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SYFY WIRE obituary

Ian Holm, Ash from Alien and Bilbo Baggins in Lord of the Rings, dies at 88

By Josh Weiss
Ian Holm

Sir Ian Holm, a prolific British actor known for his role as Ash in Ridley Scott's Alien and Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, has died at the age of 88. Holm passed away in the hospital Friday morning after a years-long battle with Parkinson's Disease, one of his representatives confirmed to Variety.

Kicking off the Alien franchise's trend of featuring androids with milk-adjacent blood, Ash was the secondary antagonist in the groundbreaking 1979 sci-fi movie. Tasked with bringing a xenomorph specimen back to Earth for financial purposes, he allows an impregnated Kane (John Hurt) back onto the Nostromo and prevents the rest of the crew from killing the chestburster when it's first born. He almost kills Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) when she discovers the truth, but is subdued by Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and delivers his iconic "perfect organism" speech as a disembodied head.

"In truth, I was prepared to do the film almost as soon as it was offered," the actor wrote in his autobiography. "Though there was something that troubled me about playing a robot. I asked Scott about this wondering how he saw the character on screen. I knew even then that he would have something to say about this. To him, ideas were an itch that begged for a scratch."

Scott allegedly answered with: "I think Ash should be realistic ... Realistic human,  it's the same for the monster. The realism will make it work — not fantasy."

In 2001's The Fellowship of the Ring, Holm took up the post of an elderly Bilbo Baggins, who is most reluctant to give up the One Ring when his nephew, Frodo (Elijah Wood), offers to carry the infernal object to Mount Doom and destroy it. The actor reprised Bilbo for the first and final installments of Jackson's Hobbit trilogy (An Unexpected Journey and The Battle of the Five Armies), in which a young version of the character was played by Martin Freeman.

Holm wasn't able to attend a recent LoTR reunion hosted by Josh Gad, but sent along the following message: "Dearest friends ... I am sorry I cannot see you in person. I miss you all and hope you're adventures are taking you to many places. I am in lockdown in my hobbit home or 'Holm.' With all my love, Ian Holm."

Both Wood and Dominic Monaghan (who played Meriadoc Brandybuck) paid tribute to their fellow Tolkien vet on social media. Other remembrance posts came from Eddie Izzard and Edgar Wright.

Born Ian Holm Cuthbert in Essex, England, in September of 1931, the actor was raised in England and caught "the bug" after seeing a performance of Les Miserables. He studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, eventually joining the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he sparred on the stage with the likes of Laurence Olivier.

Holm entered onscreen work for television projects in the late '50s and finally hit the big screen in 1968's The Bofors Gun. That same year, he played Frankenstein in the British horror anthology Mystery and Imagination. His turn as Sam Mussabini in the historical drama Chariots of Fire nabbed him a BAFTA win and Oscar nod. He was named a Commander of the British Empire in 1989 and knighted in 1998.

Holm's other famous genre credits include: Brazil (Mr. Kurtzmann), Time Bandits (Napoleon), The Fifth Element (Father Vito Cornelius), and Ratatouille (Skinner).

The actor is survived by his fourth wife, Sophie de Stempel; three daughters, Jessica, Sarah-Jane, and Melissa; and two sons, Barnaby and Harry.

(certain biographical info via IMDb)