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By George Takei
"When Star Trek became an animated TV series, they hired Bill Shatner, Leonard, Jimmy Doohan, and Majel Barrett to do the voices. When Leonard found out about that, he asked, 'Why aren't Nichelle [Nichols] and George on board as well?' They said, 'We don't have the budget for them.' And Leonard said, 'Star Trek is about diversity, and the two people who represent diversity most are Nichelle and George, and if they can't be a part of this project, then you don't want me.' He was willing to walk off that show for us. That takes guts and principles and loyalty. The last time I saw him was in the summer. He came to a screening of our documentary To Be Takei. He was quite ill by that time. He came in a wheelchair and he had a breathing device on, but he still came and I was very much touched by that. He was a supportive friend. You know, Leonard played an alien, but to me he was the most human person I've ever met."
By Zachary Quinto
"I met him in the convention center just before we stepped out on stage in front of 7,000 people, and I was so struck by his sense of humor and his affability, and his stature — his presence — was so commanding and yet so at ease at the same time. I could tell immediately that he was someone who operated on very many different levels. I guess I never could have imagined how close we would become; at the time I had just hoped that he would support me and my exploration of the role and be available to me as questions arose, but it was through that process that we forged a friendship. And he became really much more of a father figure to me than anyone else in my life, and it was that I really cherished and will continue to cherish even in his loss."
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Five decades before Taylor Swift made a career out of shaming her exes in public, Lesley Gore was cutting down the male psyche one pointed chorus at a time. On the surface, "It's My Party" seems like a straightforward narrative about a jilted girl, but when delivered by Gore, it morphs into an anthem encouraging the ownership of your own emotions. She transformed many typical teen tales into self-empowerment manifestos, delivered with just enough emotional strychnine to offset the radio-ready sweetness of her material. Gore will be remembered as a hitmaker, a feminist icon, an LGBT activist, and the first of many ciphers for legendary producer Quincy Jones, but her greatest gift was perfecting the art of sugarcoated catharsis, a skill she mastered and gave to the world while the boys were still busy pulling on ponytails. –Kyle Anderson
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By Joyce Carol Oates
Like many of his admirers, I first became aware of Oliver Sacks when his remarkable collection of essays on neurological disorders, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, appeared in 1985. These wonderfully narrated "clinical tales" explored a range of "wounded" individuals who were, for all their strangeness, persons with whom we could identify. Sacks' earlier, equally famous Awakenings (1973) — which inspired a big-screen adaptation starring Robin Williams as Sacks — is a thrilling account of the neurologist's success treating ("awakening") patients trapped in a comatose state for decades following an epidemic of "sleeping sickness."
In these books, as in numerous others, including Migraine, A Leg to Stand On, Seeing Voices, The Island of the Colorblind, Hallucinations, and The Mind's Eye, Oliver Sacks displays a unique ability not simply to summarize experience but to evoke it. His writing voice is erudite yet conversational and intimate; his patients are vividly drawn individuals who retain an air of dignity and are allowed to speak for themselves. In his clinical writings, the author exudes no air of doctorly authority but rather portrays himself as one who feels awe and gratitude for those so mysteriously afflicted, who have much to teach him.
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In the heady, hairy rush of '90s grunge, Stone Temple Pilots came on as outsiders: L.A. guys with a slicker look and a more commercial sound. But the power of their wailing, Kool-Aid-coiffed frontman was undeniable; he carried hits like "Plush" and "Vasoline" into the modern rock canon, and went on to lead the supergroup Velvet Revolver before returning to STP and eventually striking out on his own. An electric performer whose personal dramas often made headlines, Weiland never stopped searching for balance. "There's going to come a time when I'm not going to feel very comfortable on stage in skinny jeans and boots, doing this thing," he told EW in 2008. "I want to evolve gracefully." Sadly, he never got the chance. –Leah Greenblatt
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By Adam Scott
Harris wrote my first significant episode of Parks and Recreation, “Media Blitz,” and we hit it off right away. He was just this unassuming guy who was a joke machine and would mumble out gems… It was usually a shrug and ‘I dunno, what about this?,’ and out would come something smart, stupid, and perfect. He had that talent of grabbing odd jokes out of the air — the kind that you wish you had the guts to think of because they’re so wrong.
He was just a sweetheart. Everybody loved Harris. Everybody. And he was always the funniest person in the room. Harris was all about finding the best joke. It was like a heat-seeking missile finding the biggest laugh. No matter what it was and who it offended, he would head straight for the bullseye and then deal with the consequences. It’s something I admired in him, because I don’t have that fearlessness. He had other opportunities that would have taken him away from Parks, and I was terrified of Harris leaving the show and of losing him. Looking back, I would have taken that any day over losing him for real.
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Much to my satisfaction, Melissa Mathison's retirement from screenwriting lasted 24 hours. While shooting Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1980, I came across her on a beach. It was like the mirage in Lawrence of Arabia — and she was like an egret, making indecipherable movements in the distance. I watched her for a while to try and figure out what she was doing, and then I approached her. "Who are you?" I said. "I'm a friend of Harrison's," she answered. She told me she was a failed writer, that even though she had written The Black Stallion and that even after I pitched her my idea for E.T. she was throwing in the towel. "I need to find another way to live my life. That's really sweet of you to offer, but I'm retired," she said. Luckily Harrison got her to reconsider, and thus began one of the great friendships and partnerships of my career. Melissa could relate to children better than anyone I have ever known. When we made E.T., she taught me never to talk down to kids but to allow myself to fall into conversation with them. It changed forever not only how I have directed children but even how I talk to my own children. And when we shot The BFG, I found myself watching Melissa again, the way I did that day on the beach. I would look back at her on set and she infused in me a kind of preternatural confidence, making me feel like a kid again, like I could dream with purpose. Sometimes I remember what she was doing on that beach in Tunisia. She was picking up seashells. Until the very end, Melissa held the kind of modest wisdom that can only reside in a person who understands the importance of dreaming and of discovery. And in dreaming all these years, we trusted our muses, she and I. We were each other's, even. I'm really going to hurt when I go from missing her to needing her. But the truth is, every day I feel her presence more than her absence, and for that I am very grateful.
