The year 2014 may be remembered for being a particularly hard-hitting year for Malaysians who had to endure the tragic loss of lives from the unprecedented accidents involving our national carrier. It would also be a year that would be hard to forget for Malaysians who grew up watching movies in the 80s and 90s.
While some of the deaths this year are the closing credits to the life of those who had dedicated their lives to film, there are also some deaths that reminds us that it can be an industry that end lives prematurely.
As the curtain falls on yet another magnificent year of movies, we give one last standing ovation to these souls that will remain in our hearts for their wonderful works.
2014 had a morbid start with the death of Academy-nominated actress Junita Moore. Moore’s grandson announced that she had collapsed and passed on in her Los Angeles home on 1 January, at the age of 99.
Moore started off as a chorus singer before she took up acting when she joined the Ebony Showcase Theater company. She made her film debut in 1949 and her first role, like many roles that were given to her ethnicity at the time, was a maid. Such domestic roles were not impediments to great performances, however, when she acted in Douglas Sirk’s “Imitation of Life” in 1959. Her performance as a housekeeper who befriends an aspiring white actress while trying to raise her own daughter to be accepted by the social standards of being white, gave her an Oscar nomination; the fifth African American to do so then.
Run Run Shaw
Run Run Shaw’s death was announced through a statement from Hong Kong’s Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) on 6 January. Although no cause of death was ever stated, Shaw had lived to be 106 years.
As the youngest son of a textile merchant, Run Run Shaw would enter into the film business when his second elder brother started a film company in the 1920s. Run Run would later join his brother Runeme to Southeast Asia (predominantly in Malaysian and Singapore) where they started a cinema chain and setup a studio that produced many local movies.
After the war, Run Run returned to Hong Kong and founded Shaw Bros Ltd in 1957. After purchasing 46 acres of land at Clearwater Bay from the government there, he built the Shaw Movietown there which began production in 1962. Modeled after the classical studio production of Hollywood (which he would later use when he founded TVB), Shaw Bros boasted lavish productions with a starstruck array of cast, directors and talents, who were making up to 50 productions a year by the 1970s; a majority of which were the kung fu films that had inspired directors from the likes of Quentin Tarantino to the Wachowski Siblings.
When Run Run Shaw sold the studio’s film library to Celestial Pictures in 2000, there were a total of 720 films, including timeless classics such as “The Love Eterne”, “Come Drink with Me”, “The One-Armed Swordsman”, and “The House of 72-Tenants”.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Malaysians did not wake up to a festive Chinese New Year when news of Philip Seymour Hoffman being found on the bathroom floor of his West Village apartment in New York came on 2 February this year.
Found with a needle sticking on his left arm, authorities would later uncover packs of drugs in Hoffman’s apartment and his death was later confirmed to be caused by a lethal mixture of heroine and cocaine. He died at the age of 46.
Hoffman’s death came as a startling shock to those who knew him and to those who had seen his work from his minor roles in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights” to his Academy recognition as a leading actor in Bennett Miller’s “Capote”. Often described as one of the greatest actors of his generation, his short-lived success (that was on track of being far greater) reveals an underpinning message of how substance abuse could make or break an actor, even one as great as Hoffman.
While the west lost Philip Seymour Hoffman, Asian cinema mourn the loss of another beloved actor, Wu Ma. Born Fung Wang Yuen, Wu Ma’s death was reported on 4 February after a battle with lung cancer that had spread 10 months prior. He died in his home in Hong Kong and was 71.
Wu Ma came to be an actor when he joined the Shaw Brothers’ studio in 1963 and has been a familiar face in the movies produced by the studio ever since. His acting career reached its peak when he was prolific in the supernatural genre including “Mr Vampire” and his most famous appearance as a taoist ghost hunter in Ching Siu Tung’s “A Chinese Ghost Story”. His performance there earned him a nomination at the Hong Kong Film Award. He was also nominated for the same awards for his work in “Righting Wrongs” and “The Last Eunuch of China”; action and historical dramas respectively.
Wu Ma also dabbled in directing when he made his directorial debut in 1970 with “Wrath of the Sword” and was even nominated for the Best Director at the Hong Kong Film Award for “The Dead and Deadly” in 1983. He was also a frequent assistant director to director Chang Cheh.
Altogether, at the end of his 50 year career, Wu Ma had appeared in more than 240 films and directed 49 others.
Shirley Temple Black
British actor Bob Hoskins died from complications with pneumonia on 9 April at a hospital in London. He was 71.
Hoskins got into acting almost by mistake when he was given a script for an audition while he was waiting for a friend who was auditioning. His natural talents brought him to television and Hoskins eventually made his film debut in 1972’s “Up the Front”.
While many would remember his roles in Robert Zemeckis’ live-action and animation hybrid “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and the movie adaptation of “Super Mario Bros.”, Hoskins’ most critically acclaimed work is for his role in Neil Jordan’s neo noir “Mona Lisa”. His performance there earned him awards from the BAFTA, Cannes and Golden Globe while he was nominated at the Oscars.
