Sir Ian Holm’s career spanned Shakespearean intrigue, Alien and Tolkien

Sir Ian Holm was admired for his Stakhanovite work ethic and rich character portraits, which spanned genres and generations.

He was many things to many people – Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings trilogy, Father Vito Cornelius in The Fifth Element, android double agent Ash in Alien.

Younger viewers might treasure his turn as the grumpy old hobbit whose adventures across Middle Earth prompted encounters with dwarves, dragons and the One Ring.

The older generation might recall his electric portrayal of Harold Abrahams' running coach Sam Mussabini in the Oscar-winning Chariots Of Fire.

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Sir Ian Holm: His life on screen
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Sir Ian Holm: His life on screen
LONDON - JUNE 12: Sir Ian Holm poses during a photo call held on June 12, 2005 at the Hollywood Mews in London, England. (Photo by Cambridge Jones/Getty Images)
English actor Ian Holm as running coach Sam Mussabini, in a scene from 'Chariots Of Fire', directed by Hugh Hudson, 1981. (Photo by Warner Bros./Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Actors Ian Holm and John Hurt on the set of "Alien". (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
Tribute to ‘ferociously talented’ Sir Ian Holm after death at 88
Actor Sir Ian Holm arrives for the premiere of "Tolkien" at the Curzon Mayfair, in London, Britain April 29, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
'Lord of the Rings' star Sir Ian Holm dies at 88
Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins in the 'Lord of the Rings' series. (Credit: Warner Bros)
The Bofors Gun, lobbycard, Ian Holm (left), David Warner (center), 1968. (Photo by LMPC via Getty Images)
Ian Holm as Puck in a film version of Shakespeare's play 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', 1968. The film was directed by Peter Hall. (Photo by David Farrell/Getty Images)
American actors Sigourney Weaver, Yaphet Kotto, Tom Sherritt, British actors John Hurt and Ian Holm on the set of Alien, directed by Ridley Scott. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
British athlete Eric Liddell, (Ian Charleson, 1949 - 1990) is helped to his feet after a race by running coach Sam Mussabini (Ian Holm, right) in a scene from 'Chariots Of Fire', directed by Hugh Hudson, 1981. (Photo by Warner Bros./Archive Photos/Getty Images)
LONDON - SEPTEMBER 26: (UK TABLOID NEWSPAPERS OUT) Actor Sir Ian Holm arrives at the gala premiere of "Across The Universe" at the Apollo West End on September 26, 2007 in London, England. (Photo by Claire Greenway/Getty Images)
Sir Ian Holm’s career spanned Shakespearean intrigue, Alien and Tolkien
Ian Holm, 2004
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Sir Ian Holm (L) and John Hurt attend the Al Pacino BFI Fellowship Dinner supported by Moet & Chandon at the Corinthia Hotel London on September 24, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Getty Images)
Ian Holm arriving for the UK Premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at the Odeon Leicester Square, London. (Photo by Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 30: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK TABLOID NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME. MANDATORY CREDIT PHOTO BY DAVE M. BENETT/GETTY IMAGES REQUIRED) Ian Holm and Sophie De Stempel attend the VIP screening of The Ghost at The Court House Hotel on March 30, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Dave M. Benett/Getty Images)
Actors Ian Holm and Ben Cross in a scene from the film 'Chariots of Fire', 1981. (Photo by Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK TABLOID NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME. MANDATORY CREDIT PHOTO BY DAVE M. BENETT/GETTY IMAGES REQUIRED) Ian Holm arrives at the Moet & Chandon Etoile Award, honouring fashion photographer Mario Testino for his contribution to cultural society at the Park Lane Hotel on September 19, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Dave M. Benett/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 16: Sir Ian Holm attends the press night of 'Ballets Russes' at Sadler's Wells Theatre on June 16, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Danny Martindale/Getty Images)
Ian Holm Arrives For The World Film Premiere Of The Duchess At The Odeon West End Cinema, Leicester Square, London. (Photo by Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)
LONDON - SEPTEMBER 30: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK TABLOID NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Sir Ian Holm arrives at the UK film premiere of 'Ratatouille', at the Odeon Leicester Square on September 30, 2007 in London, England. (Photo by Dave M. Benett/Getty Images)
LONDON - OCTOBER 5: Sir Ian Holm arrives for a private viewing of the Saatchi Gallery art show USA Today at the Royal Academy of Arts October 5, 2006 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart Wilson/Getty Images)
LONDON - JUNE 12: Sir Ian Holm poses during a photo call held on June 12, 2005 at the Hollywood Mews in London, England. (Photo by Cambridge Jones/Getty Images)
The British Film Academy Awards presented by Lord Mountbatten at Grosvenor House. Pictured, left to right, Best Supporting Actor Ian Holm for 'The Bofors Gun', Lord Mountbatten and Best Supporting Actress Billie Whitelaw for 'Twisted Nerve, Charlie Bubbles', 26th March 1969. (Photo by Arthur Murray/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
The British Film Academy Awards presented by Lord Mountbatten at Grosvenor House. Pictured, left to right, Best Supporting Actor Ian Holm for 'The Bofors Gun', Lord Mountbatten and Best Supporting Actress Billie Whitelaw for 'Twisted Nerve, Charlie Bubbles', 26th March 1969. (Photo by Arthur Murray/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
Peter Hall (centre) seen here with members of the film crew and Ian Holm (right) on location at the Compton Verney Estate for the filming of the Royal Shakespeare Companys first colour film of "A Midsummer Night's Dream". 1st November 1967 (Photo by Sunday Mercury/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)
Photo call for the William Shakespeare play 'The Tempest' at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. Pictured, left to right, 'Ariel' (Ian Holm) and 'Prospero' (Tom Fleming), 1st April 1963. (Photo by Bill Ellman/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
Photo call for William Shakespeare play 'The Winter's Tale' at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. Pictured, standing 'Autolycus' (Jack MacGowran), left 'Old Shepherd' (James Bree), right 'Young Shepherd' (Ian Holm), 29th August 1960. (Photo by Bill Ellman/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
November 1979: Stage and film actors Nigel Hawthorn (1929 - 2001) and Ian Holm (right). (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)
The filming of 'SOS' Titanic' at Shepperton Studios. Pictured, Ian Holm who plays the part of 'The Owner' J Bruce Ismay, 11th April 1979. (Photo by Victor Crawshaw/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
The filming of 'SOS' Titanic' at Shepperton Studios. Pictured, Ian Holm who plays the part of 'The Owner' J Bruce Ismay, 11th April 1979. (Photo by Victor Crawshaw/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
Actors Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, John Hurt,Tom Skerritt, Yaphet Kotto, Harry Dean Stanton and Ian Holm on the set of Alien, directed by Ridley Scott. (Photo by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
JESUS OF NAZARETH -- Pictured: (l-r) Robert Powell as Jesus, Ian Holm as Zerah -- Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
JESUS OF NAZARETH -- Pictured: Ian Holm as Zerah -- Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
JESUS OF NAZARETH -- Pictured: Ian Holm as Zerah -- Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
Actors Ian Holm and Diana Quick in a scene from episode 'Mr Garrick and Mrs Woffington' of the television drama 'Private Affairs', December 21st 1974. (Photo by Don Smith/Radio Times/Getty Images)
Ian Holm And Paul Rogers in a scene from the film 'The Homecoming', 1973. (Photo by The American Film Theater/Getty Images)
Ian Holm in "Young Winston" 1972 Ian Holm in "Young Winston" 1972 (Photo by RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
CIRCA 1970: Actor Ian Holm on set of the movie "A Severed Head ", circa 1970. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
English Actor Ian Holm (Photo by Etienne CHOGNARD/Sygma via Getty Images)
MEXICO, TENOCHITITLAN, - NOVEMBER 19: Ian Holm played Bernard Samson in the Game, Set and Match trilogy, seen here on the Mexico Set November 19, 1986 in Tenochtitlan, Mexico ( Photo by Paul Harris/Getty Images )
MEXICO, TENOCHITITLAN, - NOVEMBER 19: Ian Holm played Bernard Samson in the Game, Set and Match trilogy, seen here on the Mexico Set November 19, 1986 in Tenochtitlan, Mexico ( Photo by Paul Harris/Getty Images )
Oscar-nominated Dame Judi Dench (right) added to her list of acting honours with recognition for her work in her first love, the theatre, after she was named best actress in the London Theatre Critics' Awards for her performance in Amy's View (Royal National Theatre), at the Threatre Museum in London today (Thursday). Ian Holm (left) was awarded best actor for King Lear at the Royal National Theatre, See PA Story ARTS Awards. Photo by Stefan Rousseau. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
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Widely considered one of the greatest British actors, Sir Ian was a favourite among critics, the public and his fellow actors.

