JoBlo.com's tribute to the people from film & TV we lost in 2015
“All stories, even the ones we love, eventually come to an end.” ~ Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
As 2015 draws to a close, we here at JoBlo.com want 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 2015. These people will always be remembered for their impact on the world of film and television.
In Memory Of...
Rod Taylor starred in over 50 feature films during his career, but he was probably best known for his roles as lawyer Mitch Brenner in Alfred Hitchcock's THE BIRDS and H. George Wells in George Pal's THE TIME MACHINE. The Australian actor also appeared in such movies as 36 HOURS, YOUNG CASSIDY, DARK OF THE SUN and DARKER THAN AMBER, and provided the voice of Pongo in Disney's 101 DALMATIANS (1961). Although Taylor had essentially retired from acting by the late 1990s, Quentin Tarantino talked him into playing British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. Taylor died of a fatal heart attack on January 7, four days away from what would have been his 85th birthday.
Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Bruce Sinofsky passed away due to diabetes-related complications on February 21 at the age of 58. With his long-time collaborator Joe Berlinger, Sinofsky co-directed the Paradise Lost Trilogy about the West Memphis Three, and won an Emmy for the first film. Sinofsky also received a Best Documentary Oscar nomination for the final movie, and was behind the camera for 1992's BROTHER'S KEEPER and the Metallica doc SOME KIND OF MONSTER.
Leonard Nimoy will always be remembered for portraying Star Trek's Spock on the big and small screen, but he also directed the third and fourth installments (THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK and THE VOYAGE HOME) in the film series, as well as 1987's THREE MEN AND A BABY. The actor retired from playing the half-human, half-Vulcan in 2010, however he reprised his most famous role in the J.J. Abrams-directed reboot and its sequel, which was his final film performance. Nimoy's credits outside of the sci-fi franchise include playing Dr. David Kibner in the 1978 remake of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and William Bell on Fox's Fringe, and voicing Sentinel Prime in TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON. Nimoy was also known for his stage work, hosting and narrating the television series In Search Of..., and his recording of "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins". Nimoy died on February 27 of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. RIP, Mr. Spock.
Daniel von Bargen
Perhaps best known for playing George Costanza's boss on Seinfeld and Chief Grady in SUPER TROOPERS, character actor Daniel von Bargen passed away on March 1 after years of struggling with diabetes. Von Bargen was hospitalized in 2012 following a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and he told a 911 operator that the suicide attempt was because he didn't want to have another surgery to have his toes amputated due to complications with the disease. The actor also appeared in movies like O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?, THE POSTMAN, CRIMSON TIDE and BASIC INSTINCT during his career, as well as multiple television series such as Malcolm in the Middle, The West Wing, The X-Files and NYPD Blue.
Richard Glatzer was diagnosed with ALS in 2011, and on March 10, died of complications from the disease at the age of 63. Glatzer co-wrote and co-directed STILL ALICE alongside his husband Wash Westmoreland, and towards the end of filming was only able to communicate by tapping his toe on an iPad. The filmmaker worked on the TV shows America's Next Top Model and Divorce Court, and used his experience producing the latter for his first feature film, 1993's GRIEF. Glatzer also co-helmed the Errol Flynn biopic THE LAST OF ROBIN HOOD, 2006's QUINCEAÑERA and 2001's THE FLUFFER with Westmoreland.
Australian cinematographer Andrew Lesnie first gained notice for his work on BABE and its sequel, and was later tapped to film Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy (winning a Best Cinematography Oscar for the first installment in the process), as well as The Hobbit trilogy. Lesnie was also the director of photography for I AM LEGEND, THE LOVELY BONES and RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Lesnie passed away from a heart attack on April 27, a week after the U.S. release of his final film, the Russell Crowe-led and directed historical fiction drama THE WATER DIVINER. He was 59.
Ellen Albertini Dow
Yes, Ellen Albertini Dow was the rapping grandmother in THE WEDDING SINGER (and performed the Sugar Hill Gang song herself), but she also taught in the drama department at Los Angeles City College and co-founded the theater arts department at San Fernando Valley's Pierce College with her husband Eugene Dow before retiring from teaching in 1985. The actress was one of the "irregular" regulars on The Golden Girls and appeared in other television series (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Six Feet Under, The Wonder Years, Seinfeld), while her big screen credits include roles in WEDDING CRASHERS, ROAD TRIP, 54 and SISTER ACT. Dow died of pneumonia on May 4 at the age of 101.
