The year 2000 saw the passing of some phenomenal and unforgettable actors, ranging from stars of the stage to comedians to masters of drama. Although their legacies live on in the films they gave us, we are still saddened by their deaths. They will be missed.
Jason Robards passed away on December 26 from lung cancer. Robards, who had a strong presence in both theater and film, made his debut on the stage in the”50s, and since then he appeared in over 50 films. Robards won a Tony award for his performance in “The Disenchanted,” and he received two Best Supporting Actor Oscars for his roles as Washington Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee in “All the President”s Men” in 1976 and as Dashiell Hammett in “Julia” in 1977. Robards made in indelible impression with some of his roles in the “80s and “90s as well. His part in “Parenthood” (1989) as Frank Buckman, a gruff, distant patriarch, was the perfect complement for the already stellar cast, and his deathbed scenes in “Magnolia” (as Earl Partridge) were painful to watch but enthralling.
Walter Matthau died from a heart attack on July 1. This comic genius is known best for his timeless role as well meaning slob Oscar Madison in “The Odd Couple” (1968). Paired with Jack Lemmon (as neurotic neat freak Felix Unger), Matthau changed the face of the buddy picture forever. He went on to star in many other films with Lemmon in which they played on their unique chemistry, including “Buddy Buddy,” “Grumpy Old Men” and eventually “The Odd Couple II.” Matthau won an Academy Award for best supporting actor in 1966 for “The Fortune Cookie,” and he was nominated in 1971 and 1975 for “Kotch” and “The Sunshine Boys,” respectively. Timeless scene from “The Odd Couple”: As an undershirt clad Oscar plays poker with his friends, he walks in with an armful of sandwiches (with one tucked under his armpit) and says “You want uh brown sandwichesor green sandwiches?” When asked what the green is, he replies, “It”s either very new cheese or very old meat.”
Sir Alec Guinness died on August 5 of liver cancer. Guinness was a prolific actor both on the screen and stage in England, and he was knighted in 1959 for his contributions to cinema and theater. However, the role that most will remember him by is aging Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi in the “Star Wars” Trilogy. (His role was the first film that got him an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor.) His portrayal of Luke Skywalker”s mysterious and wise mentor is etched into our memories forever. No one can forget the cautious but confident look on his face as he quietly waves his hand and utters the immortal words, “You don”t need to see his identification these aren”t the droids you”re looking for.”
Richard Farnsworth died on October 6 of a self inflicted gunshot wound after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer a few months earlier. Farnsworth began his career as a stuntman in westerns and other action films, but he gradually made a successful leap to acting. Although most of his roles were limited to supporting characters, his kind, weather-beaten face and piercing blue eyes have made him a familiar face across many types of films. He had parts in “Misery” (1990), “The Getaway” (1994), “Havana” (1990), “The Natural” (1984) and “Anne of Green Gables” (1985). He earned a best supporting actor nomination in 1978 for “Comes a Horseman” and he was nominated for best actor for his role in David Lynch”s “The Straight Story” (1999).
Jim Varney died on February 10 of lung cancer. Varney was known best