Ian Holm

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Ian Holm

Holm in Edinburgh in 2004
Ian Holm Cuthbert

(1931-09-12)12 September 1931
Goodmayes, Essex, England
Died19 June 2020(2020-06-19) (aged 88)
London, England
Resting placeHighgate Cemetery
Alma materRoyal Academy of Dramatic Art
Years active1957–2014
  • Lynn Mary Shaw
    (m. 1955; div. 1965)
  • Sophie Baker
    (m. 1982; div. 1986)
  • (m. 1991; div. 2001)
  • Sophie de Stempel
    (m. 2003)

Sir Ian Holm Cuthbert CBE (12 September 1931 – 19 June 2020) was an English actor. After beginning his career on the British stage as a leading member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, he became a successful and prolific performer on television and in films. He received numerous accolades including two BAFTA Awards and a Tony Award, along with nominations for an Academy Award and two Emmy Awards. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1989 by Queen Elizabeth II.[1][2]

Holm won the 1967 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor for his performance as Lenny in the Harold Pinter play The Homecoming. He won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor for his performance in the title role in the 1998 West End production of King Lear. For his television roles he received two Primetime Emmy Award nominations for King Lear (1998), and the HBO film The Last of the Blonde Bombshells (2003).

He gained acclaim for his role in The Bofors Gun (1968) winning the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and won a second BAFTA Award for his role as athletics trainer Sam Mussabini in Chariots of Fire (1981). Other notable films he appeared in include Alien (1979), Brazil (1985), Henry V (1989), Naked Lunch (1991), The Madness of King George (1994), The Fifth Element (1997), The Sweet Hereafter (1997), and The Aviator (2004). He gained wider appreciation for his role as the elderly Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. He also voiced Chef Skinner in the Pixar animated film Ratatouille (2007).

Early life and education[edit]

Ian Holm Cuthbert was born on 12 September 1931 in Goodmayes, Essex, to Scottish parents, James Harvey Cuthbert and his wife Jean Wilson (née Holm).[3] His father was a psychiatrist who worked as the superintendent of the West Ham Corporation Mental Hospital and was one of the pioneers of electric shock therapy; his mother was a nurse.[4][5][6][7] He had an older brother, who died when Ian was 12 years old.[8] Holm was educated at the independent Chigwell School in Essex.[8][9] His parents retired to Mortehoe in Devon and then to Worthing, where he joined an amateur dramatic society.[10]

A chance encounter with Henry Baynton, a well-known provincial Shakespearean actor, helped Holm train for admission to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he secured a place from 1950.[9][11] His studies were interrupted a year later when he was called up for National Service in the British Army,[11] during which he was posted to Klagenfurt, Austria, and attained the rank of Lance Corporal. They were interrupted a second time when he volunteered to go on an acting tour of the United States in 1952.[10] Holm graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1953.[9]

He made his stage debut in 1954, at Stratford-upon-Avon, playing a spear-carrier in a staging of Othello.[12] Two years later, he made his London stage debut in Love Affair.[12]


Holm was an established star of the Royal Shakespeare Company before gaining notice in television and film. In 1965, he played Richard III in the BBC serialisation of The Wars of The Roses, based on the RSC production of the plays. In 1969, he appeared in Moonlight on the Highway.[13] He appeared in minor roles in films such as Oh! What a Lovely War (1969),[14] Nicholas and Alexandra (1971),[15] Mary, Queen of Scots (1972)[16] and Young Winston (1972).[17]

In 1967 Holm won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play as Lenny in The Homecoming by Harold Pinter. In 1977, Holm appeared in the television mini-series Jesus of Nazareth as the Sadducee Zerah, and a villainous Moroccan in March or Die. The following year he played J. M. Barrie in the award-winning BBC mini-series The Lost Boys,[18] In 1981, he played Frodo Baggins in the BBC radio adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.[19]

Holm's first film role to gain much notice was that of Ash, the "calm, technocratic" science officer – later revealed to be an android – in Ridley Scott's science-fiction film Alien (1979).[20] His portrayal of the running coach Sam Mussabini in Chariots of Fire (1981) earned him a special award at the Cannes Film Festival, a BAFTA award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, and an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.[20][21][22] In the 1980s, Holm had memorable roles in Time Bandits (1981), Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984) and Brazil (1985). He played Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland, in Dreamchild (1985).[23][24]

In 1989, Holm was nominated for a BAFTA award for the television series Game, Set and Match. Based on the novels by Len Deighton, this tells the story of an intelligence officer (Holm) who learns that his own wife is an enemy spy. He also continued to perform Shakespeare in films. He appeared with Kenneth Branagh in Henry V (1989) and as Polonius to Mel Gibson's Hamlet (1990). Holm was reunited with Branagh in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994), playing the father of Branagh's Victor Frankenstein.[25]