Hoskins formally retired from acting in 2012 after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s diseases in 2011 and his final role was in “Snow White and the Huntsman”.
In a Tweet by his grandson, Malaysian comedian Aziz Sattar was announced to have died from a heart attack on the morning hours of 6 May.
Having a talent for entertaining as a comedian at a young age, Aziz made his way into the film business while he was working as a crew with two childhood friends, Salleh Kamil and Shariff Dol, at the Malay Film Production studio in 1952. A year later, Aziz made his film debut as a supporting cast in “Putus Harapan” and would make acting as his career. In 1957, together with the late P. Ramlee and S. Shamsuddin, they would form the most beloved trio in Malaysian cinema in “Bujang Lapok” and would remain as part of the trio throughout the series.
Aziz’s career went on well into the 1990s where he worked with more recent contemporaries such as Rosyam Nor, Shuhaimi Baba and Afdlin Shauki, who cite him as an inspiration, if not a dear friend. Aziz’s last known role is in 2010’s “Kecoh Betul”.
Few could have been prepared to hear about the death of Swedish documentary filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul when he was found dead at his home in Stockholm on 13 May. It was reported that the 36 year old Malik had committed suicide and was believed to be suffering from depression upon his death.
While Malik was not a stranger to being in front of the camera as a child actor for Swedish television, he claimed that he was certainly inexperienced when going behind the camera to make “Searching for Sugar Man”. His documentary about finding a little well known singer in America that had become a symbolic phenomenon in South Africa was rewarded by his filmmaking prowess with an Academy for Best Documentary in 2013.
Malik was allegedly working on his next film project at the time of his death and the end came too soon for this upcoming talent.
Gordon Willis’ death was announced from a notice at the funeral home that was handling the 82 year old cinematographer’s funeral. Willis had died from cancer in North Falmouth, Massachusetts on 18 May.
After serving in the motion picture unit of the Air Force Photographic and Carting service during the Korean War, Willis entered the filmmaking business as an assistant cameraman. After years of making his way through commercials and documentaries, he rolled out an impressive debut as a film cinematographer with four films in 1970 alone, and would make his name to be the most frequent collaborators of two best known American directors in the 70s; Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen.
Willis’ works are best known for its subtle use of lighting and shadows, which earned him the title as the ‘Prince of Darkness’, can be seen in Copolla’s “The Godfather” series, and Allen’s “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan”. Despite having lensed 19 films that were nominated and won multiple Oscars from the 70s, Willis was not given his first Oscar nomination until “Zelig” in 1983 and only his second nomination for “The Godfather III” in 1990.
He was given an honorary award by the Academy in 2009.
African-American actress and activist Ruby Dee died peacefully in the presence of her family in her home at New Rochelle, New York on 11 June. She died of natural causes at the age of 91.
Ruby Dee began acting on stage as a member of the American Negro Theater, where she had worked with fellow African Americans like Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. Her first film role would come in the musical “That Man of Mine” in 1949. Since then, Ruby Ann Wallace, who adopted the surname Dee after being married and divorced from singer Frankie Dee, would appear in numerous films and television series, most notably in “Do the Right Thing” and “A Raisin in the Sun”. Her most renowned work is in Ridley Scott’s “American Gangster” that would earn her an Oscar nomination, along with recognition from the Screen Actors Guild, after she was already awarded a Lifetime Achievement award from the guild 8 years earlier.
Ruby Dee became an involved civil activist after she married to actor Ossie Davis, and her choice of roles were influenced by her social works. She was also a personal friend to Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
Thai director and action choreographer Panna Rittikrai had been receiving treatment for a liver disease since 2013, but passed away from complications due to liver and kidney failure at a Bangkok hospital on 20 July.
Panna trained actors as a physical instructor in Bangkok in 1979, but eventually moved back to his home province of Khon Kaen where he would form a stunt team and make movies based around them. From the 1980s, Panna choreographed, performed and directed more than 50 titles that were sold on VCDs before he would deliver an elbow to the international box office in the face with “Ong Bak”, starring one of his students, Tony Jaa. Following the success of “Ong Bak”, Panna’s has been the action mastermind behind the following titles that starred Jaa, as well as action comedies like “The Bodyguard” and “Dynamite Warrior”.
On 8 August, Michael Attenborough had announced that his father, actor-director Sir Richard Attenborough, had passed on at the age of 90.
Richard’s career started out as an actor on stage before he made his film debut in 1942. After reprising a role as Pinkie Brown in the screen adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel “Brighton Rock”, which he had played on stage, his roles were typecast to be the cowardly types. That image did not shed until he starred alongside Steve McQueen for his American debut in 1963’s “The Great Escape”, and Attenborough would go on to star in classics such as “The Flight of the Phoenix”, “The Sand Pebbles” and “Doctor Doolittle”. The latter two gave him Golden Globes for Best Supporting Actor.
