Bill Paxton: 1955 – 2017

It’s with a heavy heart we must say farewell to a beloved and most prolific actor in one Bill Paxton who died Sunday as a result of complications during heart surgery. Paxton is survived by Louise Newbury, his wife of 30 years, and children James and Lydia Paxton. The 22-year-old James recently filmed a guest-starring role on Paxton’s Training Day series.

Almost ever since I can remember, Bill Paxton has been a part of my movie-watching lifestyle. As early as the first Terminator movie he’s become a recognizable figure in Hollywood. My younger days saw me in front of the Showtime/HBO channel watching Weird Science about six thousand times and as he became known to do, absolutely stole that movie as the very unlikable but hilarious older brother, Chet.

After that he could be found in a whole slew of pictures year after year. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where his breakout role really was, but I venture that a lot of people woould argue his turn as the whiny (yet somehow badass) Private in James Cameron’s Aliens. It was not uncommon for Paxton to show up in three, four, sometimes five movies in a single year …and so many memorable performances; from Near Dark to Twister to Edge of Tomorrow and all of the wonderful stuff in between.

My stomach just sank this morning when I got the news and I think we all owe a thank you for the years of pleasure we are indebted to Mr. Paxton for. God speed sir, you will be missed deeply.

John Hurt: 1940 – 2017

Legendary actor John Hurt as passed on just less than a week after his 77th birthday. How does one even begin to sum up his career? From British Television in the 1960s to a small role in the multi-Oscar feted, A Man For All Seasons, to drunken patsy and terrible spouse, in 10 Rillington Place, to the shockingly gaunt Emperor Caligula in the greatest BBC miniseries of all time, “I, Claudius.” Even though the actor always looked older than his actual age, he was just getting started.

All of this was before that iconic scene in Ridley Scott’s Alien (and Hurt was deprecating enough to re-enact it as a comedy bit in Mel Brooks Spaceballs, nearly a decade later). Later came memorable roles David Lynch’s The Elephant Man, Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, Stephen Frears (deeply underrated) The Hit, and his iconic Winston Smith in the 1984 adaptation of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Hellboy, Harry Potter, “Dr. Who”, Snow Piercer, The Proposition and several collaborations with Jim Jarmusch and Lars Von Trier demonstrate that the man had one hell of a career in front of the camera; on screens in the arthouse and the multiplex.

The man was outspoken and forthright in his own public life, by all accounts. In short, he is one of those prolific, truly great actors.

You can still see him in the cinema, right now he as a significant supporting role in Pablo Larraín’s Jackie. And has several pictures in post production, including Joe Wright’s Winston Churchill biopic, Darkest Hour, where he plays infamous British PM Neville Chamberlain.

The Hollywood Reporter has more.

Miguel Ferrer: 1955 – 2017

Character actor extraordinaire, from cocky Bob Morden in Robocop to assholish-sweetheart Agent Rosenfield in Twin Peaks to batshit crazy Snyder in Deep Star Six, Miguel Ferrer was an unpredictable ball of energy in whatever scene he happened to steal in whatever film or TV show he popped up in. In fact, he does this quite literally in Hot Shots: Part Deux.

The 61 year old actor was struck down by the Big C today.

Son of legendary actor Jose Ferrer (who also worked for David Lynch as the Padishah Emperor in 1984s Dune), and famous singer Rosemary Clooney (which makes him cousin to George Clooney), Miguel Ferrer’s legacy of dozens upon dozens of memorable roles will remain to be discovered for folks who happen to catch him in, say, an episode of Magnum P.I., or an officer in Star Trek III, or hear his distinctive voice in dozens of animated shows and feature films.

Miguel Ferrer will reprise his role as Albert Rosenfield in the 2017 season of Twin Peaks.

The Hollywood Reporter has more.

Debbie Reynolds: 1932 – 2016

Mere hours after her own famous daughter’s passing, actress and singing legend Debbie Reynolds has died at 84.

Much like her daughter, Carrie Fisher, Reynolds was discovered and put into a movie classic at a very young age, when she was cast by Louis B. Mayer at age 19 to be one of the leads in the now iconic musical, Singing In The Rain, alongside established greats Donald O’Connor and Gene Kelley.

