Breaking news – a family representative has released a statement that actor Bill Paxton passed away due to complications after surgery. He was 61.
It is with heavy hearts we share the news that Bill Paxton has passed away due to complications from surgery,” the statement said.
“A loving husband and father, Bill began his career in Hollywood working on films in the art department and went on to have an illustrious career spanning four decades as a beloved and prolific actor and filmmaker. Bill’s passion for the arts was felt by all who knew him, and his warmth and tireless energy were undeniable. We ask to please respect the family’s wish for privacy as they mourn the loss of their adored husband and father.”
Bill starred in so many things where he made the role so memorable. The earliest I recall was Weird Science, where he played older brother Chet who would antagonize Wyatt to the point that he was turned into a giant talking turd by Lisa. Just a year later came the role that would make me look forward to anything else he did, as Private Hudson in Aliens, for which he won a Saturn award. While these roles seemed to point him towards playing the “lovable dumb guy”, he broke that by getting much more scientific as astronaut Fred Haise in Apollo 13 (co-winner of a Screen Actors Guild award for Outstanding Performance of a Cast), storm chaser Bill Harding in Twister, and treasure hunter/deep sea explorer Brock Lovett in Titanic. My kids even remember him from the role of “Dinky Winks” in Spy Kids 2.
More recently he had a recurring guest role on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and was currently appearing on the CBS cop show Training Day.
I’m sad to say that we’ve lost another icon of SF…actor Richard Hatch, who played Apollo on the original Battlestar Galactica and later had a recurring role on the reboot, passed away today at the age of 71 after an extended illness, while surrounded by his family and friends.
Hatch started off on All My Children, then a string of guests spots on a variety of shows before landing a regular role in the last couple seasons of The Streets of San Francisco. He followed that up with his best known role on Battlestar Galactica, for which he received a Golden Globe nomination.
After that, he went back to guest roles and lesser known movies, and some short runs on Dynasty and Santa Barbara. All the while, he kept the fandom of Battlestar Galactica alive at conventions, even writing and producing Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming, a short featuring several of his fellow cast members in raising interest in the possible return of the series. Even when Universal decided to go for a complete reboot, he felt that any Galactica was a step in the right direction, and was the only original cast member to appear in the new show, in the recurring role of Tom Zarek.
I had the good fortune to meet Richard at a smaller local convention a couple years ago, and he genuinely enjoyed talking with the fans. We chatted for a while about his thoughts on the reboot and the differing opinions of his cast mate, Dirk Benedict, who was next to him. He was glad the show came back in any form and was nothing but supportive of the effort. A franchise is lucky to have such a proponent that gets the fans and works with them, and Richard was one of the few.
According to multiple source, British actor Sir John Hurt has passed away, having turned 77 earlier this week.
Hurt was one of those actors who simply showed up everywhere, from iconic roles such as the eponymous The Elephant Man (for which he received an Oscar nomination), to smaller but memorable ones such as Kane, the first victim in Alien (and self-parodied in Spaceballs), or even random roles such as an appearance in the short Masters of Science Fiction anthology series. I’ve seen him in so many things over the years, and I can picture him in each one – even if I didn’t realize it was him, such as his role of eccentric billionaire S.R. Hayden in Contact. He received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination and won the Golden Globe for his role of Max in Midnight Express. He had a way of making the smallest roles stand out for me.
More recently, Doctor Who fans would know him as the one the Doctor wouldn’t talk about, a.k.a. the “War Doctor”, who was responsible for what happened to the Time Lords and the Daleks at the end of the time war. And before that, he was Ollivander in several of the Harry Potter movies. And his distinctive gravelly voice was used in many other productions, including The Black Cauldron, Watership Down, The Tigger Movie, the Dragon in the BBC Merlin series, and the animated The Lord of the Rings.
Carrie Fisher, who suffered from a cardiac event on a flight home to Los Angeles from London on Friday shortly before landing, has passed away, according to her daughter Billie Lourd’s publicist. She was 60 years old.
An outpouring of thoughts and prayers started on Friday and continue today, with many people, celebrities and fans, saying how much she has meant to them over the years. For me, she was the first “movie crush” I can recall. I had Star Wars trading cards, and me and my friends fought over a particular card of her. She was the prototype Strong Woman, busting the “princess” stereotype. She may have been the damsel in need of a rescue, but she took part in her own rescue and wasn’t afraid to get dirty doing it. All the boys wanted to be Luke, because back then everyone thought Luke would get the girl in the end.
Carrie wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, and even played up the “Star Wars vs. Star Trek fan feud” tongue-in-cheek with fellow actor and “rival” William Shatner. Shatner tweeted this afternoon, “I’m deeply saddened to learn of the death of Carrie Fisher. I will miss our banterings. A wonderful talent & light has been extinguished.” More recently, with her re-appearance in her iconic role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, she spoke out against the body-shaming “fans” who criticized her looks on how she aged since she last appeared as Princess Leia some 32 years previously. “Please stop debating about whether OR not I aged well.unfortunately it hurts all3 of my feelings. My BODY hasnt aged as well as I have,” she wrote on Twitter.
She was very open about her struggles with alcoholism and mental health, even writing a semi-autobiographical book about a substance-addicted actress called “Postcards From The Edge” that became a movie starring her friend Meryl Streep, and then in 2009 wrote her memoir, “Wishful Drinking”.
Regretfully, we were supposed to meet Carrie last year at a convention, but she had to cancel due to an illness, and she wasn’t able to attend this year.