Attenborough also went into directing when he founded his own film company in the 1950s and made “A Bridge Too Far” in 1977. His crowning achievement, however, was for making the award-winning “Gandhi”, starring Ben Kingsley, which won the Best Director and Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
Some may thought that it was a hoax when news of Robin Williams’ death at his home in Paradise Cay, California, went viral over the social medias. However, the world soon learned the saddest truth that the man that has brought so much joy and laughter, chose to end his own life through asphyxiation on that fateful day on 11 August.
The career of Robin Williams is one that is illustrious and telling from his early days as an improvisational stand-up comedian to television to becoming an Academy-award winning actor. Despite having a few false starts in film acting, Williams’ improvisational style was finally realised when he spoke to the mic in Barry Levinson’s “Good Morning, Vietnam” that gave him his first Oscar nomination.
Williams only received one Oscar award throughout his well-loved career as a Best Supporting Actor in “Good Will Hunting”, but anyone who has grown up seeing his movies from the children’s comedy (“Jumanji”) to the touching dramas (“Dead Poets Society”), would never be able to forget the gaps he has filled with his memorable performances and the roles that could turn any frown upwards. The world has never felt sadder with the lost of its captain.
American actress Lauren Bacall was pronounced dead at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, after suffering from a stroke at her apartment in the Upper West Side on 12 August.
Bacall made her entry into Hollywood as a model. When she was screen testing for a role in “To Have and Have Not” that had Humphrey Bogart in the lead, Bacall devised a posture that would give her one of the greatest looks of noir cinema. Added with her sultry voice, Bacall would be the most iconic actress to play as femme fatales in the golden age of Hollywood and the noir genre.
Although her acting career would eventually taper off by the 1960s, she has already left an indelible mark in an era of cinema with “The Big Sleep”, “Dark Passage” and “Key Largo”. Bacall was also nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy for her role in 1996’s “The Mirror Has Two Faces”, and was given an honorary Academy award in 2009.
Director Jamil Sulong breathed his last in a coma at his son’s residence in Bukit Utama, Damansara on 25 September, after suffering from a stroke a few weeks before. He was 88.
Jamil started his foray into films as a translator for the Malay Film Productions studio, and was offered to be an assistant director in 1951. Seven years later, Jamil would be the third Malay director in the studio following P. Ramlee and Haji Mahadi.
His directorial debut was “Batu Belah Batu Bertangkup” in 1957 and he would follow it up with classics such as “Si Tanggang” and “Lela Manja”. Jamil’s filmography not only was noted for being numerous, but also its achievements in winning awards abroad with works such as “Bidasari”, “Jasmin” and “Ranjau Sepanjang Malam”.
He also released a memoir in 2001.
News of Ken Takakura’s death came quietly that happened on 10 November. He was 83 when he died from a malignant lymphoma.
Often regarded for his stoic roles whether as a yakuza, a samurai or a cop, Takakura’s repertoire does not end there when he also appeared in Hollywood films such as Sydney Pollack’s “The Yakuza”, and Tom Selleck’s “Mr. Baseball”. Takakura has also worked with Chinese director Zhang Yimou in “Riding Alone For Thousands of Miles” and Ridley Scott in “Black Rain”.
His final film appearance in “Dearest” was screened in Malaysia during the 2013 Japanese Film Festival here.
In a note from ABC, it was announced that Mike Nichols had died from a heart attack on 19 November at the age of 83.
Starting out as a part of a comedic duo, Mike Nichols had become a great success as a Broadway director before he made his first film. When he has asked to direct the screen adaptation of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf”, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, it would be the start of an even greater success as a film director. Nichols bested his stunning film debut with “The Graduate” (starring a very young Dustin Hoffman) when it went on to win the Best Director and Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 1967.
Since then, Nichols has made challenging movies such as “Catch 22”, “Silkwood” and “Working Girl” (the latter two were nominated for Best Director), while still continue being a prolific stage director, working with the actors that he had worked with before.
Nichols is also one of the few distinguished persons to have be a EGOT winner, which could be his greatest achievement of them all.
Datuk Mustapha Maarof
Datuk Mustapha Maarof passed away due to respiratory complications at the Tuanku Mizan Armed Forces hospital on the morning of 15 December, at the age of 79.
Discovered by Cathay Keris Film in Singapore in 1955, Mustapha was marked for his good looks as he starred beside P. Ramlee in “Hang Tuah”. Since then, he has appeared in more than 50 films until his last known role in 2009, from classics such as “Bawang Merah Bawang Putih”, “Naga Tasik Chini”, “Sumpah Pontianak” to recent works in “1957 Hati Malaya” and “Lembing Awang Pulang Ke Dayang”.
Outside of his acting career, Mustapha is one of the co-founders of the charity arm of Seniman and was a board member of FINAS. He was awarded the Veteran’s Award at the 10th Malaysian Film Festival.