In Memoriam 2018 (Movies & TV)

As 2018 draws to a close, we here at JoBlo.com would like to take a moment to honor some of the people who sadly passed away this year. Our deepest respect goes out to everyone in the industry we have lost, and our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and family of those who died in 2018. These talented people will always be remembered for their impact on the world of film and television.

In Memory Of…

Dorothy Malone

Inspired by the success of the British soap opera Coronation Street, ABC premiered Peyton Place in 1964. As America’s first prime-time soap opera, the series was an instant success, even airing new episodes three times a week during its height, and featured Dorothy Malone in the leading role of Constance MacKenzie. Although this is the role which most associate with the actress, Malone had a thriving feature-film career prior to Peyton place, including appearances in THE BIG SLEEP, YOUNG AT HEART, THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, ARTISTS AND MODELS, QUANTEZ, MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES, THE TARNISHED ANGELS, TOO MUCH, TOO SOON, and THE LAST SUNSET, but it was her role in Douglas Sirk’s WRITTEN ON THE WIND which garnered the most attention as it found her shedding her “nice girl” image by dying her hair platinum blonde in order to play the nymphomaniac daughter of a Texas oil baron. The role would win Dorothy Malone the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Although Peyton Place was a success, Malone felt that her character was growing underused as the series continued, which led to her being written out of the series in 1968. After suing 20th Century Fox for $1.6 million for breach of contract, the case was settled out of court and Malone later returned to the franchise for the TV movies MURDER IN PEYTON PLACE and PEYTON PLACE: THE NEXT GENERATION. Malone’s final role was a small but memorable appearance as a released murderer who befriends Sharon Stone‘s character in Paul Verhoeven‘s BASIC INSTINCT. Dorothy Malone passed away on January 19th at the age of 93.

Connie Sawyer

At the time of her death at the age of 105 on January 21st, Connie Sawyer was the oldest working actress in Hollywood as well as the oldest member of the Screen Actors Guild and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. That’s quite impressive. Connie Sawyer got her start performing in nightclubs and vaudeville theaters as a young woman before making the jump to television as she appeared in shows such as The Jackie Gleason Show, The Fugitive, The Andy Griffith Show, Bonanza, McMillan & Wife, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Kojak, The Rockford Files, Starsky & Hutch, Hawaii Five-O, Dynasty, Hill Street Blues, Matlock, Murder, She Wrote, Murphy Brown, Home Improvement, Seinfeld, Boy Meets World, Will & Grace, That ’70s Show, ER, How I Met Your Mother, CSI, The Office, New Girl, Ray Donovan, and many more. In addition to television, Connie Sawyer also played roles in feature-films such as TRUE GRIT, THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES, DUMB AND DUMBER, OUT OF SIGHT, SOMETHING’S GOT TO GIVE, and PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. When Sawyer turned 91, she moved into the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California, but confessed that she never expected that she’d continue living and working for well over a decade afterwards. “I went too early!” Sawyer joked while speaking with THR several years ago. As far as any secret to her longevity, Sawyer told People last year that good genes were likely the main reason, but added, “I always say you have to move, you have to get off the couch. I used to swim, play golf, tap dance, line dance — I was always moving and I was lucky.
Although John Mahoney discovered his love of acting as a young man, he wouldn’t actually pursue it as a serious career until much later in his life. After moving to the United States from Manchester, England, Mahoney studied at Quincy University before joining the U.S. Army and receiving his citizenship in 1959. He later spent time teaching English at Western Illinois University and served as the editor of a medical journal, but after feeling dissatisfied with his work, embarked on a new chapter of his life and joined Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre. “The theater is my brothers, my sisters, my father, my mother, my wife,” Mahoney said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. “It is everything to me. And Steppenwolf is such a joy. We (the ensemble members) would do anything for one another. There is no selfishness here.” Although his love for the theatre always remained, John Mahoney was also featured in many movies, including TIN MAN, MOONSTRUCK, SAY ANYTHING, BARTON FINK, THE HUDSUCKER PROXY, THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT, PRIMAL FEAR, ANTZ, THE IRON GIANT, ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE, and DAN IN REAL LIFE, as well as TV series such as Cheers, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Becker, ER, Hot in Cleveland, and In Treatment. Of course, most know John Mahoney from his role of Martin Crane, father to Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce‘s characters on Frasier. The actor appeared in all 11 seasons of the series and received many accolades along the way, including a SAG Award as well as two Emmy and two Golden Globe nominations. Mahoney also made a memorable guest-spot on The Simpsons for a mini-Frasier reunion when he voiced Dr. Robert Terwilliger, Sr., the father of Sideshow Bob and Cecil Terwilliger, who are voiced by Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce respectively. John Mahoney passed away on February 4th at the age of 77.

