Sir Ian Holm was a retired English actor known for his stage work and many film roles. He received the 1967 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor for his performance as Lenny in The Homecoming and the 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor for his performance in the title role of King Lear. He was nominated for the 1981 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as athletics trainer Sam Mussabini in Chariots of Fire. Other well-known film roles include the android Ash in Alien, Father Vito Cornelius in The Fifth Element, and the hobbit Bilbo Baggins in the first and third films of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy.
Alien franchise credit
- The Bofors Gun (1968) - Flynn
- The Fixer (1968) - Grubeshov
- A Midsummer Night's Dream (1968) - Puck, or Robin Goodfellow
- Oh! What A Lovely War (1969) - President Poincaré
- A Severed Head (1970) - Martin Lynch-Gibbon
- Nicholas and Alexandra (1971) - Commissar Yakovlev
- Mary, Queen of Scots (1971) - David Rizzio
- Young Winston (1972) - George E. Buckle
- The Homecoming (1973) - Lenny
- Napoleon and Love (1974) - Napoleon I
- Juggernaut (1974) - Nicholas Porter
- Robin and Marian (1976) - King John
- Shout at the Devil (1976) - Mohammed
- The Man in the Iron Mask (1977) - Duval
- March or Die (1977) - El Krim
- Jesus of Nazareth - Zerah
- Les Misérables (1978) - Thénardiers
- Do You Remember? (1978) - Walter
- The Lost Boys (1978) - J. M. Barrie
- Holocaust (1978) - Heinrich Himmler
- All Quiet on the Western Front (1979) - Himmelstoss
- Alien (1979) - Ash
- S.O.S. Titanic (1979) - J. Bruce Ismay
- We, the Accused (1980) - Paul Pressett
- Chariots of Fire (1981) - Sam Mussabini
Holm was born Ian Holm Cuthbert in Goodmayes, then in Essex (now in London), to Scottish parents, Jean Wilson (née Holm) and James Harvey Cuthbert. His mother was a nurse, and his father was a psychiatrist who worked as the superintendent of the West Ham Corporation Mental Hospital and was one of the pioneers of electric shock therapy. He had an older brother, Eric, who died in 1943. Holm was educated at the independent Chigwell School in Essex. His parents retired to Mortehoe, Devon and then Worthing where he joined an amateur dramatic society. A visit to the dentist led to an introduction to Henry Baynton, a well-known provincial Shakespearean actor who helped Holm train for admission to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he secured a place in 1949. His studies there were interrupted a year later when he was called up for National Service in the British Army, during which he was posted to Klagenfurt, Austria and attained the rank of Lance Corporal. They were then interrupted a second time when he volunteered to go on an acting tour of the United States in 1952. He finally graduated from RADA in 1953; whilst there he had been offered 'spear-carrying' roles at Stratford and he stayed there for 13 years, soon graduating to more significant roles and abandoning plans to move on after Peter Hall founded the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1960.
Holm was an established star of the Royal Shakespeare Company before making an impact on television and film. In 1965, he played Richard III in the BBC serialisation of the Wars of the Roses plays, based on the RSC production of the plays, and gradually made a name for himself with minor roles in films such as Oh! What a Lovely War, Nicholas and Alexandra, Mary, Queen of Scots and Young Winston. In 1967, he won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play as Lenny in The Homecoming by Harold Pinter. In 1977, Holm appeared in the TV mini-series Jesus of Nazareth as the Sadducee Zerah, and a villainous Moroccan in March or Die. The following year he played J. M. Barrie in the award-winning BBC TV series The Lost Boys, in which his son Barnaby played the young George Llewelyn Davies.
Holm's first film role to have a major impact was that of the treacherous android, Ash, in Ridley Scott's Alien. His portrayal of Sam Mussabini in Chariots of Fire, earned him a special award at the Cannes Film Festival and an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Back home in England, he won a BAFTA award, for Best Supporting Actor, for Chariots. In the 1980s, he had memorable roles in Time Bandits, Greystoke - The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes and Terry Gilliam's Brazil. He played Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland in the Dennis Potter-scripted fantasy Dreamchild.
Ian Holm passed away on June 19, 2020 at the age of 88 due to complications from Parkinson's disease, which he had been battling for a number of years.