Reel-Important People is a monthly column that highlights those individuals in or related to the movies that have left us in recent weeks. Below you’ll find names big and small and from all areas of the industry, though each was significant to the movies in his or her own way.
Kenny Baker (1934-2016) – Actor. He was best known for performing the role of R2-D2 from inside the droid in the Star Wars movies. He also played one of the featured Ewoks in Return of the Jedi (see him below). His other movies include Time Bandits, Labyrinth, Flash Gordon, The Elephant Man, Amadeus, Willow and Mona Lisa. He died on August 13. See our own obituary post here.
Eric Bergren (1954-2016) – Screenwriter. He was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing The Elephant Man and also worked on the scripts for Frances and The Dark Wind. He died of complications from liver cancer on July 14. (Variety)
Fyvush Finkel (1922-2016) – Actor. Best known for his roles on TV’s Picket Fences and Boston Public, he also appears in the movies A Serious Man (see below), Nixon, Brighton Beach Memoirs and Mobsters. He died on August 14. (Broadway World)
Steven Hill (1922-2016) – Actor. Best known for his District Attorney role on TV’s Law & Order, he also appears in the movies The Firm (see below), Raw Deal, Yentl, Heartburn, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Running on Empty and Billy Bathgate. He died on August 23. (THR)
Arthur Hiller (1923-2016) – Director, Producer. He was nominated for an Oscar for directing Love Story and later received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 2002 Academy Awards (see below). His other movies as director include The Hospital, The Babe, Taking Care of Business, Outrageous Fortune, Man of La Mancha, The Lonely Guy, Author! Author!, the original The In-Laws, the original The Out of Towners and the Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor team-ups Silver Streak and See No Evil, Hear No Evil. He died on August 17. (THR)
David Huddleston (1930-2016) – Actor. He is best known as the title characters in The Big Lebowski (see below) and Santa Claus: The Movie. He also appears in Blazing Saddles, Frantic, Postal, Capricorn One, Smokey and the Bandit II and the remake of The Producers. He died on August 2. (The Film Stage)
Eric Justen (1974-2016) – Sound Man. He recorded sound for The Fast and the Furious and Donnie Darko and was a re-recording mixer for The Wackness, The Specials and many more movies. He died of a heart attack on August 11. (Deadline)
George Kaczender (1933-2016) – Director, Writer, Editor. He directed the movies In Praise of Older Women, Chanel Solitaire and Maternal Instincts. He died of cancer on August 24. (THR)
Marvin Kaplan (1927-2016) – Actor. Best known for TV’s Alice and as the voice of Choo-Choo in the Top Cat cartoon, he also appears in the movies Wild at Heart, The Nutty Professor, Adam’s Rib, The Great Race and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (see below). He died on August 25. (Variety)
Jonathan D. Krane (1951-2016) – Producer. His movies include the John Travolta vehicles Look Who’s Talking, Look Who’s Talking Too, Look Who’s Talking Now, Face/Off, Swordfish, Phenomeon, Battlefield Earth, The Experts, Mad City, Basic, The General’s Daughter, Michael, Domestic Disturbance and Lucky Numbers. He also worked with director Blake Edwards on Blind Date, Micki + Maude, A Fine Mess, That’s Life!, The Man Who Knew Women, Curse of the Pink Panther and Trail of the Pink Panther. He died of a heart attack on August 1. (THR)
John McLaughlin (1927-2016) – TV Host. He produced and hosted The McLaughlin Group and appears in Dave as himself within that context. He can also be seen in Mission: Impossible, Bulworth, Independence Day (see him in a segment shot for Independence Day: Resurgence below) and War, Inc. He died August 16. (NYT)
Roger Pietschmann (1945-2016) – Sound Man. He recorded sound for Taxi Driver, The Front and Streets of Fire, was a sound mixer for Batman Returns, Madonna: Truth or Dare, Honey I Blew Up the Kid and Rock Star and was a boom operator for Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Project X and Just One of the Guys. He died of multiple system atrophy on July 26. (THR)
Jack Riley (1935-2016) – Actor. Best known for TV’s The Bob Newhart Show and as the voice of Stu Pickles on the cartoon Rugrats (hear him in The Rugrats Movie below), he also appears in the Mel Brooks comedies Spaceballs, Silent Movie, High Anxiety and History of the World: Part I, and the Robert Altman films McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Player, The Long Goodbye and California Split. His other movies include Boogie Nights, Catch-22, Days of Wine and Roses, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! and Gleaming the Cube. He died of pneumonia on August 19. (Deadline)
Norman Twain (1930-2016) – Producer. His movies include Lean on Me, My Dog Tulip and The Hotel New Hampshire. He died on August 6. (THR)
Gene Wilder (1933-2016) – Actor, Filmmaker. He was best known for his title role in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and for starring in the Mel Brooks comedies Young Frankenstein, for which he earned an Oscar nomination for co-writing, The Producers, for which he earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and Blazing Saddles (see below) and his pairings with Richard Pryor, including Silver Streak, Another You, Stir Crazy and See No Evil, Hear No Evil. He also appears in Bonnie and Clyde, Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask, Stanley Donen’s The Little Prince, The Frisco Kid and a handful of films he co-wrote and directed, including The Woman in Red and Haunted Honeymoon, both co-starring his real-life wife Gilda Radner, plus The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother. He died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease on August 29. See our own obituary post here.
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