Ian Holm, Star of Lord of the Rings and Alien, Passes Away
The entertainment industry lost a legend today. Sir Ian Holm passed away the morning of June 19, his agent confirmed to The Guardian. His passing was peaceful, and related to his Parkinson’s disease. He was with his family and carer.
“Charming, kind and ferociously talented, we will miss him hugely,” the agency wrote in their statement.
Ian Holm on Stage
Holm’s passion for acting began on the stage. From Rada in London to the Shakespeare Memorial theater in Stratford, he became a founding member of the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1960. In 1965, he earned an Evening Standard best actor award for Henry V. He was Harold Pinter’s favorite actor, and portrayed Lenny in Pinter’s The Homecoming. Holm won a Tony for that portrayal when the show went to Broadway. He played Lenny once again in the film version in 1973, directed by Peter Hall. Pinter once said of Holm, “He puts on my shoe, and it fits!”
Unfortunately, in 1976, Holm had a severe case of stage fright during a production of The Iceman Cometh. He described it as “a scar on my memory that will never go away.” It was upsetting enough that Holm abandoned theater and wholeheartedly pursued screen acting instead.
Ian Holm on Film
Before the incident in 1976, Holm had made somewhat of a name for himself in small movie roles. He appeared in films such as Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), Mary, Queen of Scots (1971), and Young Winston (1972). But he became a movie star when he was cast as Ash in Ridley Scott’s Alien in 1979. This role launched him to his next role as Sam Mussabini in Chariots of Fire (1981). He won a special award at the Cannes Film Festival for the role, as well as BAFTA back home in England. He was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor, but lost.
Holm had several memorable roles throughout the ’80s, including Napoleon in Time Bandits (1981), Mr. Kurtzmann in Brazil (1985), and Lewis Carroll (author of Alice in Wonderland) in Dreamchild (1985). In 1989, he was nominated for another BAFTA for his role in the TV series Game, Set and Match.
In the ’90s, he regained prominence with two great roles: the priest Vito Cornelius in Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, and lawyer Mitchell Stephens in Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter. Both films premiered in 1997, so it was a big year for Holm.
Holm and Tolkien
Ian Holm earned perhaps his most beloved role in 1999, when production began for Peter Jackson’s epic Lord of the Rings trilogy. Holm played Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit who bears the One Ring before leaving it for Frodo, his nephew (played by Elijah Wood). In 1981, Holm actually played Frodo in a radio production of series.
About a decade later, Holm returned to Middle Earth to reprise his role as Bilbo for Jackson’s second Tolkien endeavor—The Hobbit trilogy. Holm appeared in the first and third films, the same as he did for Lord of the Rings. Martin Freeman portrayed young Bilbo.
Unfortunately, Holm was unable to be part of the virtual reunion of the cast of Lord of the Rings, which took place in early June. He said, “I am sorry to not see you in person, I miss you all and hope your adventures have taken you to many places, I am in lockdown in my hobbit home, or holm.”
Holm was married four times, and fathered five children. He is survived by his children; his fourth wife, Sophie de Stempel, who documented his last days through her art on her Instagram; and his second wife, actress Penelope Wilton.
To all his loved ones, we send our sincere condolences. And to Sir Ian, rest in peace. White shores are calling.