Ian Holm, Malleable Actor Who Played Lear and Bilbo, Dies at 88


Mr. Holm added Chekhov to his laurels in 1961. In a Royal Shakespeare Company production of “The Cherry Orchard,” starring Peggy Ashcroft, John Gielgud, Judi Dench and Dorothy Tutin, he played the idealistic young intellectual Trofimov.

The critic Michael Billington, in his biography “Peggy Ashcroft,” wrote that Alec Guinness had told him that Mr. Holm’s Trofimov — “intense, urgent, on the brink of neurosis” — was “very much the kind of performance” that Guinness would have liked to have given when he played the role in 1939.

In 1963, in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of “The Wars of the Roses” (an adaptation of the “Henry VI” plays and “Richard III”), Mr. Holm was a psychopathic Richard III. He subsequently shifted to playing Prince Hal and his older incarnation, Henry V, which he did in repertory with “The Homecoming.” Peter Hall, again the director, said, “The company of actors, led by Peggy Ashcroft and Ian Holm, had made something live that had never lived before.”

Mr. Holm’s first films, both in 1968, were “The Fixer,” directed by John Frankenheimer, and Mr. Hall’s version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” in which he played Puck. In 1981 he was nominated for an Academy Award for playing an Olympic trainer in 1920s Britain in “Chariots of Fire.” His other films included “Time Bandits” (1981), in which he played Napoleon, Luc Besson’s “The Fifth Element” (1997), Stanley Tucci’s “Big Night,” “Brazil,” “The Madness of King George” and “Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein.’

On television Mr. Holm did “The Browning Version,” “The Borrowers,” “Murder by the Book” (he was Hercule Poirot to Ms. Ashcroft’s Agatha Christie) and “The Last of the Blond Bombshells” (with Ms. Dench).



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