Reg E. Cathey

At just 59 years old, Reg E. Cathey passed away on February 9th after reportedly battling cancer. No matter the role, you always knew when Cathey was on screen thanks to his unique baritone voice, not to mention his great talent. The actor caught the acting bug at a young age and went on to study theater at the University of Michigan and the Yale School of Drama before making the leap to film and television. Reg E. Cathey made memorable appearances on TV shows such as Star Trek: The Next Generation, Arli$$, Homicide: Life on the Street, The Corner, Oz, The Wire, Grimm, House of Cards, Banshee, Outcast, and Luke Cage, as well as movies like BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, WHAT ABOUT BOB?, THE MASK, TANK GIRL, SEVEN, AMERICAN PSYCHO, POOTIE TANG, HEAD OF STATE, THE MACHINIST, ST. VINCENT, and FANTASTIC FOUR. While Reg. E. Cathey didn’t receive nearly as many accolades for his work as he deserved, he was nominated three times (winning once) for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series thanks to his role of Freddy Hayes on Netflix’s House of Cards. Cathey remains the only member of the House of Cards cast to win an Emmy Award.

John Gavin

For the most part, someone who enters the world of acting has had some inclination towards it earlier in life, even if they don’t necessary pursue it at the time, but acting wasn’t even on John Gavin’s radar as a young man. After serving in U.S. Navy during the Korean War, Gavin was urged by his father to take a screen-test for Universal-International. After the successful test, Gavin found himself groomed for stardom and had supporting roles in several films before taking on a leading role in Douglas Sirk’s A TIME TO LOVE AND A TIME TO DIE. He reunited with Sirk once again for IMITATION OF LIFE and would also appear in Stanley Kubrick‘s SPARTACUS as Julius Caesar and Alfred Hitchcock‘s PSYCHO as Sam Loomis. Like many actors of the time, Gavin also made appearances on television in shows such as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Doris Day Show, Mannix, The Love Boat, and Fantasy Island. Thanks to his leading role in OSS 117 – DOUBLE AGENT, John Gavin was also twice considered for the role of James Bond. After George Lazenby packed it in after ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, producers were scrambling to find a replacement and signed Gavin. However, it was clear that what they really wanted was to get Sean Connery back, and when Connery agreed to return for an exorbitant sum, Gavin was out, although his contract was still honoured in full. Gavin found himself in the running for Bond once more for LIVE AND LET DIE, but it was insisted that Bond be played by an Englishman and Roger Moore was cast. In addition to his acting career, John Gavin also served as President of the Screen Actors Guild and was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. John Gavin passed away on February 9th at the age of 86.

Jóhann Jóhannsson

Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson passed away on February 9th at the age of 48. Far too young. Known for his blending of “traditional orchestration with contemporary electronic elements,” Jóhannsson began scoring for film and television in his native Iceland nearly 20 years ago but he reached new heights upon collaborating with director Denis Villeneuve on PRISONERS, SICARIO, and ARRIVAL. He also began composing the score for BLADE RUNNER 2049, but Villeneuve later realized that the movie needed something different and they mutually agreed to go in another direction. Jóhannsson also worked on the score for Darren Aronofsky‘s MOTHER! before he was the one to convince Aronofsky that the film would be better without it. Jóhannsson’s fellow composer Ólafur Arnalds told the story shortly after his death. My favorite Jóhann story is when he had spent a year writing the score for Darren Aronofsky‘s “Mother” and at some point realised that the film was better with no music at all. He proceeded to convince Darren to delete everything. It takes a real, selfless artist to do that. To realise the piece is better without you,” Arnalds said. “The most important part of creating art is the process, and Jóhann seemed to understand process. The score needed to be written first in order to realise that it was redundant. So in my view, Mother still has a score by Jóhann. The score is just silence… deafening, genius silence.” Jóhannsson also composed scores for THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, LOVESONG, MANDY, and MARY MADGALENE.
Before he stepped behind the camera as a director, producer, and screenwriter, Lewis Gilbert got his start on the stage as a part of music hall shows put on by his parents. After appearing in several films throughout the ’30s and ’40s as a child actor, Gibert decided to pursue directing instead, even assisting on Alfred Hitchcock‘s JAMAICA INN. and when World War II broke out, he joined the Royal Air Force’s film unit and worked on several documentary shorts. Gilbert would direct several WWII films following the end of the war, including CARVE HER NAME WITH PRIDE, REACH FOR THE SKY, SINK THE BISMARCK!, LIGHT UP THE SKY! and OPERATION DAYBREAK, but one of his most admired films was ALFIE, which starred Michael Caine as a womanizing man who slowly begins to question the consequences of his lifestyle. ALFIE would go on to receive many accolades, including a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director, and was later remade in 2004 with Jude Law taking on the title role. AFLIE’s success lead to Lewis Gibert taking the helm of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, the fifth James Bond film starring Sean Connery, and Gilbert would return to the Bond franchise two more times during Roger Moore‘s tenure for THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and MOONRAKER. Some of Gilbert’s other films include SHIRLEY VALENTINE, EDUCATING RITA, FRIENDS, and HAUNTING. Lewis Gilbert passed away on February 23rd at the age of 97.

