”, etched in every Bollywood film-goer’s mind – which has since been replicated in diverse versions by several international cricketers of repute. It can be safely said on behalf of cinema lovers over the world, who would’ve caught a glimpse of his talent in some film or another, that his demise is a significant loss for Indian cinema.
Wes Craven (1939-2015): With Halloween just around the corner, I could not help but fondly remember Wes Craven’s iconic spook-fests while also looking back at his masterpieces with some sadness – a despondency arising from the fact that he’ll no longer call the shots on a movie set; never again will he stand behind a camera, no susceptible young teen is ever going to be instructed by him on how to whimper and scamper away while a monstrous boogeyman chases them; and we, the audience, is never ever going to be thrust into another surreal nightmare envisaged by this horror auteur. The influential horror director behind such genre classics as “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, “Scream”, “Scream 2”, and “The Hills Have Eyes”, died Sunday, Aug 30, 2015, after a battle with brain cancer. He was 76. Craven’s films are among horror cinema’s most indelible and iconic. Freddy Krueger, whose blade-fingered reign of terror began in Craven’s 1984 classic “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, is arguably the definitive big-screen boogeyman of the 1980s, and his “Scream” films showed that Craven could juggle self-referential laughs with bone chilling scares for a modern generation, too. Born in Cleveland in 1939, Craven worked as a professor at several colleges before getting a job as a sound engineer at a post-production company in New York City (he also worked on adult productions using a pseudonym). Craven’s first film was a major success; the low-budget proto-slasher movie “The Last House on the Left” (1972) was a brutal tale of murder and revenge that sparked controversy and threats of censorship as well as admiration for its uncommon intelligence (its story borrowed heavily from Ingmar Bergman’s “The Virgin Spring”). He found further success with “The Hills Have Eyes” (1977), about a family of cannibals, and “Swamp Thing” (1982), based on the DC comics character, before hitting the jackpot with “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (featuring Johnny Depp in his big-screen debut). In addition to his work in horror films, Craven also directed the crowd-pleasing 1999 drama “Music of the Heart” starring Meryl Streep as a violin teacher; and the supremely-entertaining 2005 Hitchcockian thriller “Red Eye” starring Rachel McAdams as an airplane passenger trying to outwit a terrorist played by Cillian Murphy. Craven’s last directorial credit was “Scream 4” (2011), though he served as an executive producer on the 2015 “Scream” TV series. He is survived by his wife, Iya Labunka, and two children from a previous marriage. It has been said of many great Directors when they leave the world that cinema would no longer be the same. For Craven, it can easily be said, that cinema will no longer be as scary, and audiences the world over will no longer face nightmares as profound as they had once experienced after watch a Wes Craven creep-fest.
Sir Christopher Lee (1922–2015): Christopher Lee, the veteran actor and star of many of the world’s biggest film franchises, has died aged 93. The British actor, who made his name playing Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster in the Hammer horror films, appeared in more than 250 movies. Lee was a bona-fide screen legend for decades, known to many as the last living horror icon for his role as Dracula in some of the most iconic horror films from Hammer studios. He’s also fondly remembered as the deadly assassin, Francisco Scaramanga, in “The Man with the Golden Gun”, alongside Sir Roger Moore – and, in the eyes of many fans, was one of the greatest ever James Bond villains. But a newer generation of moviegoers recognize him better as Count Dooku from George Lucas’ “Star Wars” prequels and the evil Saruman in all of Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” adaptations, including Jackson’s three-part “Hobbit” trilogy, which wrapped up just last year. The actor is reported to have passed away on Sunday, June 7th, 2015, at Chelsea and Westminster hospital in London, after being hospitalised for respiratory problems and heart failure. A Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council spokesman said: “We can confirm that the Register Office issued a death certificate for Mr. Christopher Lee on Monday, 8th June. Mr Lee died on Sunday, 7th June.” He was knighted in 2009 for services to drama and charity and was awarded a Bafta fellowship in 2011. One of the first to pay tribute was James Bond actor Roger Moore, who tweeted: “It’s terribly [sad] when you lose an old friend, and Christopher Lee was one of my oldest. We first met in 1948.” Sir Christopher also worked with director Tim Burton on five films including Sleepy Hollow (1999) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). Burton described him as “an enormous inspiration”. “The great, always criminally underrated Sir Christopher Lee has left us,” actor and screenwriter Mark Gatiss tweeted. “A Titan of Cinema and a huge part of my youth. Farewell. George Lucas, said, “Christopher was a great British actor of the old school. A true link to cinema’s past and a real