14. Fred Dalton Thompson (1942 – 2015) in Die Hard II
Former Republican Senator from 1994 – 2002 and also ran for President of the United States in 2008. Prior to that, he had worked as a lobbyist representing Westinghouse and G.E. among others. Once he retired from politics, he had a great career as an actor appearing in such films as “Days of Thunder”, “In the Line of Fire” and “Sinister”.
He also appeared in many episodes of the various “Law & Order” television programs playing District Attorney Arthur Branch. In Die Hard II, Thompson plays Trudeau, one of the men in charge of Dulles Airport in Washington D.C. when terrorists take control and force authorities to let them control the airport to accept the release of a villainous general.
His funeral was attended by Senator John McCain who had been a friend to Thompson and who Thompson ultimately endorsed in 2008 when he ended his own campaign.
15. Alex Rocco (1936 – 2015) in The Godfather
Well-known character actor Alex Rocco is best known for playing gangster Moe Green in “The Godfather” in 1972 getting a bullet to the eye. He played gangsters in a lot of films prompting him to say “Playing gangsters is great. They usually dress you sharp. And you have a license to pretty much bully anybody. I mean, I wouldn’t dare do that at home. My wife will give me a back hander”.
He also did a lot of television work in the 1970s and 1980s appearing on such programs as “Starsky and Hutch”, “Barnaby Jones” and “Chips”. His film work included appearances in “Cannonball Run II”, “Dream a Little Dream” and “Get Shorty”. Even though he played a lot of Italian “tough-guy” roles, he was actually from Boston and had worked hard to eliminate his Boston accent. His friends got to call him “Bobo”.
16. Omar Sharif (1932 – 2015) in Lawrence of Arabia
Egyptian actor Omar Sharif began his acting career in Egyptian films and made his English film debut in epic director David Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia” in 1962. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his role of Ali in which the film won Best Picture. Sharif and star Peter O’Toole became quick friends during filming with O’Toole giving him the nickname “Freddy” which he used in addressing Sharif the rest of his life.
Sharif went on to star in a memorable role in “Doctor Zhivago in 1965”. Sharif also had a passion for playing contact bridge players in the world writing several books on the subject. He spend most of the 1970s and 1980s writing a bridge column for the Chicago Tribune. As he got older, he said he decided to quit bridge and focus on spending time with his family whom he felt he “didn’t give them enough time.”
17. James Horner (1953 – 2015) music from Titanic
Few film composers have had the career of James Horner. The list of over 75 projects he composed is almost unparalleled including Aliens, Avatar, Braveheart, several Star Trek films, Willow, Cocoon, Field of Dreams, Glory, Apollo 13 and The New World.
He was a favorite of directors James Cameron and Ron Howard ho used him to score many of their films. His score for titanic is listed as the biggest-selling film orchestral score in history which won him the Academy Award for Best Music as well as the Award for his Original Song, “My Heart Will Go On” performed by Celine Dion.
He actually attained a Ph.D.in Music Composition and Theory at UCLA and eventually had the opportunity to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra. He also wrote the theme for the Universal Pictures logo which was used from 1990 – 1997. He said “In all the films I work on, there’s always that “What is the heart of the film? and I try and nail that.” He obviously did.
18. Betsy Palmer (1926 – 2015) in Friday the 13th
Best known for playing Mrs. Voorhees in Friday the 13th, Betsy Palmer actually had quite a long film and television career including a film role in Mr. Roberts opposite Jack Lemmon in 1955 and many television appearances including “Knot’s Landing”, Chips” and “Love, American Style”.
She also appeared in many made-for-television projects and was a regular panelist for the 1950s game show “I’ve Got a Secret”. She was asked to reprise her role as Mrs. Voorhees in “Freddy vs. Jason” in 200 but declined as she felt the role was too small for her. She had many high-profile celebrity friends including James Dean and Joan Crawford.
19. Andrew Lesnie (1956 – 2015) cinematographer on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films
Director Peter Jackson saw Austrailian-born Lesnie’s work in “Babe” from 1995 and hired him to photograph “The Fellowship of the Ring” in 2001. He ended up working with Jackson for the complete “Rings” and “Hobbit” trilogies winning the Academy Award for Best Cinematography in 2003 for “The Return of the King.”
He was one of Jackson’s favorite collaborators also using him on “King Kong” and “The Lovely Bones.” His final film, “The Water Diviner”, directed by actor Russell Crowe, was released in 2014.
20. Haskell Wexler (1922 – 2015) cinematographer for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Haskell Wexler is a Hollywood legend. The caliber of films he contributed to in his career is top notch including such classics as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, “Bound For Glory”, “Matewan”, “In the Heat of the Night”, “Coming Home” and “The Thomas Crown Affair”. He was voted one of the ten most influential cinematographers in film history by the International Cinematographers Guild. He met a teenage George Lucas and encouraged him to go to film school.
If it wasn’t for Wexler, we may never have met Luke Skywalker or Han Solo at all. He also enjoyed filming documentaries which he made throughout his career. He also directed the film Latino about the Sandinista government in Nicaragua which screened at the 1985 Cannes Film Festival.
On “Cuckoo’s Nest”, Wexler was actually replaced as Director of Photography by Bill Butler (both men received Academy Award nominations for the film in 1975) due to differences with producer Michael Douglas. He is one of only six cinematographers to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He said “I think of myself as the audience. Then I use light, framing and motion to create a focal point.
Honorable mentions for this list include:
Dr. Oliver Sacks (1933 – 2015) inspiration for Awakenings
Daniel von Bargen in Lord of Illusions
Amanda Peterson in Can’t Buy Me Love
Author Bio: Andy Kubica is a life-long cinephile. Having spend time as a video store manager, movie theater manager and the first DVD buyer for a former rental chain he now spends every waking moment reducing his film “bucket list”.