David Ogden Stiers

Best known for his role of Major Charles Emerson Winchester III on M*A*S*H, David Ogden Stiers passed away on March 3rd at the age of 75 due to complications related to bladder cancer. Even though his character on M*A*S*H is likely the one that most people associate with the actor, he appeared in an incredible amount of other TV shows, such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, Murder, She Wrote, Matlock, ALF, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, The Outer Limits, The Dead Zone, Frasier, Touched by an Angel, and Stargate: Atlantis. He also played D.A. Michael Reston on a number of Perry Mason TV movies, and even if you somehow don’t recognize Stiers from his many on-screen roles, you’ve likely heard him as the actor lent his distinctive vocal talents to many Disney movies such as BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Cogsworth), POCAHONTAS (Governor Ratcliffe and Wiggins), THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (The Archdeacon), ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE (Fenton Q. Harcourt), and LILO & STITCH (Dr. Jumba Jookiba). Upon learning of Stiers’ death, M*A*S*H star Alan Alda took to Twitter to say, “I remember how you skateboarded to work every day down busy L.A. streets. How, once you glided into Stage 9, you were Winchester to your core. How gentle you were, how kind, except when devising the most vicious practical jokes. We love you, David. Goodbye.” One of those memorable practical jokes orchestrated by David Ogden Stiers found the M*A*S*H cast being presented with fancy desserts which came with the compliments of Sir Richard Attenborough. Expressions of gratitude towards Attenborough, who was also in the commissary at the time as he was directing MAGIC, went unanswered until the cast spotted Stiers howling with laughter in the corner. Seeking to get back at Stiers, the cast told the waiter to present him with the entire check, which Stiers promptly signed with Gary Burgoff’s (Radar O’Reilly) name and walked out.

Debbie Lee Carrington

Although many of Debbie Lee Carrington’s early roles found her in costumes or heavy makeup, I will always remember her as the bad-ass Thumbelina in Paul Verhoeven‘s TOTAL RECALL, standing atop the counter in a Martian bar blasting away at security officers with a machine gun. Quite the sight. Carrington’s career began while she was attending the University of California-Davis and saw an ad seeking extras for UNDER THE RAINBOW, a Chevy Chase film loosely based on the little people who auditioned for roles as Munchkins in THE WIZARD OF OZ. Following that film, Carrington played an Ewok in RETURN OF THE JEDI, CARAVAN OF COURAGE: AN EWOK ADVENTURE, and EWOKS: THE BATTLE FOR ENDOR, and also had roles in HOWARD THE DUCK, HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS, INVADERS FROM MARS, THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS MOVIE, SPACED INVADERS, BATMAN RETURNS, MEN IN BLACK, and THE POLAR EXPRESS. She also appeared in TV shows such as Married… with Children, In Living Color, Seinfeld, The Drew Carey Show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Lone Gunmen, ER, Boston Legal, Nip/Tuck, Dexter, Bones, The New Normal, and Grace and Frankie. Debbie Lee Carrington died on March 23rd at the age of 58.
There have only been three films in the history of the Academy Awards to win the top five awards of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay: IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, and ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, the latter of which was directed by Miloš Forman. With his reputation established, the Czechoslovakian filmmaker followed up ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST with HAIR, an adaptation of the Broadway musical, RAGTIME, based upon the historical novel “Ragtime” by E. L. Doctorow, AMADEUS, which scored Forman another Oscar for Best Director, VALMONT, an adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos’ “Les Liaisons dangereuses,” THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT, which found Forman nominated for Best Director yet again, MAN ON THE MOON, an biopic starring Jim Carrey as Andy Kaufman, and GOYA’S GHOST, which would be his final feature-film. Miloš Forman spoke with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air in 1994, where he related a humorous tale of how he (eventually) got the gig directing ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST. Kirk Douglas had bought the rights to the “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” novel before it was even published and happened to be in Prague where he saw one of Miloš Forman‘s films. Impressed, Douglas asked if he could send Forman a copy of the book. “I tell him, you know, of course, of course, of course. And, you know, the book never came,” Forman said. “So I thought, well, that he was another American big shot and the moment he left the room, he already forgot.” A decade later, Forman received a copy of the book from Michael Douglas, which infuriated Kirk Douglas when he found out. Turns out, Kirk Douglas actually had sent a copy of the book but it was confiscated by the censors at customs as the novel was considered to be “subversive literature.Miloš Forman passed away on April 13th at the age of 86.