gentleman. We will miss him.” Actor Reece Shearsmith called him “an amazing gentleman who brought us so many iconic roles”. Broadcaster Jonathan Ross said, “So sad to hear that Sir Christopher Lee has died. A great actor, a great star, a surprisingly good singer, and a lovely, lovely man.” Elijah Wood – who played Frodo Baggins in “The Lord of the Rings” movies paid a heartfelt tribute to his co-star, describing him as “an extraordinary man, icon, and a towering human being with stories for days”. Peter Jackson, his Director from the same film franchise also paid a moving tribute saying, “There will never be another Christopher Lee. He has a unique place in the history of cinema and in the hearts of millions of fans around the world. The world will be a lesser place without him in it. Rest in peace, Chris. An icon of cinema has passed into legend.” The British Film Institute (BFI) issued a formal statement saying, “We are deeply saddened to hear that Sir Christopher Lee has passed away.” Born into affluence in London in 1922, Sir Christopher traced his lineage to Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor. After public school he served in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve during the Second World War, where he was mentioned in dispatches. His screen career began when he joined the Rank Organisation in 1947, training as an actor in their so-called “charm school”. It was his association with British studio Hammer that made him a household name, playing characters such as Frankenstein’s monster, The Mummy, and Dracula in the late 1950s. Sir Christopher would go on to reprise the trademark vampire role in a number of sequels, before finally laying him to rest in the 1970s. He also appeared in 1976’s “To the Devil a Daughter”, the last horror movie of Hammer’s original era, but returned to the Hammer stable for its 21st Century relaunch in 2011’s “The Resident” alongside Hillary Swank. His other iconic acting credits included 1973’s “The Wicker Man” and “The Three Musketeers”, playing Fu Manchu in a series of films in the 1960s and Jinnah (1998), which he considered to be one of his most important films. The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Star Wars prequels were the most successful films of his career from a commercial standpoint. He also demonstrated his versatility in comedies like “1941” and “Gremlins 2”. “I’ve appeared in so many films that were ahead of their time – some of them were very good,” the actor told the BBC News website in 2001. “Some weren’t.” As one of Britain’s greatest actors, Sir Christopher Lee’s career spanned genres, generations, and an impressive seven decades. It’s emerged Lee passed away as he prepared to start filming for his latest movie, co-starring Uma Thurman. In one of his last interviews, he declared: “When I die, I want to die with my boots on.” He certainly stayed true to his word.
Rod Taylor (1930-2015): Actor Rod Taylor, who starred in “The Time Machine” and opposite Tippi Hedren in “The Birds,” died in Los Angeles on Wednesday of natural causes. He was 84. The Australian-born actor’s career spanned over six decades through which he acted in more than 50 Hollywood films and numerous TV shows, but his first big break came in 1960 when he starred in the George Pal-directed adaptation of “The Time Machine.” In 1961, he voiced Pongo in Disney’s animated classic, “101 Dalmatians.” But his most iconic role was that of Mitch Brenner in Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1963 horror classic, “The Birds.” Taylor and Hedren spent much of the film running from menacing flocks of birds, which went on an inexplicable rampage against a quaint island town. Though quite popular through the 60s, and early to mid 70s, it must be said, that Taylor never quite made it into the first rank of Hollywood actors. Nevertheless, his memorable films and well-received performances ensure that he will always be fondly remembered in the hearts of cinegoers. “There are so many incredible feelings I have for him. Rod was a great pal to me and a real strength, we were very, very good friends,” Hedren said of her co-star in a statement given to People magazine. “He was one of the most fun people I have ever met, thoughtful and classy, there was everything good in that man,” she further added. The actor also had quite a prolific television career in the later decades of his career. He starred on ABC’s “Masquerade” and CBS’s “Outlaws” and “Falcon Crest.” He would later have multiple episode runs on two other CBS shows, “Murder, She Wrote” and “Walker, Texas Ranger.” Taylor’s final role was in Quentin Tarantino‘s 2009 revisionist World War II, action-adventurer, “Inglourious Basterds,” in which he played a crackling cameo as the late British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. Taylor was surrounded by friends and family when he died, and is survived by his wife, Carol Kikumura, from his third marriage in 1980, and his daughter, Felicia Taylor, from his second marriage. “My dad loved his work. Being an actor was his passion — calling it an honorable art and something he couldn’t live without,” Felicia, a former CNN correspondent, said in a statement. “He once said, ‘I am a poor student sitting at the feet of giants, yearning for their wisdom and begging for lessons that might one day make me a complete artist,” she added, “‘so that if all goes well, I may one day sit beside them.’”
