In Memoriam: Showbiz deaths of 2015
Writer: Casey Lee
Rest in peace. See you at the movies.
After a year of shocking and tragic deaths, 2015 could feel a little milder but it does not make us any less sad that we have lost great talents that have created and defined some of the finest moments in cinema.
With only a small consolation that the work of these people has been immortalised on film, we pay our last respects to these names that have passed on in 2015.
Just four days shy of his 85th birthday, actor Rod Taylor suffered a fatal heart attack at California, Los Angeles on 7 January 2015. Originally bound for England in 1954, after making a name for himself in his native Australia, Taylor had decided to stay in California instead of taking the connecting flight and started building his career there. After his major leading role in George Pal's adaptation of "The Time Machine", Taylor's career would take him to star alongside the major contemporaries of his time during the 60s and 70s, with the likes of Tippi Hedren, Shirley MacLaine, Elizabeth Taylor and Maggie Smith, while also working with director Alfred Hitchcock as the lead in "The Birds". Taylor went into semi-retirement by the 90s, but made his final film appearance as Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds".
Datuk Mohd Shariff Ahmad
After visiting the former director-general of the National Film Development Corporation (FINAS) when he was admitted to the intensive care unit at the Puswari Hospital on January 12, President of the Association of Film Workers Malaysia (PROFIMA) Khir Mohd Noor later received word that Datuk Mohd Shariff Ahmad had passed that same evening, due to complications from Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) disease, at the of 63.
Datuk Mohd Shariff Ahmad had served as the director-general of FINAS for a decade long term from 1995 to 2005, when the sound stage studio was built during his tenure. He would later preside as the CEO of the Creative Content Industries Association (CCIG) from 2012 to 2014 and was the deputy president for the Screen Writers Association of Malaysia (SWAM).
On 14 January, actor, stuntman and choreographer Darren Shahlavi's Facebook account announced his death. It was later reported that he had died from a fatal heart attack during his sleep from Atherosclerosis. He was 42 at the time of his death.
Shahlavi began his martial artist career in the United Kingdom from a young age and went into film during the 90s. In 1996, Shahlavi made his breakout role as the villain opposite Wu Jing in Yuen Wu Ping and Chang Hsin Yen's "Tai Chi 2", and would later appear as the boxing villain against Donnie Yen in "Ip Man 2". He also collaborated with Jean-Claude Van Damme in "Pounds of Flesh" and would make his final appearance in the "Kickboxer" reboot, "Kickboxer: Vengeance".
After publicly announcing that he was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in February 2014, Leonard Nimoy died on 27 February a year later with complications from the disease. Before becoming a full-fledged actor, Leonard Nimoy started out as an acting teacher from the 1950s. In 1952, Nimoy would take the role of a semi-alien named Narab for a 1952 movie, "Zombies of the Stratosphere". Then in 1964, Nimoy would once again play as a half-human, half alien character that would make his name known throughout the world as Captain Spock in "Star Trek". Aside from breathing and living as one of science fiction's most iconic character, Nimoy also tried his hand in photography, writing, music and even directing; two of which were movies from "Star Trek".
While still working on his latest autobiographical documentary, 88 year old Albert Maysles died at his home in Manhattan on 5 March from pancreatic cancer. Together with his late brother, David, Albert Maysles started working as documentarians for Drew Associates in 1960, but eventually left to form their own Maysles Films Inc. The brothers are considered to be one of the few documentarians who are auteurs of their craft, and famously known for their unapologetic style of letting reality play itself out on film that is to be known as direct cinema. Aside from "Salesman", "Gimme Shelter" and "Grey Gardens", which have become almost representatives of how documentaries should be made today, the Maysles also do much work documenting stars and icons from The Beatles, Rolling Stone, Marlon Brando to Truman Capote.
After David's death, Albert continue making documentaries, which included "The Love We Make" (2011) following Paul McCartney's experience in New York after 9/11 and "Iris", which followed famous icon Iris Apfel.