R. Lee Ermey

Stanley Kubrick was quite the meticulous director, overseeing each and every element of his films no matter how small, so it’s somewhat of a minor miracle that someone was able to come in and put their own stamp on a Kubrick character, even creating much of the dialogue themselves. R. Lee Ermey, a former U.S. Marine Drill Instructor who served during the Vietnam War, was originally hired to serve as a technical consultant on Kubrick’s FULL METAL JACKET, but Ermey had his eye on the role of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman as well. In order to prove that he was the right choice, Ermey filmed his own audition tape which found him spewing insults at a group of extras. Kubrick quickly gave him the role, and many of those insults actually made their way into the script and Ermey was even allowed to improvise a good chunk of his dialogue, something mostly unheard of in a Kubrick film. Had R. Lee Ermey not pursued the role as he had, we may not have been able to enjoy such gems as “I’ll bet you’re the kind of guy that would f**k a person in the ass and not even have the goddamn common courtesy to give him a reach-around!” and “You had best unf**k yourself or I will unscrew your head and shit down your neck!” Love it. Following his role in FULL METAL JACKET, which earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor, R. Lee Ermey went on to appear in films such as MISSISSIPPI BURNING, TOY STORY, BODY SNATCHERS, SEVEN, LEAVING LAS VEGAS, THE FRIGHTENERS, WILLARD, and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, as well as TV shows such as Miami Vice, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Tales from the Crypt, The X-Files, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Scrubs, House, and SpongeBob SquarePants. R. Lee Ermey died on April 15th at the age of 74 due to complications from pneumonia.
Verne Troyer grew up Amish and his parents rarely made allowances for him because of his height (2ft 8in), which Troyer said taught him to be optimistic and independent. “They made me feel that I could do anything I set my mind to, which has really helped me,” Troyer told The Guardian in 2015. “I had to do everything my brother and sister had to do, including raising our animal menagerie that included cows and chickens.” Most know Verne Troyer as Mini-Me from the AUSTIN POWERS franchise, the clone of Dr. Evil (Michael Myers) who is identical to him in every way, but just so happens to be one-eighth his size. Myers confessed to Jimmy Kimmel that as written, the character of Mini-Me was “almost a prop,” but Troyer was able to make it so much better than what was on the page that “we just ended up giving him more and more stuff to do.” Troyer appeared as Mini-Me in AUSTIN POWERS: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME and AUSTIN POWERS IN GOLDMEMBER, but had roles in many more movies, including MEN IN BLACK, FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, INSTINCT, HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE, THE LOVE GURU, and THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS. Verne Troyer died on April 21st at the age of 49.

Anne V. Coates

Anne V. Coates, one of the greatest film editors of our time, passed away on May 8th at the age of 92. Although there were a lot of female editors when she first entered the industry in England, they slowly began to fall away over the years. While speaking with fellow editor Walter Murch, Coates said, “I was taught, or I must have heard it somewhere, that as it became a more important job, men started to get in on it. While it was just a background job, they let the women do it. But when people realized how interesting and creative editing could be, then the men elbowed the women out of the way and kind of took over.” Despite now being a minority in the editing industry, Coates quickly proved how talented and indispensable she was by tackling David Lean‘s LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and taking home an Academy Award for Best Film Editing. Anne V. Coates would receive four further Oscar nominations over her career for Peter Glenville’s BECKET, David Lynch‘s THE ELEPHANT MAN, Wolfgang Petersen‘s IN THE LINE OF FIRE, and Steven Soderbergh‘s OUT OF SIGHT; she also received an Academy Honorary Award in 2017 in recognition of her exceptional career. Anne also lent her cutting talents to MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, WHAT ABOUT BOB?, CHAPLIN, CONGO, STRIPTEASE, and ERIN BROCKOVICH.

Growing up in Canadian north, Margot Kidder recalled that they “didn’t have movies in this little mining town,” but when she was 12-years-old, her mother took her to see BYE BYE BIRDIE. “That was it,” Kidder said in a 2005 interview with The Guardian. “I knew I had to go far away.” Kidder took off to Hollywood and appeared in films such as QUACKSER FORTUNE HAS A COUSIN IN THE BRONX, SISTERS, BLACK CHRISTMAS, and THE GREAT WALDO PEPPER, but her biggest success arrived when Richard Donner cast her as Lois Lane in SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE opposite Christopher Reeve. The following year gave Kidder another major commercial success in the form of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, and she would go on to reprise the role of Lois Lane for SUPERMAN II, SUPERMAN III, and SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE, as well as return to the Superman franchise as Bridgette Crosby for several episodes of Smallville decades later. Between SUPERMAN sequels, Kidder had roles in WILLIE & PHIL, HEARTACHES, SOME KIND OF HERO, and LITTLE TREASURE, but by the mid-90s, various injuries and health concerns forced her career into decline. Despite this, Kidder continued acting and grew increasingly involved with political activism, even finding herself being arrested along with dozens of others while protesting the Keystone XL pipeline. Margot Kidder died on May 13th at the age of 69 in what was later reported to be a suicide by overdose.