We miss you already, Carrie.
Update 12/28: Just a day later Debbie Reynolds, her mother, passed away after being rushed to the hospital this afternoon, according to her son, Todd Fisher. Her and her son were reportedly working on funeral arrangements for Carrie.
2016 has been full of such sadness. 2017 cannot get here fast enough.
This past weekend we were saddened to learn that actor Ron Glass, most well known for his role as Detective Ron Harris on the 70s ABC sitcom Barney Miller, but also as Shepherd Book on Firefly, passed away at the age of 71. His last appearances were in 2014 in episodes of CSI and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
To me, in his roles he always emanated a relaxed, laid back, calming persona. His friends and colleagues remembered him on social media. Firefly creator Joss Whedon said, “He was, among so many other things, my Shepherd. Raise, appropriately, a glass. Rest, Ron.”
“He was the kind of person that remembered the details, that asked about your family’s well-being,” remembered fellow Firefly castmate Jewel Staite. “He hugged hard and often. He would laugh till he cried at a sick joke and top it with a worse one. He loved a Grey Goose crantini and spilled one on my white jeans in the heat of telling a story, and then just said, “Girl, those were ugly pants anyway.” I adored him. Everybody did. I love you, Ron.”
We raise our glasses as well to you, Ron.
We were devastated to learn via the BBC that actor Kenny Baker has passed away today after a long illness, just short of his 82nd birthday.
Baker was the man who brought R2-D2 to life, working inside the costume in the first six Star Wars movies and consulting in The Force Awakens. He also appeared in a number of other films, including an old favorite, Time Bandits, as Fidget.
Baker had been cared for by his nephew Drew Myerscough for a number of years, after he had developed respiratory issues, although this did not stop him from making appearances. One of the first actors willing to make appearances at conventions, he was scheduled for his only U.S. appearance later this year at Rhode Island Comic Con. His nephew said, “His fans worldwide kept him going and he loved nothing more than going to conventions and meeting everybody – it really gave him that extra lease of life.”
I was sadly notified yesterday that actor-turned-radio show host Jerry Doyle, who played Michael Garibaldi on Babylon 5, passed away suddenly at the age of 60, which has been confirmed by his family. The cause of death has not been determined.
After Babylon 5, he turned his eye on politics. A staunch conservative, he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican in 2000, but spent little money on the campaign and only received 30% of the vote. He then became a nationally syndicated radio talk show host. He also created the website and podcast Epic Times.
Babylon 5‘s creator J. Michael Straczynski released a statement on his death.
Babylon 5 has lost many of its cast members far too soon, having already lost Andreas Katsulas, Richard Biggs, Michael O’Hare, and Jeff Conaway.
Actor Anton Yelchin, who has been playing the role of PAvel Checkov in the three recent Star Trek movies, as well as roles in Terminator: Salvation and Alphas Dogs among others, passed away early this morning in a freak automobile accident at the age of 27.
It appears that Yelchin had exited his car while it was running, and it rolled, pinning him against a brick post next to a security gate, suffering traumatic injuries.
Yelchin was born in St. Petersburg, Russia (back then it was still called Leningrad as part of the Soviet Union), but emigrated with his parents (professional figure skaters ho qualified for the 1972 Olympics but because they were Jewish were not permitted to represent the USSR) to the United States when he was only 6 months old. His parents went on to become skating instructors, but at a young age he showed more interest in acting than skating. He made his acting debut at the age of 10 in a guest spot on ER in 2000. and just a year later earned acclaim opposite Anthony Hopkins in Heart of Atlantis, earning a Young Artist Award.
Welsh actor Gareth Thomas, best known among genre fans as rebel leader Roj Blake in the BBC series Blake’s 7, passed away yesterday at the age of 71.
Thomas trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, after which he became an associate member. He made many television appearances, receiving two BAFTA nominations. He also appeared on stage in several Royal Shakespeare Company productions, including Twelfth Night and Othello, and many other productions, including 2010’s Desire Under the Elms.
On his Blake’s 7 role, he’s often said that he never watched an episode, and even left the show after the second season, apart from a couple of guest appearances. However, he would later turn back to the role in several Big Finish audio productions.
However, I remember him most from a role just prior to Blake – from a series called Star Maidens. While staying a few weeks with family in England I caught this series, and the memory of it stayed with me for a long time…you can read my Retro Review of the show from 2008.
R2-D2’s builder and Star Trek: The Next Generation and Battlestar Galactica VFX artist have passed away
Two industry passings were sadly reported this weekend.
Tony Dyson, who referred to himself as “R2-D2’s Dad”, passed away at the age of 68. While working at his own studio, the White Horse Toy Company, he was commissioned by George Lucas to turn Ralph McQuarrie’s sketches of a plug-shaped mechanical character into an astromech that would become the most loved droid in two galaxies.
On his web site Dyson wrote about the return of R2-D2 in Episode VII, “The love for R2 is universal; no other Star Wars character has been loved over the years the way R2-D2 has, his merchandising has rocketed over the years and his influence in the world of robotics is truly remarkable.”
Emmy-winning visual effect artist Gary Hutzel, who’s career shot starward when he helped define the look of Star Trek: The Next Generation including the infamous Borg Cube, as well as the U.S.S. Defiant design for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, passed away on Thursday at the age of 60.
Hutzel later worked in movies, including Red Planet and Spy Kids, but would return to television for Ronald D. Moore’s reboot of Battlestar Galactica, where he won two of his Emmys.