Holm raised his profile in 1997 with two prominent roles, as the priest Vito Cornelius in Luc Besson's sci-fi The Fifth Element and lawyer Mitchell Stephens in The Sweet Hereafter. In 2001 he starred in From Hell as the physician Sir William Withey Gull. The same year, he appeared as Bilbo Baggins in the blockbuster film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, having previously played Bilbo's nephew Frodo Baggins in the 1981 BBC Radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. He returned for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), for which he shared a SAG award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. He later reprised his role as the elderly Bilbo Baggins in the movie The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.[11] Martin Freeman portrayed the young Bilbo Baggins in those films.[26]

Holm was nominated for an Emmy Award twice, for a PBS broadcast of a National Theatre production of King Lear, in 1999; and for a supporting role in the HBO film The Last of the Blonde Bombshells opposite Judi Dench, in 2001.[27] He appeared in two David Cronenberg films: Naked Lunch (1991) and eXistenZ (1999).[20] He was Harold Pinter's favourite actor: the playwright once said: "He puts on my shoe, and it fits!"[28] Holm played Lenny in both the London and New York City premieres of Pinter's The Homecoming.[22] He played Napoleon Bonaparte three times: in the television mini-series Napoleon and Love (1974), Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits (1981), and The Emperor's New Clothes.[18]

Holm also received royal recognition for his contributions: He was made CBE in 1989 and knighted in 1998.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Holm was married four times:[29] to Lynn Mary Shaw in 1955 (divorced 1965); to Sophie Baker in 1982 (divorced 1986); to actress Penelope Wilton, in Wiltshire,[30] in 1991 (divorced 2002); and to the artist Sophie de Stempel in 2003. He had two daughters from his first marriage, a son from his second marriage, and a son and daughter from his 15-year relationship with photographer Bee Gilbert.[31]

Holm and Wilton appeared together in the BBC miniseries The Borrowers (1993). His last wife, Sophie de Stempel, is a protégée and was a life model of Lucian Freud,[32] as well as an artist in her own right.

Holm was treated for prostate cancer in 2001.[29]


Grave of Ian Holm in Highgate Cemetery

Holm had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.[33][34][35] He died in hospital in London on 19 June 2020 at the age of 88.[36] His ashes are interred on the western side of Highgate Cemetery.[citation needed]



Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1968 The Bofors Gun Flynn [37]
The Fixer Grubeshov [37]
A Midsummer Night's Dream Puck [37]
1969 Oh! What a Lovely War Raymond Poincaré [37]
1970 A Severed Head Martin Lynch-Gibbon [37]
1971 Nicholas and Alexandra Vasily Yakovlev [37]
Mary, Queen of Scots David Rizzio [37]
1972 Young Winston George E. Buckle [37]
1973 The Homecoming Lenny [37]
1974 Juggernaut Nicholas Porter [37]
1976 Robin and Marian King John [37]
Shout at the Devil Mohammed [37]
1977 March or Die El Krim [37]
1979 Alien Ash [37]
S.O.S. Titanic J. Bruce Ismay [37]
1981 Chariots of Fire Sam Mussabini [37]
Time Bandits Napoleon [37]
1982 The Return of the Soldier Doctor Anderson [37]
Inside the Third Reich Joseph Goebbels [37]
1984 Laughterhouse Ben Singleton [37]
The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes
Capitain Philippe D'Arnot [37]
Terror in the Aisles Ash [38]
1985 The Browning Version Andrew Crocker-Harris [37]
Dreamchild Charles L. Dodgson [37]
Wetherby Stanley Pilborough [37]
Brazil Mr Kurtzmann [37]
Dance with a Stranger Desmond Cussen [37]
Mr and Mrs Edgehill Eustace Edgehill [37]
1988 Another Woman Ken Post [37]
1989 Henry V Fluellen [37]
1990 Hamlet Polonius [39]
1991 Naked Lunch Tom Frost [37]
Kafka Doctor Murnau [37]
1992 Blue Ice Sir Hector [37]
1993 The Hour of the Pig Albertus [37]
1994 Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Baron Alphonse Frankenstein [37]
The Madness of King George Dr. Francis Willis [37]
1996 Big Night Pascal [37]
Loch Ness Water Bailiff [37]
1997 Night Falls on Manhattan Liam Casey [37]
The Sweet Hereafter Mitchell Stephens [37]
The Fifth Element Father Vito Cornelius [37]
A Life Less Ordinary Naville [37]
Incognito John Uncredited cameo [40]
1998 Alice through the Looking Glass White Knight [37]
King Lear Lear [37]
1999 Shergar Joseph Maguire [37]
eXistenZ Kiri Vinokur [37]
Simon Magus Sirius/Boris/The Devil [37]
Wisconsin Death Trip Frank Cooper (voice) [37]
The Match Big Tam [37]
2000 Joe Gould's Secret Joe Gould [37]
The Miracle Maker Pontius Pilate (voice) [37]
The Last of the Blonde Bombshells Patrick [37]
Esther Kahn Nathan Quellen [37]
Beautiful Joe George The Geek [37]
Bless the Child Reverend Grissom [37]
2001 From Hell Sir William Gull [37]
The Emperor's New Clothes Napoleon / Eugene Lenormand [41]
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Bilbo Baggins [37]
2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [37]
2004 The Day After Tomorrow Professor Terry Rapson [37]
Garden State Gideon Largeman [37]
The Aviator Professor Fitz [37]
2005 Strangers with Candy Dr. Putney [42]
Chromophobia Edward Aylesbury [37]
Lord of War Simeon Weisz [37]
2006 Renaissance Jonas Muller (voice) [37]
O Jerusalem Ben Gurion [37]
The Treatment Dr. Ernesto Morales [37]
2007 Ratatouille Chef Skinner (voice) [37]
2012 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Older Bilbo Baggins [37]
2014 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Final film role [37]


Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1972–74 BBC Play of the Month Khrushchov/Oedipus 2 episodes [43][44]
1974 Napoleon and Love Napoleon I 9 episodes [45]
1974–75 The Lives of Benjamin Franklin Wedderburn 3 episodes [46]
1975 Private Affairs David Garrick Episode: Mr Garrick and Mrs Woffington [47]
1977 The Man in the Iron Mask Duval Television film [37]
Jesus of Nazareth Zerah Parts 1 & 2 [9]
Jubilee Bill Ramsey Episode: Ramsey [37]
1978 Do You Remember? Walter Street Episode: Night School [48]
The Lost Boys J. M. Barrie 3 episodes [37]
Holocaust Heinrich Himmler 2 episodes [37]
Les Misérables Thénardier Television film [37]
The Thief of Baghdad The Gatekeeper Television film [49]
1979 All Quiet on the Western Front Himmelstoss Television film [37]
S.O.S. Titanic Bruce Ismay Television film [50]
1980 We, the Accused Paul Pressett Miniseries; 5 episodes [37]
The Misanthrope Alceste Television film [37]
1981–2008 Horizon Narrator Television documentary [51][52]
1982 The Bell Michael Meade TV [37]
Play for Today Alexie Television play (episode: Soft Targets) [37]
1982 Tales of the Unexpected Alan Corwin Television play (episode: Death Can Add) [37]
1985 Television Narrator Television documentary series [53]
1986 Murder by the Book Hercule Poirot Television film [37]
1988 Game, Set and Match Bernard Samson 13 episodes [37]
1989 The Tailor of Gloucester The Tailor Television film
1989 The Endless Game Control 2 episodes [37]
1991 Uncle Vanya Astrov BBC TV [37]
1992 The Borrowers Pod Clock 6 episodes [37]
1993 The Return of the Borrowers Pod Clock 6 episodes [37]
1999 Animal Farm Squealer (voice) Television film
2003 Monsters We Met Narrator Television documentary [54]
2004 The Last Dragon Narrator Television film [37]
2005 The Adventures of Errol Flynn Narrator Television documentary [37]
2009 1066: The Battle for Middle Earth Narrator 2 episodes[55][56] [37]


Year Title Role Venue
1960 Troilus and Cressida Troilus Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
1962 Measure for Measure Claudio
1963 The Tempest Ariel
1967 The Homecoming[11] Lenny Music Box Theatre, Broadway
1967 Romeo and Juliet Romeo Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
1997 King Lear[11] Lear Cottesloe Theatre, London

Honours and accolades[edit]


  • Holm, Ian; Jacobi, Steven (2004). Acting my Life. London: Bantam Press. ISBN 978-0-593-05214-3.