Bill Gold

If you love movie posters, chances are extremely good that you’ve had plenty of opportunities to admire the work of the great Bill Gold. Over the course of his seventy year career, Bill Gold brought movie magic to life in thousands of posters stretching from the 1940s to the 2010s, including memorable pieces for CASABLANCA, DIAL M FOR MURDER, THE SEARCHERS, MY FAIR LADY, BULLITT, THE WILD BUNCH, THE STING, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, DIRTY HARRY, DELIVERANCE, THE EXORCIST, HIGH PLANS DRIFTER, PLATOON, UNFORGIVEN, MYSTIC RIVER, and many more. Seriously, the man was a movie poster god. While speaking with AFI in 2016, Bill Gold reflected on his artistic style and why it was so successful for movie posters. “I know what movie posters should look like, instinctively. My style is and has always been ‘less is more.’ I don’t like a cluttered look. Clean, simple and to the point. I guess you could say black, red, gray and white are usually my trademark colors,” Gold said. “Years ago, I looked at everything that MGM and Paramount and all the companies did, and I never liked anything that I saw. I always found fault with the fact that they showed three heads of the actors, and that’s about all the concept they would use. And when I started to work, I thought: ‘I don’t want to just do a concept with three heads in it. I want a story.’” Despite retiring in 2003, Gold was coaxed out of retirement by his good friend and frequent collaborator, Clint Eastwood, to tackle the posters for J. EDGAR in 2011. Eastwood also wrote an introduction for the now sadly out-of-print book “Bill Gold: PosterWorks” in which he summed up Gold’s contributions to the movie industry: “The first image you have of many of your favorite films is probably a Bill Gold creation.” Bill Gold passed away on May 20th at the age of 97 due to complications of Alzheimer’s disease.
Celebrated playwright Neil Simon died on August 26th at the age of 91. Due to the tumultuous relationship between his parents, Simon’s childhood was anything but idyllic, and he frequently found solace in movie theaters where he enjoyed silent comedies starring Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, or Laurel and Hardy. Simon acknowledged that it was these films which set him on the path to writing comedy, saying “I think part of what made me a comedy writer is the blocking out of some of the really ugly, painful things in my childhood and covering it up with a humorous attitude … do something to laugh until I was able to forget what was hurting.” Simon got his start writing for TV series such as Your Show of Shows, Caesar’s Hour, and The Phil Silvers Show before he turned to Broadway with his first play, Come Blow Your Horn. Thanks to its success, Simon was able to devote himself full time to the theater and would go on to write Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, Sweet Charity, Last of the Red Hot Lovers, The Gingerbread Lady, The Sunshine Boys, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, Broadway Bound, and many more. Many of Simon’s plays would also make the leap to the big-screen, with Simon adapting quite a number of his own scripts, but it was THE ODD COUPLE which would find the greatest success; First a play, then a hit movie, followed by several sitcom incarnations, and even a movie sequel which found Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau reprising their roles of Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison thirty years later.
Burt Reynolds attended Florida State University on a football scholarship and had hoped to pursue a career in professional football, but a series of injuries brought that dream crashing down. After a period of uncertainty as to what he wanted to do with his life, Reynolds attended Palm Beach Junior College in order to continue his studies and was encouraged to audition for a play by his English professor. The rest, as they say, is history. After appearing in several plays, Reynolds made the leap to television in shows such as Riverboat, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Perry Mason before joining the cast of Gunsmoke as the “halfbreed” blacksmith Quint Asper. The big-screen followed as well and Burt Reynolds appeared in NAVAJO JOE, SAM WHISKEY, and SHARK! before his breakout role in John Boorman‘s DELIVERANCE. After the success of DELIVERANCE, Reynolds would go on star in WHITE LIGHTNING, THE LONGEST YARD, HUSTLE, SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, HOOPER, THE CANNONBALL RUN, and THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS, but after a bit of a career decline throughout the ’80s, Reynolds returned to television to star in the sitcom Evening Shade as Wood Newton, a former NFL player who coaches a high-school football team. The series became a success and earned Reynolds both an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Comedy Series, but the actor’s true comeback arrived in the form of BOOGIE NIGHTS. Reynolds’ role of porn filmmaker Jack Horner received much of the awards attention, including an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but Reynolds didn’t exactly get along with writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson and refused a role in Anderson’s next film, MAGNOLIA. One of Burt Reynolds‘ final roles would have seen him joining the star-studded cast of Quentin Tarantino‘s ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, but the actor sadly passed away before filming his role on September 6th at the age of 82 after suffering a heart attack.
STAR WARS producer Gary Kurtz died on September 23rd at the age of 78, and without him, there very well may have been no STAR WARS, at least, not as we know it. Upon breaking into the film industry in the mid-60s, Kurtz took on a variety of duties on various films, including assistant director, camera operator, sound technician, production manager, editor, and more. After joining the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, Kurtz’s film career was put on hold for several years, but when he returned, Kurtz met the man who he would collaborate with for the next decade: George Lucas. The producer was instrumental in bringing Lucas’ AMERICAN GRAFFITI to life in 1973, but it was in STAR WARS where Kurtz really made his mark. Gary Kurtz, a student of comparative religions, assisted Lucas with the script during early development and helped to shape the concept of The Force. He also helped to negotiate the deal with 20th Century Fox which saw Lucasfilm hold on to the merchandising rights, as well as scouting locations and setting up a second unit where he directed pick-up shots for many of the dog-fights as well as the opening battle on Tantive IV. Kurtz would take on an even larger role on THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, but unfortunately, this would be the beginning of a falling out between Lucas and Kurtz, who declined to come back for RETURN OF THE JEDI as he saw how Lucas was changing the original story in favour of something more commercial. “I could see where things were headed. The toy business began to drive the [Lucasfilm] empire. It’s a shame. They make three times as much on toys as they do on films. It’s natural to make decisions that protect the toy business but that’s not the best thing for making quality films,” Kurtz told the Los Angeles Times in 2010. “The first film and ‘Empire’ were about story and character but I could see that George’s priorities were changing.” Following his time in the STAR WARS franchise, Kurtz would go on to produce THE DARK CRYSTAL and RETURN TO OZ.