English actor, author, heavy metal singer, World War II veteran and all-around badass Sir Christopher Lee passed away from heart failure on June 7 at the age of 93. The actor famously portrayed Count Dracula in a series of Hammer horror movies, starred as Saruman in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, and played Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels. Lee also had memorable turns in the original THE WICKER MAN (which he considered to be his best film), THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (as Bond villain Francisco Scaramanga) and Richard Lester's Musketeers flicks, and was a Tim Burton regular, appearing or voicing roles in multiple movies from the director. After his passing, Lee's LOTR and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson posted a heartfelt tribute to the actor on Facebook.
James Horner composed music for more than 100 films (STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK, FIELD OF DREAMS, KRULL, WILLOW, GLORY, APOLLO 13 and AVATAR, just to name a few) during his career, and won a Best Original Score Academy Award for TITANIC and another for its theme song "My Heart Will Go On." Horner also served as a composer on two other Best Picture Oscar winners (BRAVEHEART and A BEAUTIFUL MIND), and wrote the music for Antoine Fuqua's upcoming THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN remake. Horner was killed in accidental plane crash on June 22.
Dick Van Patten
Eight is Enough star Dick Van Patten passed away on June 23 at the age of 86. Patten got his start as a child actor on Broadway, and before being cast as patriarch Tom Bradford on the ABC comedy-drama, appeared in television series such as Mama, Arnie, The New Dick Van Dyke Show and Emergency! The actor had roles in several films from director Mel Brooks (HIGH ANXIETY, SPACEBALLS and ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS), the Disney movies FREAKY FRIDAY and THE SHAGGY D.A., and was also an animal lover who co-founded Natural Balance Pet Foods in 1989.
Best known for playing secret agent John Steed on the British television series The Avengers, Patrick Macnee also starred as Sir Godfrey Tibbett in the Bond movie A VIEW TO A KILL and appeared in several cult films (THE HOWLING, THE IS SPINAL TAP) during his career. The British actor was one of only a handful of people to have portrayed both Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on screen, and twice played Watson to Christopher Lee's Holmes in the television movies SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE LEADING LADY and INCIDENT AT VICTORIA FALLS. Macnee died of natural causes on June 25 at the age of 93.
Jerry Weintraub got his start as a talent agent and concert promoter before moving on to producing movies, with his first film being Robert Altman's NASHVILLE. The mega-producer was also behind big screen projects like THE KARATE KID, all three of its sequels and the 2010 remake, VEGAS VACATION, Steven Soderbergh's OCEAN'S trilogy, the Emmy Award-winning HBO movie BEHIND THE CANDELABRA, and the upcoming THE LEGEND OF TARZAN. Weintraub died of cardiac arrest on July 7. He was 77.
Legendary Egyptian actor Omar Sharif was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his English-language debut in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, and won two Golden Globes for his portrayal of Sherif Ali in the David Lean film. Sharif landed a third Golden Globe for his role in DOCTOR ZHIVAGO before going on to star opposite Barbra Streisand in FUNNY GIRL, and made a comeback in 2003 with his César Award-winning performance in MONSIEUR IBRAHIM. The actor was also an accomplished contract bridge player, and was once ranked among the top 50 in the world. Sharif died at the age of 83 on July 10 after suffering a heart attack.
"Rowdy" Roddy Piper
Professional wrestler and actor Roderick George Toombs, a.k.a. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, passed away on July 31. Although Piper appeared in more than 50 movies and television shows, his badass turn in John Carpenter's THEY LIVE is what has earned him a spot in cult film history. He also starred as the lead in the B-movie classic HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN, and had guest roles on TV series such as It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Cold Case, The Outer Limits and Walker, Texas Ranger. Considered by many to be one of the greatest talkers and heels in wrestling history, Piper racked up 34 championships in various promotions during his career in the ring, and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005.
Yvonne Craig portrayed Batgirl on the third and final season of the 1960s Batman television series, and played the green-skinned slave girl who wanted to kill Captain Kirk in the "Whom Gods Destroy" episode of Star Trek. The actress also starred in a couple of Elvis Presley flicks (IT HAPPENED AT THE WORLD'S FAIR and KISSIN' COUSINS), the 1966 cult movie MARS NEEDS WOMEN and IN LIKE FLINT, and her television guest appearances include roles on The Six Million Dollar Man, The Mod Squad and Kojak. Craig died from breast cancer at the age of 78 on August 17.