Mike Nichols (1931-2014): Legendary film and theater director, writer, and producer, Mike Nichols, has passed away. An Oscar winner for 1967′s seminal, Dustin Hoffman starrer, “The Graduate”, he also was nominated for such films as “Working Girl”, “Silkwood”, and “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?” For his stage work, he amassed 10 Tony Awards including as director for such plays as “Barefoot In The Park”, “The Odd Couple”, “The Prisoner Of Second Avenue”, and “Death Of A Salesman”; and as producer of “Annie and The Real Thing”. Famous screenwriter and author, William Goldman, once said, “There were two great American film directors—Elia Kazan and Mike Nichols.” Nichol’s Broadway co-producer, Emanuel Azenberg, echoed these sentiments in his own words: “I think that’s true. He was a giant who could convince people to be better than they were.” Nichols died suddenly late Wednesday night at 83, and his passing was announced on Thursday morning by ABC news President, James Goldston. Nichols was married to ABC news anchor, Diane Sawyer. Goldston said this morning, “He was a true visionary, winning the highest honors in the arts for his work as a director, writer, producer, and comic, and was one of a tiny few to win the EGOT — an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony in his lifetime. No one was more passionate about his craft than Mike…Mike and Diane were married for 26 years. He leaves behind three children — Daisy, Max and Jenny — and four wonderful grandchildren…The family will hold a small, private service this week, and a memorial will be held at a later date.” Along with his children and grandchidren, Nichols is also survived by his wife, Diane. At the time of his death, he was working on an adaptation of Terrence McNally’s Tony-winning play about Maria Callas, “Master Class”, for HBO. Nichols was an “extraordinary talent. Consummate gentleman. One of the legends,” HBO CEO, Richard Plepler, said this morning. “Legend is often overused, but he was a legend and most importantly he was unbelievably decent and had time for everybody, mentored a lot of young talent. That is a vacuum that will not be filled.” Broadway will dim its lights tomorrow at 7:45 PM ET, for one minute, in honor of Nichols’ life and contributions.
Robin Williams (1951-2014): Among America’s preeminent comedians who also enjoyed a long and distinguished film career. Along the way, he effortlessly carved his way into the hearts of million of people from all walks and spheres of life around the globe – not just through his beloved movie roles, but also through his sheer selflessness, idiosyncratic ideals, countless philanthropic acts, and a heart that was as kind and loving as the genuine smile usually plastered across his visage. Arguable the only TV and stand-up comedian who successfully transcended the barrier of funny roles that most comedians who embark on a film career find themselves ultimately trapped in (although that’s what audiences love to see them doing, it does get monotonous and at times unbearably repetitive after a comedian has exhausted all his jokes and slapstick elements on celluloid – the film and stage are after all two very disparate mediums). Williams was perhaps the only one who managed to break free of the mold, but then again he did possess the acting chops to do so, as was evident in the wide range of roles he flawlessly portrayed from the deranged psychopath in “Insomnia” to his Oscar winning turn as a resolute mentor in “Good Will Hunting”, from his distinctive portrayal of a teacher going against established norms in “Dead Poets Society” to an eccentric homeless man in “The Fisher King” to even action-adventure roles such as “Jumanji”. Many of his comedic roles too, were chosen and played out with a certain foresight such as those in “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Patch Adams”. Robin Willaims will ultimately go down in those list of film personalities who left us too soon. Mr. Williams, Sir, you brought unparalleled joy to billions of people through your movies, made tons of people laugh hysterically and forget their troubles for a short while through your umpteen quirky characters on screen, and touch the live of millions through your selfless acts of kindness. No matter what your reasons for taking your own life (severe depression is still a grave issue and those never afflicted from it can’t even imagine what you must have been going through), you Sir, will be sorely now and forever.
Lauren Backall (1924-2014): One of the sexiest actress of her day and the headliner of some of the biggest hits from the noir and adventure genre (The Big Sleep (1946), To Have and Have Not (1944), Key Largo (1948)), Lauren Backall was a tunner on-screen who portrayed most of her characters with sassy irreverence, oomph, seductive charm, and a pleasing nonchalance that made her a darling of the masses in the 40s. Working with some of Hollywood’s most esteemed Directors of the times from Howard Hawks to John Houston and co-starring with preeminent leading men such as Humphrey Bogart (whom she was also married to till his premature demise in 1957), Backall carved a niche for herself playing strong, confident, independent women on either side of the morality demarcation. Though she never attained the repute or legacy of a Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn or an Ingrid Bergman (though she was surprisingly ranked #11 in Empire (UK) magazine’s 1997 issue of “The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time”), she still remained vividly famous for years since bidding farewell to her glory days (as was evident from her casting in well-received films such as Dogville (2003), voice-overs in Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) and the mega-hit TV shoe, Family Guy, and also from her ranking of #6 by Empire magazine’s 1995 issue as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history). Lauren Backall leaves behind a plethora of class movies for us and the future generations to enjoy and reminisce her proud work, husky voice, arresting eyes, and intoxicating sexual aura.