At nineteen-years-old, Scott Wilson hitchhiked to Los Angeles with $40 in his pocket and not a clue as to what he was going to do, but one night he got drunk and wound up in an acting class. “At the end of the class, the teacher came up to me and said, ‘I don’t know what your problem is; don’t come back to my class drunk,’” Wilson said in a 2012 interview. “I went back the next week to apologize to him because I felt I had stepped on his toes. He gave me a monologue to do from a Eugene O’Neill one-act play called The Long Voyage Home. For some reason I went back the next week and did it and said, ‘This is it, this is what I want to do.’” Wilson’s first two films were IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT and IN COLD BLOOD, both of which happened to be released in 1967. Imagine starting off your career with those two under your belt, but despite that early success, Wilson found himself typecast and underutilized. As the years went on, Wilson would appear in THE GREAT GATSBY, THE NINTH CONFIGURATION, THE RIGHT STUFF, THE EXORCIST III, DEAD MAN WALKING, PEARL HARBOR, MONSTER, THE LAST SAMURAI, BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON, HOSTILES, and more, cementing his reputation as a dependable and powerful character actor. Wilson also took to the small-screen as well, with guest-roles on The Twilight Zone, The X-Files, CSI, Law and Order, Justified, Enlightened, Bosch, Damien, and The OA, but it was his role of Hershel Greene on The Walking Dead which most fans will remember him by. Wilson played the kindly veterinarian and farmer for three seasons of the AMC series, and recently returned to reprise the role for Rick Grimes’ farewell episode, which stands as Wilson’s final on-screen appearance. Scott Wilson died on October 6th at the age of 76 after battling leukemia.
Although James Karen may never have become a household name, he did appear in just about everything during his more than seventy year career. James Karen appeared on TV shows such as The Defenders, Starsky and Hutch, Hawaii Five-O, The Rockford Files, Eight is Enough, The Jeffersons, Dallas, M*A*S*H, Quincy M.E., Family Ties, Little House on the Praire, Dynasty, Cheers, Webster, Magnum, P.I., MacGyver, Murphy Brown, Highway to Heaven, Charles in Charge, The Larry Sanders Show, Ned and Stacey, Seinfeld, The Practice, American Dad!, and so much more, as well as movies like HERCULES IN NEW YORK, ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, CAPRICORN ONE, F.I.S.T., THE CHINA SYNDROME, THE JAZZ SINGER, POLTERGEIST, THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, INVADERS FROM MARS, WALL STREET, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD II, THE UNBORN, CONGO, NIXON, APT PUPIL, ANY GIVEN SUNDAY, THIRTEEN DAYS, and THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, just to name a few. “People don’t know my name, but they know my face because I’ve done so damn much work,” Karen joked. We’ll certainly miss your face and your talent. James Karen passed away on October 23rd at the age of 94.
In the grand scheme of things, we’re only on this world for an infinitesimal amount of time, but if we’re very lucky, a small piece of us will survive to be remembered for generations to come. Thanks to his part in creating an entire universe, it’s extremely likely that people will be talking about Stan Lee and his creations long after we’ve all turned to dust. At seventeen years old, Stan Lee got a job at Timely Comics where his duties included fetching lunch and proofreading, but very quickly, Lee soon began writing comics himself. Even after entering the United State Army in 1942, Lee continued writing for Timely by sending back weekly pages. As the new decade dawned, Timely Comics began Atlas Comics and Stan Lee grew dissatisfied and began considering leaving the industry, but after being advised by his wife Joan to write at least one comic the way he wanted to, Lee gave it one more shot and The Fantastic Four were born in 1961. Together with collaborators such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Lee co-created iconic characters such as Spider-Man, The X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and many more. The age of Marvel had arrived. Decades later, Stan Lee would see almost all of his creations make the leap to the big-screen and usher in an age of hugely successful comic-book movies, which also happened to include the much-loved cameos by the Marvel legend. Lee had a cameo in just about every Marvel movie out there, ranging from X-MEN, SPIDER-MAN, FANTASTIC FOUR, HULK, and DEADPOOL, as well as every film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including the upcoming CAPTAIN MARVEL and AVENGERS: ENDGAME. The cameo-king keeps giving. Stan Lee died on November 12th at the age of 95.
William Goldman died on November 16th at the age of 87 due to complications from colon cancer and pneumonia, but audiences everywhere will appreciate the screenwriters range and versatility for generations to come. A noted novelist and playwright before taking up screenwriting, William Goldman‘s first major success on the big-screen was BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, which earned him an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Goldman followed up that success with THE STEPFORD WIVES, MARATHON MAN, ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, A BRIDGE TOO FAR, and, of course, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, the romantic fantasy adventure starring Cary Elwes and Robin Wright which became a beloved cult classic. In regards to his ability to cross genres with seemingly little effort, Goldman told Signature in 2015 that the trick was to “cross your fingers and never stop. Praying is also good.” Goldman also lent his screenwriting talents to MISERY, MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN, CHAPLIN, THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS, ABSOLUTE POWER, THE GENERAL’S DAUGHTER, HEARTS IN ATLANTIC, and DREAMCATCHER.
The staff of JoBlo joined forces earlier this year to collaborate on a series of articles which focused on our favourite scary movies, and our own Alex Maidy chose DON’T LOOK NOW, a psychological thriller which starred Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie as a married couple who are mourning the accidental death of their daughter. I hadn’t seen DON’T LOOK NOW and knew very little about it at the time, but after reading Alex’s enthusiastic take on the film, I knew I had to check it out. The film became an immediate favourite but I was a little saddened to realize that it served as my first introduction to the directing work of Nicolas Roeg, who passed away on November 23rd at the age of 90. According to Roeg, he only pursued a career in the film industry because there just so happened to be a studio across the road from his childhood home in Marylebone. Starting out at the very bottom making tea, Nicolas Roeg soon rose through the ranks to become a camera operator and cinematographer, working on films such as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, FAHRENHEIT 451, A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, and FAR FROM THE MADDENING CROWD. Roeg would step into the director’s chair in 1970 with PERFORMANCE (which he co-directed with Donald Cammell), and go on to helm such films as WALKABOUT, BAD TIMING, THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, EUREKA, CASTAWAY, THE WITCHES, and PUFFBALL. “Movies are not scripts – movies are films,” Roeg said in a 2006 interview. “They’re not books, they’re not the theatre. It’s a completely different discipline, it exists on its own. I would say that the beauty of it is, it’s not the theatre, it’s not done over again. It’s done in bits and pieces. Things are happening which you can’t get again.
Ricky Jay died on November 24th at the age of 72. In addition to being one of the most gifted sleight-of-hand artists of all-time, Ricky Jay was also incredibly knowledgeable about the history of magic and wrote a number of books on the subject. It was this knowledge, as well as his expertise as a magician, which lead to him serving as a consultant on a great number of projects such as THE ESCAPE ARTIST, THE NATURAL, HEIST, THE ILLUSIONIST, THE PRESTIGE, OCEAN’s THIRTEEN, and more. Here’s a story from Mark Singer’s profile of Ricky Jay in The New Yorker which demonstrates the magician’s brilliance:

Ricky Jay, who is perhaps the most gifted sleight-of-hand artist alive, was performing magic with a deck of cards. Also present was a friend of Mamet and Mosher’s named Christ Nogulich, the director of food and beverage at the hotel. After twenty minutes of disbelief-suspending manipulations, Jay spread the deck face up on the bar counter and asked Nogulich to concentrate on a specific card but not to reveal it. Jay then assembled the deck face down, shuffled, cut it into two piles, and asked Nogulich to point to one of the piles and name his card.

“Three of clubs,” Nogulich said, and he was then instructed to turn over the top card.

He turned over the three of clubs.

Mosher, in what could be interpreted as a passive-aggressive act, quietly announced, “Ricky, you know, I also concentrated on a card.”

After an interval of silence, Jay said, “That’s interesting, Gregory, but I only do this for one person at a time.”

Mosher persisted: “Well, Ricky, I really was thinking of a card.”

Jay paused, frowned, stared at Mosher, and said, “This is a distinct change of procedure.” A longer pause. “All right—what was the card?”

“Two of spades.”

Jay nodded, and gestured toward the other pile, and Mosher turned over its top card.

The deuce of spades.

A small riot ensued.

As a skilled performer, Ricky Jay didn’t merely take on consulting roles, he also acted in films such as HOUSE OF GAMES, BOOGIE NIGHTS, TOMORROW NEVER DIES, MYSTERY MEN, MAGNOLIA, HEARTBREAKERS, HEIST, and THE PRESTIGE, as well as TV shows like The X-Files, Deadwood, Kidnapped, The Unit, Lie to Me, Flashforward, and Teen Titans Go!.