His presence was coveted by directors, and he worked alongside Martin Scorsese, Stanley Tucci, David Cronenberg and Woody Allen to name just a few.

Across more than 100 roles in films, television and on stage, he secured a Laurence Olivier award, a Tony and a Bafta, and was a member of the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company.

Sir Ian was married four times, most recently to Sophie de Stempel, a protegee and life model of Lucian Freud, and had five children.

His various dalliances led him to be dubbed the "Lord of the Flings" by the tabloid press.

Sir Ian was born on September 12 1931 in a psychiatric hospital in Goodmayes, Essex, where his father was superintendent, and did pioneering research into electric shock therapy.

Inspired by seeing Les Miserables as a boy, he secured a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1949 before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Newport Beach Film Festival UK Honours - London
Sir Ian Holm and Sophie de Stempel at the Newport Beach Film Festival UK Honours event in London (David Parry/PA)

However, his stage career was cut short after he developed acute stage fright during a production of The Iceman Cometh in 1976.

"The actor's industrial disease," he later described the condition.

He returned to the stage on only a handful of occasions, including his acclaimed portrayal of King Lear at the National Theatre in 1998.

In June that year, he was knighted for services to entertainment.

Typically, he was busy with work, filming eXistenZ just outside Toronto in Canada with cult film-maker Cronenberg.

He said only: "I'm delighted."

Sir Ian's turn as Bilbo Baggins in The Lord Of The Rings between 2001 and 2003, and then The Hobbit, transformed him from revered actor into household name.

In an unlikely twist, some two decades earlier he had played Frodo Baggins, Bilbo's cousin and heir, in a BBC radio adaptation of the JRR Tolkien books.

Sir Ian said in a 2004 interview with the Independent that he was "completely amazed by the reaction" to the films.

He added: "I get a lot of fan mail addressed to Bilbo and sometimes Sir Bilbo – it's hardly ever addressed to Ian Holm, in fact.

"My business manager drafts the replies, and then I pop into the office and sign them 'Bilbo' but, of course, it hasn't changed my life. Nothing could possibly change my life."

In 2002, he revealed he was being treated for prostate cancer and had begun treatment, including with hormones, in the UK and the US.

His work became more sparse as he passed his 70th birthday.

He voiced a diminutive, ruthless chef in Pixar's Ratatouille, played Ben-Gurion in O Jerusalem and reprised Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit.

In one of his final public appearances, a frail Sir Ian attended an event organised by the Newport Beach Film Festival at London's Langham Hotel in a wheelchair.

He was honoured with an icon award, celebrating his six-decade contribution to the arts, and his family delivered a speech in his stead.

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