  1. ^ "Ian Holm obituary: an actor of many facets". BFI. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  2. ^ "Sir Ian Holm: Lord of the Rings and Alien star dies aged 88". BBC News. 19 June 2020. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  3. ^ "Ian Holm Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 22 January 2009.
  4. ^ "Ian Holm". Channel 4 Film. 2008. Archived from the original on 18 December 2007. Retrieved 22 January 2009.
  5. ^ "Ian Holm – Family and Companions". Yahoo!7 Movies. 2008. Archived from the original on 14 January 2006. Retrieved 22 January 2009.
  6. ^ "Excerpts from Loch Ness Presskit (1995)". aboutjamesfrain. 18 April 2004. Archived from the original on 2 July 2004. Retrieved 27 January 2009.
  7. ^ Sweet, Matthew (16 January 2004). "Film: Napoleon Complex". The Independent. pp. 8, 9.
  8. ^ a b Alan Strachan (2020) "Ian Holm: Versatile actor whose measured, gritty performances took him from Shakespeare to Hollywood" The Independent. Published 19 June 2020. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  9. ^ a b c d e Michael Billington & Ryan Gilbey (2020) "Sir Ian Holm obituary" The Guardian. Published 20 June 2020. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  10. ^ a b Ian Holm with Steven Jacobi (2004). Acting My Life – Ian Holm. Bantam Books. ISBN 978-0-593-05214-3.
  11. ^ a b c d e "Obituary: Ian Holm". BBC. 19 June 2020. Retrieved 19 June 2020. he took the part of Frodo Baggins in BBC Radio 4's massive adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, which featured Holm alongside a host of other stars including Michael Hordern and Robert Stephens.
  12. ^ a b Mel Gussow (2020) "Ian Holm, Malleable Actor Who Played Lear and a Hobbit, Dies at 88" The New York Times. Published 19 June 2020. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  13. ^ "Moonlight on the Highway (1969)" British Film Institute. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  14. ^ "Oh! What a Lovely War (1969)" British Film Institute. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  15. ^ "Nicholas and Alexandra (1971)" British Film Institute. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  16. ^ "Mary, Queen of Scots (1972)" British Film Institute. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  17. ^ "Young Winston (1972)" British Film Institute. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  18. ^ a b Mike Barnes (2020) "Ian Holm, Oscar-Nominated Actor in 'Chariots of Fire,' Dies at 88" The Hollywood Reporter. Published 19 June 2020. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  19. ^ "Review: The BBC Lord of the Rings Dramatization re-released by BBC AudioBooks America". www.tolkienlibrary.com.
  20. ^ a b c Peter Bradshaw (2020) "Ian Holm: a virtuoso actor of steel, sinew – and charm" The Guardian. Published 19 June 2020. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  21. ^ Anastasia Tsioulcas (2020) "Actor Ian Holm, Who Played King Lear To Bilbo Baggins, Has Died". NPR. Published 19 June 2020. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  22. ^ a b "Obituary: Ian Holm" BBC News. Published 19 June 2020. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  23. ^ "Dreamchild (1985)" British Film Institute. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  24. ^ Roger Ebert (1986) "Dreamchild" film review. rogerebert.com. Published 10 January 1986. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  25. ^ "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994)" British Film Institute. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  26. ^ Rodrigo Perez (2012) "Review: ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ Rallies From A Goofy Opening To Become Another Thrilling, If Familiar, Action-Adventure Epic" IndieWire. Published 4 December 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  27. ^ "Ian Holm". Television Academy. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  28. ^ Brantley, Ben. THEATER REVIEW; Talk About a Reality Show. A Pinter Classic Is It Archived 5 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. The New York Times 21 July 2001.
  29. ^ a b Holm, Ian; Jacobi, Steven (2004). Acting my Life. London: Bantam Press. pp. 220, 224, 313ff. ISBN 978-0-593-05214-3.
  30. ^ "England and Wales Marriages 1984–2005". Archived from the original on 20 February 2009.
  31. ^ Telegraph Obituaries (19 June 2020). "Sir Ian Holm, gifted actor whose many films included Alien and The Lord of the Rings – obituary". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  32. ^ "Portrait of the actor and his fourth wife". The Daily Telegraph. London. 7 February 2004. Archived from the original on 30 June 2004. Retrieved 14 July 2008.
  33. ^ Dagan, Carmel (19 June 2020). "Ian Holm, Shakespearean Actor Who Played Bilbo Baggins, Dies at 88". Variety. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  34. ^ "Lord of the Rings star Sir Ian Holm dies aged 88". BBC News. 19 June 2020. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  35. ^ "True Crime Stories: Baroness de Stempel (and family)". The Steeple Times. 27 May 2019. Archived from the original on 12 June 2020. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  36. ^ Pulver, Andrew (19 June 2020). "Ian Holm, star of Lord of the Rings, Alien and Chariots of Fire, dies aged 88". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
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  40. ^ Elley, Derek (17 November 1997). "Incognito". Variety. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
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  48. ^ "Night School". British Universities Film & Video Council. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
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  50. ^ "SOS Titanic – review". Radio Times. Archived from the original on 23 October 2020. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
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