Bernardo Bertolucci died on November 26th at the age of 77 due to lung cancer. Bertolucci’s father, Attilo Bertolucci, was an Italian poet and writer, and Bertolucci had initially wished to follow in his footsteps, but would later become an assistant to Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini which would launch him into a film-making career. After making his own directorial debut with LA COMMARE SECCA, Bertolucci wasted little time in establishing his own, at times controversial, style. With THE CONFORMIST in 1970, Bertolucci received his first Academy Award nomination (for Best Adapted Screenplay), but the film which would launch him to worldwide fame would follow several years later. THE LAST TANGO IN PARIS starred Marlon Brando as an American who has an anonymous sexual affair with a young Parisian woman (Maria Schneider), and although the film was a critical success (landing Oscar nominations for both Best Actor and Best Director), the graphic sexual content lead to an enormous public controversy which continues to this day, particularly to do with the scene in which Brando’s character anally rapes Schneider’s character with the use of butter. “I think ‘Last Tango’s’ success was in part due to the scandal, the sodomy, the butter, but in truth, it’s a tremendously desperate movie,” Bertolucci told Variety in 2011. “It’s very rare that such a desperate movie manages to have such a widespread audience.” The film would also cause the director to be brought up on charges of obscenity in his native Italy, which led to him losing his civil rights for five years. Following THE LAST TANGO IN PARIS, Bernardo Bertolucci would go on to direct 1900, THE LAST EMPEROR, THE SHELTERING SKY, LITTLE BUDDHA, STEALING BEAUTY, and THE DREAMERS.
As a child, Stephen Hillenburg was fascinated with the ocean and marine life. It was also around this time that he began expressing himself artistically and found that he had a talent for it. When it came time to attend university, Hillenburg decided to pursue marine biology as his major rather than art. “I’ve always been interested in art and making things, but I chose not to go to art school because I thought I needed to do something else,” Hillenburg told Biography Today in 2004. “Art was a tough way to make a living. I’ve always done both. I just kind of figured that the marine biology would be a career and the art would be something I did for my own self-expression.” Upon graduating, Stephen Hillenburg found a job teaching marine biology to children at the Orange Country Marine Institute. In order to educate and entertain his students, Hillenburg put his art skills to use by creating an a comic-book about tide-pool animals called The Intertidal Zone. Many of the characters featured in that comic would later evolve into the characters in SpongeBob SquarePants which are loved by audiences all around the world. Hillenburg would later leave the Marine Institute and finally pursue a career in animation when he attended the California Institute of the Arts. One of his first professional jobs in the industry was on Rocko’s Modern Life, and it was while involved with that animated series that he was encouraged to develop The Intertidal Zone into SpongeBob Squarepants. When Hillenburg first pitched the series to Nickelodeon, he brought along an underwater terrarium filled with models of the animated characters, all while wearing a Hawaiian shirt and playing Hawaiian music to set the tone. Needless to say, Nickelodeon jumped on it and SpongeBob SquarePants, which is still going strong today, was born. Last year, Stephen Hillenburg announced that he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and sadly passed away on November 26th at the age of 57. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea.
Penny Marshall passed away on December 18th due to complications from diabetes at the age of 75. In the late 1960’s, Penny Marshall moved to Los Angeles to join her older brother, Garry Marshall, in order to get her start in show-business. After a series of small roles on film and television, Marshall joined the cast of her brother’s new series, The Odd Couple, as Myrna Turner, Oscar’s secretary. “I’m sure people thought I got parts because my brother was being nice, and at first I probably thought the same thing,” Marshall told The LA Times.But my brother finally told me, ‘I’m not giving you a job ’cause I’m nice. I’m not that nice.’” It would be Garry Marshall‘s next series which would launch Penny into stardom. Together with Cindy Williams, Marshall guest-starred on an episode of Happy Days as LaVerne DeFazio (with Williams playing Shirley Feeney), and the reaction was so positive that Garry Marshall decided to spin the character’s off into their very own series and Laverne & Shirley was born. Over the course of its eight-season run, the series became one of the most popular in America, and also served to launch Marshall’s directing career. Marshall would direct several episodes of Laverne & Shirley before making the leap to the big-screen with movies such as JUMPIN’ JACK FLASH, BIG, AWAKENINGS, A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN, RENAISSANCE MAN, THE PREACHER’S WIFE, and RIDING IN CARS WITH BOYS.
Other notables we lost this year include POLICE ACADEMY director Hugh Wilson, Canadian comedian Mike MacDonald, THE GODFATHER actress Morgana King, BLAZING SADDLES composer John Morris, Night Court actor Harry Anderson, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS director Michael Anderson, DR. NO actress Eunice Gayson, GHANDI cinematographer Ronnie Taylor, COLLEGE HUMOR actress Mary Carlisle, BLUES BROTHERS singer Aretha Franklin, FAMILY PLOT actress Barbara Harris, Star Trek screenwriter Harlan Ellison, DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR? director Danny Leiner, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY actor Douglas Rain, ALIENS actor Al Matthews, The X-Files actor Peter Donat, THE ODD COUPLE actress Carole Shelley, DAMN YANKEES actor Tab Hunter, SEVEN SAMURAI screen-writer Shinobu Hashimoto, Cheyenne actor Clint Walker, RESIDENT EVIL franchise producer Samuel Hadida. THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS screenwriter Peter Masterson, THE THING actor Donald Moffat, and GOODFELLAS actor Frank Adonis.