By John H. Foote
Ian Holm, one of the greatest though less known British actors, has died at 88.
Best known to this generation of film audiences as Bilbo Baggins in the superb The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-02-03) and as Mitchell Stevens the lawyer in The Sweet Hereafter (1997), Holm had a career spanning more than 50 years dating back to the mid-sixties with his stage work for the Royal Shakespeare Company. From stage to film, he was initially seen in small roles in Nicholas and Alexandra (1971), Mary Queen of Scots (1971) and Young Winston (1972). In a strange foreshadowing of his future he did the voice of Frodo Baggins in a BBC radio production of The Lord of the Rings in 1981.
That same year he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Chariots of Fire (1981), the eventual Best Picture winner, followed by memorable roles in Time Bandits (1981) and best of all in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan (1984). Shakespearean roles on Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V (1989) and Hamlet (1990) with Mel Gibson were to follow, as well as portraying father to Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994).
Worldwide acclaim came for his haunted and haunting performance for Atom Egoyan in The Sweet Hereafter (1997) likely his finest leading role. That same year he had a strong part in the cult classic The Fifth Element (1997).
The entire film world was stunned by Peter Jackson’s magnificent epic The Lord of the Rings, released as three films exactly a year apart. In the films Holm appeared as Bilbo Baggins, the crafty owner of a dangerous ring he gives away to be destroyed and then mourns its loss for the rest of his life. The film’s won a collective 17 Academy Awards, the last in the trilogy winning Best Picture. Moving back and forth between the screen and the stage, Hold was regarded as an actor’s actor, always professional, always well admired.
He will be a most missed presence.
Holm passed away due to complications of Parkinson’s Disease.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.