Heath Ledger (4 April 1979 – 22 January 2008)Even as we near the 1st anniversary of his death, it still stings a bit at the thought that this young, mercurial talent was lost to the world. The 28-year-old actor was found dead from an accidental drug overdose in a New York apartment shortly after completing his spine-chilling performance as The Joker in one of the year's most talked-about movies, The Dark Knight. It was a role said to have consumed Ledger so much that he resorted to the use of sleeping pills to help him switch off at the end of the day. The fact of his untimely demise no doubt lent a macabre and near-frenzied degree of fascination to the Batman movie, which went on to shatter box office records everywhere. As expected, it didn't take long for Ledger's performance to be linked to posthumous Oscar success. That the star of A Knight's Tale, 10 Things I hate About You and perhaps his greatest cinematic achievement, Brokeback Mountain, had many more memorable roles to play in the future is undeniable. Quote: I only do this because I'm having fun. The day I stop having fun, I'll just walk away.
Miriam Makeba (March 1932 - 10 November 2008)Over a career spanning more than five decades she was a singer, actress, and political activist. She performed for presidents ranging from John F Kennedy and Fidel Castro to Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie and our own Nelson Mandela. She even had three private audiences with the Pope. She was "Mama Afrika", the Empress of African Song and the most influential African diva of all time.Mama Afrika RememberedQuote: My life has been like a yo-yo. One minute I'm dining with presidents and emperors; the next I'm hitchhiking.
Brad Renfro (25 July 1982 – 15 January 2008)Here's a cautionary tale of the high highs and low lows of Hollywood as encountered by another young talent. Child star Renfro gained fame as the smart-mouthed boy who went up against the mafia in 1994's The Client, opposite Susan Sarandon. Roles in Apt Pupil opposite Ian McKellen, and a daring performance as the victim of Nick Stahl's sadism in Larry Clarke's disturbing Bully put him on the map. But Renfro was unable to capitalise on his talent star, rejecting the bright lights of Sunset Blvd for the allure of drugs and alcohol abuse. He was arrested for heroin possession in 2005. And his downward spiral continued, with a conviction for drunk driving in 2006. In early 2008, he was found dead in an LA apartment from a heroin and morphine overdose.Quote: Everybody thinks I'm, like, a bad boy. I've had my day, but I just sit at home and play the blues mostly.
Bernie Mac (5 October 1957 – 9 August 2008)"I'm telling you America!" This familiar catchphrase from his sitcom The Bernie Mac Show came from a man whom audiences knew and trusted to give it to them straight, without the put-on bravado that came from most other comedy actors. Watching the Mac sitting on his comfy sofa, chuffing on his cigar and sharing his off-colour pieces of advice to the TV viewing public was like having your funny uncle in your living room, venting yet again, against the idiots who dared to ruin his day. He also brought his acerbic brand of wit to movies such as Bad Santa, the Oceans Eleven trilogy and Spike Lee's Get on the Bus. Mac died of complications due to pneumonia. Quote: I'm an ordinary guy with an extraordinary job.
Ashley Callie (19 May 1973 – 15 February 2008)Ashley Callie was best known for her role as the hotshot, super-bitch exec Leone Haines in Isidingo. After a week in hospital due to a car accident, Ashley died of the head injuries she sustained. There was much speculation in the media as to who was responsible for the accident, with many reports reports suggesting Ashley was driving on the wrong side of the road. However, in October a 21 year old man was charged with culpable homicide relating to her death. The case has been postponed until January. Isidingo producers decided that Lee would not be replaced, and like Ashley, she would meet an untimely death. It was a real blow for the show as Lee's father, Barker, would lose his second child. Lee was a formidable character who personified the ballsy yet soft-on-the-inside South African businesswoman. The very public mourning of Ashley's death showed that South African audiences connected not only with a character, but with one of their talented actresses who has left a gap in the industry.
Paul Newman (26 Jan 1925 - 26 September 2008)When the world lost the man with the most famous blue eyes in Hollywood, nobody had to resort to the niceties reserved for those who have passed away: he was a genuinely all-round great guy. The fact that he was a superb actor almost goes without saying – he was nominated for 10 Oscars, after all. Even that, however, was almost eclipsed by his philanthropy – after accidentally making a fortune on his Newman's Own brand of foods, he promptly gave every cent away to charity. Add to that his motorsports accomplishments and his dedication to his wife Joanne Woodward (when asked the secret of his long marriage when surrounded by nubile starlets, he once answered, "Why fool around with hamburger when you have steak at home?"), and you've got the epitome of a successful life. Hud, Cool Hand Luke, Fast Eddie Felson, Butch Cassidy – you'll be missed.Quote: I picture my epitaph: "Here lies Paul Newman, who died a failure because his eyes turned brown"
Sydney Pollack (1 July 1934 - 26 May 2008)Not many old-school Hollywood veterans manage to keep adjusting their work to suit the era in which they find themselves. Sydney Pollack is one who did. After his acting debut in the 1950s (a profession he remained in until his death), he went on to make his biggest impact as a director. In addition to classics such as Three Days of the Condor (1975), Tootsie (1982) and Out of Africa (which earned him his two Oscars in 1985), he also helmed a number of hits including The Firm (1993) and The Interpreter (2005). He rounded out his skills as a top producer, which meant that the movie world lost a solid all-rounder when he passed away.Quote: I didn't grow up thinking of movies as film, or art, but as movies, something to do on a Saturday afternoon.