Eli Wallach (1915–2014): Wallach who was one of his generation’s most prominent and prolific character actors in film, onstage, and on television for more than 60 years. Despite his many years of film work, some of it critically acclaimed, Mr. Wallach was never nominated for an Academy Award. But in November 2010, less than a month before his 95th birthday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded him an honorary Oscar, saluting him as “the quintessential chameleon, effortlessly inhabiting a wide range of characters, while putting his inimitable stamp on every role.” Eli Wallach is best known for his legendary role as Tuco in arguably the greatest western of all time, Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Mickey Rooney (1920–2014): Rooney was a multi-talented actor who performed with equal measure on film, television, Broadway, radio, and the vaudeville stage. Beginning as a child actor, his career extended over 90 years, making him one of the most enduring performers in show business history. He appeared in more than 300 films and was one of the last surviving stars of the silent film era, having one of the longest careers in the cinema history. Nominated for four Academy awards and the recipient of two Golden Globes and one Emmy award, the world shall forever remember Mickey Rooney as an actor who could be called upon to do just about anything and do it brilliantly at that.
Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967–2014): One of the best actors of the current generation. Pity he didn’t apply the same level of acumen in his lifestyle choices as he did while selecting his cinematic roles. His loss though self-afflicted and unfortunate, still leaves a gaping hole in the world of film. If only he had sorted out his life with more discipline and prudence, he could have been a bona-fide movie star and gone down in the annals of celluloid as a cinematic treasure. Alas, his self-destructive streak cut short his impressive body of work, which could have included many more acclaimed films and given us many more memorable performances.
Paul Walker (1973 – 2013): The star of the “Fast and Furious” films, Paul Walker’s absence from the subsequent sequels of one of the best action franchises ever will surely be felt dearly by moviegoers all over. The pain and emotional trauma experienced by his friends and family can be sympathized but not empathized with. To lose someone in the prime of their health and career is indeed tragic. The only solace that can be sought from Walker’s untimely demise, is in the knowledge that he met his maker in the same way that he lived his life – by cruising and revving down the fast lane in a highly powered motorized engine. Yes, Mr. Walker was ironically a motor car racing aficionado and loved those rapid fire four-wheel beauties, just like his popular character, Brian O’Conner, in the “Fast and Furious” films. The “Fast and Furious” franchise is never going to be the same without him. Our prayers go out to his near and dear ones in these trying times, especially his teenage daughter. May his soul R.I.P.
Hal Needham (1931 – 2013): As the highest paid stuntman in the world, Hal Needham broke 56 bones, his back twice, punctured a lung and knocked out a few teeth. His career has included work on 4500 television episodes and 310 feature films as a stuntman, stunt coordinator, 2nd unit director and ultimately, director. He directed the classic car-action-comedy, “Smokey and the Bandit (1977) starring the legendary Burt Reynolds. Sadly he breathed his last on March 6, 1931, aged 82. Hal Needham was a true tour-de-force of Hollywood action movies and personified everything that action movie fans have come to love about the genre. In a generation without today’s innovative CGI technology and modern Chroma effects, he made action look fun, gritty, and realistic all at the same time. Mr. Needham, you’ll be sorely missed.
Pran (1920 – 2013): Legendary Bollywood actor and one of the greatest villains ever to appear on celluloid, Pran Saab passed away aged 93, on July 12, 2013. There have been very few actors who’ve possessed the caliber of this gentleman to literally send shivers down audience’s spine. So much so, people refrained from naming their kids after him. Well, I’m absolutely certain that the Almighty has no qualms in graciously accepting this kind-heart-ed human being with open arms into his fold. We will forever miss you Pran Sir – your indomitable spirit and detailed approach to your roles have left an indelible mark on our conscious.
Jim Kelly (1946 – 2013): Martial Arts star Jim Kelly – more famously known for his role of Williams in the classic “Enter The Dragon – passed away on June 29, 2013, aged 67. May the soul of this cool dude R.I.P. Its now time for him to amaze some folks and divine beings up there with his amazingly fast hands, nimble feet, and stylish demeanor.