The British actor Ian Holm passed away yesterday.
When the news was announced, almost every story mentioned that he played Bilbo in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and it is true that he was a great Bilbo. Even though he didn’t go on the quest, he brought a lot of heart to the film and the character. Though his screen time may have been brief, he made you understand why Frodo and all the other Hobbits would feel such loyalty to him. He was the ideal Hobbit. He final scene in Return of the King brought tears to my eyes. How could you not love him?
Holm, however, was in a lot of other films. He was one of those extremely memorable character actors who, sadly, I think was sometimes taken for granted. He was also one of those actors who seemed so distinguished (at least to American audiences, who tend to have a rather stereotypical view of anyone who first found fame as a Shakespearean actor) that it’s easy to overlook that he could also very funny. Watch him in The Fifth Element. Watch him in Brazil and Time Bandits. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Ian Holm in those roles.
The other Holm role that many people mentioned when they heard of his passing was his role as the evil android Ash in Alien. Indeed, he was perfectly menacing in Alien. If you believe Ridley Scott, Alien and Blade Runner take place in the same universe, which means that Ian Holm was the first actor to play a Replicant. He did a great job of it.
I want to end this tribute with a picture of Ian Holm and Sigourney Weaver on the set of Alien. I like this picture because they both look like they’re having a lot of fun. Even in his humorous roles, Holm tended to play characters who were, if not outright neurotic, definitely very serious-minded. And Alien is a remarkably grim movie. So, it’s kind of nice to see both Ripley and Ash smiling between takes.
Rest in Peace, Ian Holm.