Anthony Minghella (6 Jan, 1954 - 18 March, 2008) Another multi-talented filmmaker, this time from the other side of the pond, Anthony Minghella was a British filmmaker of the highest calibre. While he directed, amongst other films, The English Patient (1996), The Talented Mr Ripley (1999) and Cold Mountain (2003), he never thought of himself as a director – as he put it, "I am a writer who was able to direct the films that I write." He acknowledged that his highest point as director and screenwriter came with The English Patient, which scooped nine Oscars. His work brought him to southern Africa this year to shoot The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency in Botswana. It's a damn shame to lose him at age 54 after a surgical complication.Quote: The feeling of not belonging, of not being entirely worthy, of being sometimes hostage to your own sensibilities. Those things speak to me very personally.George Carlin (May 12, 1937 – June 22, 2008)When most American stand-up comedians were still clean cut and well dressed, pandering to conservative politics for laughs in the tradition of Bob Hope, George Carlin broke out of the "Take my wife… please!" boom-boom! comedy straightjacket, with comedy routines that included political commentary. In the '70s, with his faded jeans, and long hair, he seemed like some kind of angry hippie on speed, and his intense, pacing- across-the-stage style helped redefine comedy. Although he achieved mass audience fame, he never watered his style down any more than he did his booze, which (together with Vicodin) eventually landed him in rehab in 2004. His most famous routine? The Seven Dirty Words You can Never Say on TV. He carried on doing his relatively hardcore brand of comedy until he was old, grey and bent, remaining fiercely anti-religious, politically incorrect, and left wing. He is many stand-up comics' biggest hero and role model. Quote: Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, and Tits. Those are the heavy seven. Those are the ones that'll infect your soul, curve your spine and keep the country from winning the war.Richard Wright (July 28 1943 –September 15 2008)What would Pink Floyd be without the emotional impact of his keyboards harmonies? Richard Wright also contributed to the composition of a few important Pink Floyd songs and sang vocal harmonies both live and on their recordings. Although the (much quieter) Wright frequently came into conflict with Roger Waters, Waters paid moving tribute to him after his death. Quote: I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.
Bettie Page (April 22, 1923 – December 11, 2008)Before Marilyn Monroe sold sugary, warm sexiness, Bettie Page came along with a mix of cheek, naughtiness and an arch kind of sweetness. Discovered after shots taken on the beach by a amateur photographer Jerry Tibbs were published, Bettie went on to become one of the most famous and controversial pin-ups off all time. Many of her pictures and videos - especially the kinkier ones - were destroyed after a court case, but a few survive, and Bettie's an enduring icon of trendsetters - in fact, her stuff still pushes a few boundaries today! Watch this. She became a Christian and retired from photographic work, but not completely from public life. For more, check out a film called The Notorious Bettie Page. Quote: I never thought it was shameful. I felt normal. It's just that it was much better than pounding a typewriter eight hours a day, which gets monotonous.Charlton Heston (October 4, 1923 – April 5, 2008)A man made of contradictions, movie actor Charlton Heston played mainly heroic figures in films such as The Ten Commandments, Planet of the Apes, and Ben Hur. He was a National Rifle Club member, a civil rights advocate, and a friend of the Reagans, who Bush also described as a hero. As he grew older, he became more conservative, changing his political alignment from Democrat to Republican in the 80s and joining the pro-war camp, and opposing social reforms like abortion, while maintaining a likeable - if absurdly manly - demeanor in public, and being initiated into a Native American tribe as an act of non-racialism… Quote: Political correctness is tyranny with manners .
Roy Scheider (10 Nov, 1932 – 10 Feb 10, 2008)Most famous for his role in the Jaws series, Roy Scheider starred in more than another 75 productions during his career as actor, including The French Connection, Naked Lunch and others, and made it into the alt TV series Family Guy in 2007. Quote: Freedom is a muscle… you have to exercise it.
Bo Diddley (30 December 30 1928, 2 June, 2008)An icon of the American blues-rock music scene, Bo was famous for having his own "beat" - one that is acknowledged to have influenced many famous bands and musicians, from Elvis, to the Stones, to Bowie, and helped build the bridge between blues and rock 'n roll. His influence crossed over for years before he was inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame and received much overdue recognition late in life. Quote: I opened the door for a lot of people, and they just ran through and left me holding the knob.
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