Harun Salim Bachik
After collapsing in a restroom in Bukit Merah, Perak, Haron Amin Rashid Salleh or better known as Harun Salim Bachik was pronounced dead on 8 March, at the age of 55. While his best known works are in television for "Rumah Kedai" in the 90s, Harun has left behind memorable performances in feature films such as "Man Laksa", "Baik Punya Cilok" and "Papadom". But his most memorable of them all is in director Nik Amir Mustapha's "KIL".
When director Peter Jackson and Russell Crowe received news of cinematographer Andrew Lesnie's death from a heart attack on 27 April, they were devastated. Lesnie started out as an assistant camera operator in 1978 while he was still a student at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. He started getting notice after being the cinematographer for the animated "Babe" and its sequel, and got his breakthrough to lense for Peter Jackson's first entry in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Lesnie won his first and only Academy Award for "Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring", and would continue to be Jackson's cinematographer throughout the "Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" trilogies, and Jackson's subsequent films "King Kong" and "The Lovely Bones". He would also stand behind the camera for major blockbusters from "The Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and "I Am Legend". His last work can be seen in Russell Crowe's directorial debut "The Water Diviner".
Producer and actress Junaidah Dahlan was en route to the Ampang Hospital with breathing difficulties, but was pronounced dead when she arrived on 30 April. While Dahlan first started out as an actress in the 1970s, she would later act as a producer from the 80s to the 90s, making films such as "Wira Angkasa", "Harry Boy" and "Terakhir Cinta Metropolitan". Dahlan would still continue acting after 2000, appearing in "Idola" in 2002 and "Cicakman 2: Planet Hitam" (2008).
Many were not aware that Ramli Hassan had cancer when news of his death in Sydney on 7 May reached Malaysia. The 58 year old Sarawakian actor has had a more illustrious acting career than most, not only for his local appearances in James Lee's "Histeria" and "The Red Kebaya", which garnered him an award at the 2007 Festival Filem Malaysia, but he also appeared in Andy Tennant's "Anna and the King", as well as Netflix's "Marco Polo" original series. His last appearance was in Yasu Tanaka's "Nota".
The world has lost one of its greatest and most beloved villains when Christopher Lee died at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London on 7 June. Starting his acting career in 1947, Lee would have his breakthrough when he entered into the Hammer series of horror films, portraying as Dracula, nailing his fame with the horror genre. After parting ways with Hammer, Lee continued to play villain roles in "Wicker Man" and "The Man with the Golden Gun". Lee regained popularity in the 2000s when he played pivotal villain roles in the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy and the "Lord of the Ring" trilogy. He was also a frequent collaborator with director Tim Burton, having roles in five of his films. Despite dabbling with a music career, Lee had never stopped acting despite his growing age, and was due for one more performance with Uma Thurman in "Angels in Notting Hill" to be shot in November, before passing away at the venerable age of 93.
News of composer James Horner's death had to be confirmed much later after news of his personal plane crashing outside Santa Barbara first broke. The 61 year old composer may not be the most well-known among composers like John Williams, but his works can be heard in our most favourite movies starting from James Cameron's "Aliens", "Avatar" and "Titanic", which gave Horner two Academy Awards for Best Score and Best Original Song, Ron Howard's "Apollo 13" and "A Beautiful Mind", and Mel Gibson's "Braveheart" and "Apocalypto", among many others for franchises such as "Star Trek" and Jack Ryan. His final score can be heard for "The 33", and was scoring for "The Magnificent Seven" remake at the time of his death.
After losing the great Peter O'Toole in 2013, another "Lawrence of Arabia" alum would join him when Omar Sharif was reported to have died on 10 July at the age of 83. Beginning his acting career in front of an Egyptian audience, Omar became an international star when he starred alongside O'Toole in the magnificent "Lawrence of Arabia". From then on, Omar's fame would reached its peak for his charming roles in "Doctor Zhivago" and "Genghis Khan".
