Ian Holm, a classically trained Shakespearean actor with an intimidating list of credits, has died. Holm’s agent issued a statement saying the actor “died peacefully in the hospital in the company of his family and caregiver,” adding, “Charming, kind and ferociously talented, we will miss him hugely.” Holm was 88. The actor became an established member of the Royal Shakespeare Company before moving into television and film.
Ian Holm was one of those actors who was great in just about anything. No matter how small the role – he turns in a quiet, devastating performance in Garden State, a movie everyone would rather forget about these days – Holm radiated a certain presence that was impossible to ignore. The actor got his start by chance: while at a dentist visit, he met Henry Baynton, a well-known Shakespearean actor who helped Holm train for admission to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, which Holm entered in 1949.
In the years to come, Holm would appear on stage and TV, and had minor roles in films like Nicholas and Alexandra (1971) and Mary, Queen of Scots (1971). It was his work as Ash, the science office/secret android in Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) that truly catapulted Holm to prominence. After that, Holm would earn an Academy Award nomination for his work in 1981’s Chariots of Fire.
The actor would go on to appear in Terry Gilliam films Time Bandits (1981) and Brazil (1985), and Kenneth Branagh films such as Henry V (1989) and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994). He delivered a melancholy performance in the haunting 1997 film The Sweet Hereafter, and even managed to bring dignity to dreck like 2001’s From Hell.
Other notable films from Holm include Kafka (1991), The Fifth Element (1997), The Madness of King George (1994), Big Night (1996), The Aviator (2004), and voice work in films like Wisconsin Death Trip (1999) and Ratatouille (2007). Near the end of his career, Holm would play Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, arguably his most famous role, and cameo as the character again in The Hobbit trilogy, with 2014’s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies being Holm’s final film role.
“I’ve always been a minimalist,” Holm said of his acting. It was Bogart who once said, ‘If you think the right thoughts, the camera will pick it up.’ The most important thing in the face is the eyes, and if you can make the eyes talk, you’re halfway there.”
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