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Ian Holm dead: ‘Lord of the Rings,’ ‘Alien’ star dies at 88

Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's 'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring' (2001).
Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's 'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring' (2001). New Line Cinema / YouTube

Sir Ian Holm, the veteran British actor, died on Friday. He was 88.

The classically trained and retired Shakespearean performer was best known for playing Ash in his 1979 Hollywood debut Alien and Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson‘s Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03).

Throughout his nearly six-decade-long career on stage and screen, Holm was nominated for and won a myriad of prestigious awards. He received a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in 1967’s Homecoming and won a BAFTA for his portrayal of coach Sam Mussabini in Chariots of Fire (1982) — the role also earned him an Oscar nomination.

Alex Irwin, Holm’s longtime agent, confirmed that the star had passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family and carer, in a hospital on the morning of June 19. The death was Parkinson’s disease-related, according to the Associated Press.

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Holm had been battling the progressive nervous system disorder for several years, as reported by Variety.

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“His sparkling wit always accompanied a mischievous twinkle in his eye,” Irwin said. “Charming, kind and ferociously talented, we will miss him hugely.”

In the wake of the news, fans and friends of the actor rushed to social media with tributes, while also sharing memories of watching the star on screen.

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“Rest in peace to an absolutely perfect Bilbo and a wonderful actor, Sir Ian Holm,” a Lord of the Rings meme account in honour of the actor wrote on Twitter.

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Holm was often commended for his range in acting. As well as Lord of the Rings, he also appeared in films like Time Bandits (1981), The Madness of King George (1994), The Fifth Element (1997) and The Sweet Hereafter (1997).

In 2001, he starred as the 19th-century French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte — for the third time in his career — in The Emperor’s New Clothes, thanks to his similarly short stature.

On top of that, Holm’s onstage portrayal of the titular character of King Lear won him a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in 1998.

‘The Sweet Hereafter,’ from left, director Atom Egoyan, Ian Holm, on set in 1997.
‘The Sweet Hereafter,’ from left, director Atom Egoyan, Ian Holm, on set in 1997. Fine Line Features/courtesy Everett Collection

Holm was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II later that year for his contribution and efforts to drama.

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Nine years earlier, in 1989, Holm received the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) honour.

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In 2002, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art-trained actor revealed that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer at the end of 2001 during an interview with the Evening Standard. However, he seemingly recovered from the life-threatening disease.

Before retiring, Holm appeared in Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014). Though Martin Freeman starred as a younger Bilbo Baggins, Holm reprised an older version of the role.

Ian Holm in ‘Chromophobia’ (2005).
Ian Holm in ‘Chromophobia’ (2005). CP Images Archive

Holm was born in Essex, England on Sept. 12, 1931 and married four times throughout his life.

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He is survived by his wife Sophie de Stempel, his three daughters, Jessica, Sarah-Jane, Melissa, his two sons, Barnaby and Harry and a grandson, Archie.

— With files from the Associated Press

adam.wallis@globalnews.ca
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