FELLOWSHIP OF THE REAPER
Much respected film actor Ian Holm has died aged 88, which is a bit of a surprise for those who expected the cast of Alien to continue dying in the order they died on screen. (Somewhere Tom Skerrit breaths a sigh of relief…) His career started in the early 1950s after graduating from RADA and ended in 2014 with The Hobbit films. Yes, the Lord of the Ring never-ending film series by Peter Jackson, in which Holm played Biblo Baggins, is his headline stealing role, and one that brought in a bunch of dosh in his old age. But Ian Holm was a distinctive actor whose quiet dignity led to a number of great roles.
He was the duplicitous android Ash in Alien, the dodgy mentor in ExistenZ, and the doctor in the Madness of King George. He had the lead role in popular 90s TV series The Borrowers, alongside then wife Penelope Wilton. He also played Bolshevik revolutionaries (Nicholas and Alexandra), Napoleon Bonaparte (Time Bandits), Geobbels (Inside the Third Reich), Polonius (Hamlet) and Sir William Gull (From Hell), who was rather preposterously meant to be the real Jack the Ripper in that film. He nearly stole the show in The 5th Element, which considering that film has Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman playing Villain with the volume set to Eleven, Chris Tucker, and Milla Jovovich wearing very little, is really saying a lot!
He was also Jonathan Pryce’s boss in Brazil, Kurtzmann, and one of the best things in that film besides Michael Palin’s excellent “clock in, clock out” torturer. But then those eyes, furtive, glancing, secret keeping, kept the audience peeled to his presence on the scene. He portrayed characters like they always knew what was going on, even if he didn’t. Trevor Nunn credited Ian Holm with removing Shakespeare from the somewhat overwrought performances of the pre-war years and into the modernistic interpretations we know today. He was handpicked for the premiere of Pinter’s Homecoming.
He won the Tony, the BAFTA, the Olivier, the Screen Actors Guild and Cannes Festival Awards, but the Oscar eluded him. Mostly because those fuckers only nominated him once, in 1981 for Best Supporting Actor the year they finally gave John Gielgud a sniff at a prize. Meanwhile Sean Penn has about a million Oscars by now.
The Oscar nod was for Chariots of Fire, even they had to admit he was good in that one. But you’d have to go far down a list to find a role Holm did not excel at. Some going, for a man who would get almost crippling stage fright! A star of stage, screen and TV, he’ll be missed.
Holm had been suffering from Parkinsons, and was scouted by Mark Gatiss recently as being in frail health. He was picked by seven teams, including The British (D)i(e)sles, and Poochie, who is coming close to their 100th hit now.
12 September 1931 – 19 June 2020