Actor Karim Latiff was in the late stages of lung cancer when he breathed his last at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital on 18 August at the age of 73. Best known for his roles alongside P. Ramlee, Karim also starred in "Ahmad Albab", "Enam Jahanam", "Nasib Do Re Mi", "Keluarga 69", "Gerimis" and "Anak Bapak".
The horror genre not only saw the loss of one of its greatest actors in 2015, but it had also lost one of its greatest directors who could always find new ways of scaring audiences. At the age of 76, Wes Craven lost the battle against brain cancer at his home in Los Angeles on 30 August. Craven came into the horror scene with his debut feature "The Last House on the Left" in 1972 to box office success, and would repeat the same success with "The Hills Have Eyes" in 1977. After being inspired by living next to a cemetery, Craven would redefine the youth horror genre with the introduction of Freddy Kruger in the "Nightmare of Elm Street", spawning a series that would shock audiences and exhuming box office gold throughout the late 80s. Craven would later reference and revive his previous works with the "Scream" series and its ghost-faced killer. In between, Craven had also helped the careers of actors from Bruce Willis, Johnny Depp and Sharon Stone, including giving Meryl Streep a nomination for "Music of the Heart".
After disappearing from the spotlight for many years, it was unfortunate to hear that the latest news of actress Setsuko Hara would be her death on 5 September from pneumonia. Through connections from her brother-in-law, Setsuko made her debut at the age of 15 for the Nikkatsu Corporation in 1935 and was part of the pre-war era where she appeared in several propagandist films between Japan and Germany. However, Setsuko would find fame after the war when she first collaborated with director Yasujiro Ozu in 1949's "Late Spring". Out of her six collaborations with the director, her role as the leading grieving widow in 1953's "Tokyo Story" would be the most definitive for both Setsuko and Ozu. Setsuko had also appeared in Akira Kurosawa's films including "No Regrets for Our Youth" and "The Idiot". Her final film role was in Hiroshi Inagaki's "Chuushingura" in 1962, before she retired from acting at the age of 42. She was 92 at the time of her passing.
2015 lost another horror icon that is recognised without seeing his face. Gunnar Hansen, the man who is behind the mask of Leatherface from the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" in 1973, died at his home of 40 years in Maine on 9 November. He was 68 when he lost his life to pancreatic cancer. Stumbling into the role of Leatherface almost by accident when he went to observe the shooting of the film near where he lived, Hansen would be called to don the mask and wield the chainsaw that would make his role an icon. Since then, Hansen has never been far from the role, as far as been asked to reprise the role in a 3D remake of the 1973 classic. Hansen had even written an autobiography of his time during the production of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre".
Saeed Jaffrey was announced to have died by his niece at the age of 86 on 15 November. The Indian actor was trained by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, and was a Fulbright scholar when he studied in the U.S. Saeed had built his acting career in India and the U.K., and was beloved in both countries for his over 200 film and television appearances. His name would be recognised in international productions such as "Gandhi", "The Man Who Would Be King" and "A Passage in India", while he would be known in India for having roles in Satyajit Ray's "The Chess Players", Shekhar Kapur's debut "Masoom" and Indra Kumar's "Dil".
Siti Mariam Ismail, better known as Mariani, spent her last days at her daughter's house when she passed away at 7.32pm on 1 December. She was 82 after battling with health issues and colon cancer. Despite being known as the sister to the late Saloma, Mariani had built a name for herself during her acting years during the 1950s for the Jalan Ampas Studio. "Tiga Abdul", "Saudagar Minyak Urat", "Setinggan" and "Nasib Si Labu Labi" are some of her best works out of her 200 movie appearances in her career. She was laid to rest in the same graveyard as her sister and the late P. Ramlee.
Cinema Online, 30 December 2015