Famed horror director Wes Craven died of brain cancer on August 30 at the age of 76. Craven made his feature film directorial debut with THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, and continued to redefine the genre with movies like THE HILLS HAVE EYES, SCREAM and, of course, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. The early to mid-1990s were a little rough for the filmmaker, but he received praise for WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE, his meta-take on the Elm Street series, and rebounded in a big way with SCREAM, a project he almost passed on directing. His final movie, SCREAM 4, was released in 2011, and the season one finale of MTV's television adaptation of the slasher film series paid tribute to the director. In 2011 Craven also took time from his schedule to talk movies and go shopping with JoBlo.com's very own JimmyO.
Catherine E. Coulson
Catherine E. Coulson became a cult favorite as Twin Peaks' Margaret Lanterman, better known as the Log Lady, and was set to return as the quirky character on the upcoming limited series from Showtime, but she sadly passed away from cancer on September 28. The actress reprised her most famous role in the movie prequel TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME and in an episode of Psych, and appeared in the David Lynch-directed short The Amputee while also working as an assistant director on Lynch's ERASERHEAD. Coulson was 71 at the time of her death.
Maureen O'Hara, one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood, died on October 24 at the age of 95. Born Maureen FitzSimons and nicknamed "The Queen of Technicolor" (something she hated), the Irish-American actress starred in five films (HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY, RIO GRANDE, THE QUIET MAN, THE LONG GRAY LINE and THE WINGS OF EAGLES) from acclaimed director John Ford, and often worked with John Wayne, her longtime friend. O'Hara also played Tacey King in Walter Lang's SITTING PRETTY, Natalie Wood's mother in the original MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET and Maggie McKendrick in the 1961 version of THE PARENT TRAP.
Former U.S. senator and actor Fred Thompson passed away on November 1 from a recurrence of lymphoma at the age of 73. Thompson represented Tennessee from 1994 to 2003, and in 2008 made a run for the Republican presidential nomination. As an actor, he was best known for his roles as D.A. Arthur Branch on the Law & Order television franchise, Rear Admiral Joshua Painter in THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, White House Chief of Staff Harry Sargent in the Clint Eastwood-led thriller IN THE LINE OF FIRE and Dulles Airport head Trudeau in DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER. GOD'S NOT DEAD 2, Thompson's final film, will be released in April of next year.
Melissa Mathison penned the screenplay for the Steven Spielberg classic E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, as well as THE BFG, the director's upcoming film version of the Roald Dahl novel. The Oscar-nominated screenwriter also wrote the screenplay for Martin Scorsese's KUNDUN, and the big screen adaptations of Walter Farley's The Black Stallion and Lynne Reid Banks' The Indian in the Cupboard. Mathison died on November 4 after battling neuroendocrine cancer. She was 65.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE star Gunnar Hansen passed away from pancreatic cancer on November 7 at the age of 68. The Icelandic-born American actor played the iconic horror villain Leatherface in the original 1974 film by director Tobe Hooper, and although he didn't reprise his iconic role and in any of the sequels, he did go on to appear in over 20 films during his career, including 1988's HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS, 1991's CAMPFIRE TALES and 1995's MOSQUITO. Hansen was also an author, and in 2013 published a book about the making of the seminal slasher film.
Robert Loggia may have been nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as private detective Sam Ransom in the 1985 thriller JAGGED EDGE, but fans of the character actor will probably best remember him as drug dealer Frank Lopez from 1983's SCARFACE, Mr. MacMillan in the Tom Hanks comedy BIG and INDEPENDENCE DAY's General William Grey. Loggia also appeared in the Sylvester Stallone arm wrestling drama OVER THE TOP, David Lynch's LOST HIGHWAY, Taylor Hackford's AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN and John Huston's PRIZZI'S HONOR. Loggia was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2010, and on December 4, died from complications of the disease at the age of 85.
Other notables we lost this year include Al Molinaro of Happy Days fame, L.A. Law actor Richard Dysart, LETHAL WEAPON and THE GOONIES actress Mary Ellen Trainor, The Partridge Family star Suzanne Crough, American Horror Story's Ben Woolf, The Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon, Cheers and The West Wing actor Roger Rees, THE GODFATHER's Alex Rocco, comedic legend (and mother to Ben Stiller) Anne Meara, The Jeffersons actor Irwin Keyes, original Star Trek TV series actress Grace Lee Whitney, film producer (and son of movie pioneer Samuel Goldwyn) Samuel Goldwyn Jr., M*A*S*H star Harry Morgan, FRIDAY THE 13TH's Betsy Palmer, Tony Award-winning actress Elizabeth Wilson, Miss Marple star Geraldine McEwan, documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles (GIMME SHELTER), character actor Taylor Negron, FRIDAY's Reynaldo Rey and OLIVER! star Ron Moody.