Reynolds went on to star in films as diverse as Cinerama western How The West Was Won, the bio-pic Molly Brown, the coming out of the closet comedy with Kevin Kline, In & Out in 1997 and starred alongside of Albert Brooks’ in Mother. She released pop albums, had a television show, was president of a Mental Health association and ran a hotel in Las Vegas. While her personal life outside of show-biz was complex and had more downs than ups, she is a testament to industriousness and variety being the spice of life.

Carrie Fisher: 1956 – 2016

The galaxy mourns as it’s beloved princess became one with The Force on Tuesday morning at the age of 60; succumbing to complications following a cardiac arrest suffered last Friday while aboard an airline flight en route to Los Angeles.

Family spokesman read a statement from Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, confirming the sad news. “It is with a very deep sadness that Billie Lourd confirms that her beloved mother Carrie Fisher passed away at 8:55 this morning,” reads the statement. “She was loved by the world and she will be missed profoundly,” says Lourd, 24. “Our entire family thanks you for your thoughts and prayers.”

Fisher was obviously best known for her iconic hair buns and sass-talking to the Evil Galactic Empire as the charismatic, Princess Leia in 1977’s Star Wars. At just 19 years of age it launched her acting career at full throttle and solidified her as a household name. She went on to star in other films such as The Blues Brothers, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Cinecast’s darling The ‘burbs and one of my personal favorites from my youth, Under the Rainbow.

Fisher herself would be the first to admit she had some flaws and weaknesses. Over time, she overcame many of those weaknesses and became a soldier for good as a spokesperson and promoter of mental health awareness and drug rehabilitation. In short, besides her snappy sense of humor, wonderful writing abilities (cleaning up a lot of screenplays in her day) and natural good looks, she was a good and generous person with a purpose that gave a lot to the people on this planet.

Luminous beings are we; not this crude matter.”
– Yoda

Everyone has been bashing 2016 since about mid-August for all of the precious lives departing this Earth this year. But for me, this one stings the most. A lifelong passion, friend and damn near religion, The Star Wars saga has always been for me. And Carrie Fisher is no small part of that kinship. Not too many people sass off and down right defy Vader as her character does and live to talk about it. Fewer still look good doing it. And don’t even get me started on the funny feeling my eight year-old self got on Jabba’s sail barge. I can’t imagine that character being played by anyone else.

In December of 2015 I teared up a little bit at the site of a hunk of metal zooming over a desert surface. In 2017, with Episode VIII in the Star Wars Saga releasing close to Christmas, the tears will be a bit more Organa-ic and unfortunately not out of joy, but out of sadness and loss. Fair warning to whoever sits next to me; it’ll happen.

We’ll miss you Carrie. May the force be with you.

 

Robert Vaughn: 1932 – 2016

And the waking nightmare that is 2016 just keep on trucking with the evil bastard that is cancer tucked safely under its wing. On November 11th, the ghouls have taken from us one Robert Vaughn.

Probably for most reading this, Vaughn was a welcome character actor that poked his head into everything throughout their lives. As a child, I remember Vaughn showing up constantly as a “hey! It’s that guy” in countless television episodes and law commercials throughout the 80s. The slightly older among us may remember him fondly as Napoleon Solo in the hit spy thriller television show, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”.

Ask my dad and he’ll probably tell you that Vaughn was one of the original Magnificent Seven. Personally, when I think Robert Vaughn, I’ll always remember him for his role as a weather-altering billionaire and devilishly fun villain, Ross Webster, in 1983’s Superman III.

Robert Vaughn will be missed, but luckily there’s a ton of content to revisit or visit for the first time. Here he is talking with Gene Shalit about playing a villain. Rest in peace sir.

 

Curtis Hanson: 1945 – 2016

Friend and lover of movies, director Curtis Hanson has passed on to the next plane of existence yesterday afternoon. According to reports from the Los Angeles Police Department, Hanson (71) died as the result of a heart attack.

Hanson is probably best known for his stylistic, neo-noir drama/thriller L.A. Confidential, which won him the Oscar for best writing as well as best supporting actress trophy for Kim Basinger. Not to mention its seven other nominations including best picture and best director.

The director’s last film was “Chasing Mavericks,” a biopic of surfer Jay Moriarity starring Gerard Butler, but Hanson had to leave that production toward the end of shooting in 2011 due to what was said at the time to be complications following his recent heart surgery. Michael Apted completed the film and the two shared credit on it.

His project just prior to “Chasing Mavericks” was the HBO film “Too Big to Fail” — about the efforts to save the U.S. economy from the abyss in 2008 — for which he received two Emmy nominations.

– Variety

For me personally, my first experience with the director was in 1992’s The Hand that Rocks the Cradle; which possibly hasn’t aged very well but at the time was a fairly hearty thriller that I believe audiences cheered for and was a commercial success – and indeed was nominated for a few awards itself. But of all his films, the one I would most certainly like to go to bat for is the 2000 dramedy Wonder Boys starring Michael Douglas.

It’s too bad we won’t get to see more from this director who was kind of an “every three years” kind of film maker. Which is often the sign of someone contemplative and caring about his craft. You will be missed by many sir. God speed.

Gene Wilder: 1933 – 2016

wilder-obit

Gene Wilder’s version of “Willy Wonka” is a thing of legend. He made us laugh. He freaked us out (i.e. some of us were scarred for life after that infamous boat ride). He made us feel. Good. If a musical chocolate man wasn’t your thing. Perhaps a Young Frankenstein was more your speed. Maybe it was an aging gunslinger fighting the injustice of racism and greed across the lands. A washed up writer road tripping to California to make it big(ger). A Broadway producer hell-bent on making the worst performance of all time. Or maybe just a simple deaf guy on an adventure with his old blind pal, the late, great Richard Pryor. Whatever your flavor, Wilder seemed to be able to always deliver.

Inspiration, “…my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple.”

Sadly, the time has come for Gene to retire to that great big candy store in the sky. Free from all the Wangdoodles, and Hornswogglers, and Snozzwangers, and rotten, Vermicious Knids. Wilder passed away today at the age of 83 due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. “He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.” said his nephew in a press release. Well for me, he should have no fear. There’s plenty of Wilder still on my plate that I haven’t gotten around to yet. And I can still watch Willy Wonka 1000 more times and laugh just as hard as I did the first 1000 times I watched it.

So while there is still more to see, I’m saddened by this passing and the world will certainly miss his entertaining, big-hearted hysterics. Luckily, his legacy will live on and we really have nothing to frown about. You can rest in peace sir, knowing that you made a lot of children and adults very happy very many many years. And will continue to do so.

Kenny Baker 1934 – 2016

Famed British film and television star, Kenny Baker, died today at the age of 81 after a long battle with a respiratory illness and eventual lung failure.

Kenny Baker brought a lot of joy to people throughout the years. Obviously most prominently as the beloved R2-D2 from Star Wars. A role that never even reveals Baker’s face, his body or even his voice. One of only a couple(?) actors to portray a role through all six of the first Star Wars films (episodes IV – VI and episodes I – III). Besides Star Wars though, dude was in lot of films.

And strangely enough, I was just thinking the other day about how much I actually really like R2-D2 – especially as I get older. I appreciate the character’s limitations and how he overcomes them to always come through for his friends. He also seems to be a child at “heart” through all six films. He’s got a unique and interesting way of communicating and even if you can;t understand specifically what he’s saying, we can all understand him perfectly. In other words, he breaks language barriers around the globe. This sort of demeanor and personality mimics Baker’s outlook on life as I’ve been led to believe. Always smiling, always the optimist and always there for people.

Mark Hamill paid tribute to his friend today on Twitter:

As a younger boy, he was told that due to his dwarfism, he most likely would not live beyond puberty – medical innovation has come a long way since then. But here we are 81 years later and Mr. Baker lived a long and full life that brought joy to millions and will live forever in the annals of history. May the force be with you Kenny.