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Dick Van Patten
By Mel Brooks
I loved Dickie Van Patten. He was one of the most talented and versatile actors in the biz. He was my favorite third banana in almost every movie I ever made. I miss him so much.
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By Cynthia Nixon
I was 17 when I officially met Anne Meara, but having grown up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, no introduction was needed. This tall, beautiful Irish lass and her shorter, adoring Jewish husband, Jerry Stiller, were a duo that defined my neighborhood, my era, and a certain intoxicating brand of 1970s interethnic, neurotic wedded bliss. Or wedded hell, if their comedy routines were to be believed. They were a grittier, funnier, non-singing Sonny and Cher.
In the decades that passed, Anne acted as a fairy godmother, a role model, a confidante, and a sage. I rejoiced when she was cast as my devout, drunken, difficult mother-in-law on Sex and the City. She was, as always, brilliant. Anne said a lot of memorable things to me in the 30 years I knew her, but I particularly think of her sitting on set in Miranda's Brooklyn apartment at 3 a.m. insisting ferociously, "Don't waste a second on missteps and regrets! Just pretend wherever you are now — this minute — is the beginning. Start here and move forward."
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By Bonnie Raitt
Without a doubt, B.B. King has influenced more rock and blues musicians than anyone else in history. There is simply no one else with more raw passion or eloquence. He's also the kindest and most generous person to other musicians I know. There are reasons why he's been loved and revered for so long — it's the dignity and heart he brings to his life as well as his music, and the fact that he's always true to why we loved him in the first place.
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By James Cameron
The first time I heard the Titanic score, it was James playing me three unfinished melodies on solo piano at his studio on a rainy day in March '97. There was one melody for the ship, a love-story theme, and one that followed Kate Winslet's character, Rose. "We're going to call it 'Rose's Theme,'" he said. I literally teared up each time. He pointed out, "I haven't written any scores yet." But I said, "You've done it! These melodies are so emotional and so beautiful, you will be incapable of writing a bad score from this point onward." It became the best-selling orchestral film soundtrack of all time.
Movie music shouldn't tell you how to feel. It modulates your experience. If you feel like crying, the music will be there to say, "It's perfectly okay. Go right ahead." That's what James did so well. He created emotional music and understood the narrative process very well. But if you listen to Where the River Runs Black, it doesn't sound anything like Titanic — or House of Sand and Fog. They're all over the place, but they always fit the movie like a glove. And they always play the movie's heartstrings perfectly without being overbearing. On Avatar, he spent months working with ethnomusicologists and collecting sounds: instruments used by goat herders in Turkey, throat singers from Mongolia. Right up to the moment of his accident, we were both looking forward to working on Avatar 2, 3, and 4.
I hope audiences remember the man behind the music: this warm, funny, supersmart, charismatic artist. In my mind, James can never die because his art lives on.
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By Hayley Mills
Maureen was a beautiful, intelligent, talented leading lady who was a genuinely warm human being — and just treated me like I was her daughter. She was a great example, really, of good mothers, professionalism, and generosity, and she had a wonderful sense of humor. She loved what she did, she loved people, she was Irish through and through and through, a really life-affirming person, I believe, right up to the very end. I was very lucky to have worked with her when I did at the age that I did. She certainly is one of the people who taught me a lot just by being who she was and how she did what she did. You learn by example, don't you, by osmosis. I did learn a lot from her.
12 of 16
By Robert Englund
When I first met Wes Craven, I expected him to be kind of goth, maybe in a black duster that came down to the floor. But here was this tall, sort of Don Quixote-looking guy, dressed head to toe in Ralph Lauren's best. He was very erudite and funny. He had such a great sense of humor and somehow managed to keep the 14-year-old fanboy alive in him. But it was a smart fanboy, it was a funny fanboy, it was a fanboy that would crack really great and really terrible puns.
He realized, having already sort of been typed as a horror director when I began to work with him, that humor was a great way to keep it light on a set when you're doing really dark work. He knew if he let us laugh during rehearsal, we probably wouldn't laugh during the takes. I think they wanted a big giant stuntman for the role of Freddy Krueger, and somehow Wes decided on me. He said it's because he thought I was the only actor who understood the role, but it could have just been that I have a thin face and Wes was worried about the makeup. He knew that if he covered my thin face in all that burn and scar tissue, my head would not look too big.
Wes reinvented horror. Jason and Michael Myers and some of the other pop-icon horror villains are killing machines. They're like sharks; they're predators, whereas Freddy is sort of a joker. He's like the court jester from hell. He's in his own purgatory, punishing all of the children of the people that burned him alive. And so there's a kind of great, dark, cool-clown thing about Freddy's revenge.
My grief about Wes isn't over. I keep thinking he's still writing me a part in the new Scream for MTV, you know? "Write me a cameo, Wes!" He can't do that anymore, and that's the kind of actor-mentor relationship we had. He knew how to work with me, he knew how to write for me, and that's gone now in my life. I owe him so much.
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Omar Sharif was no stranger to grand entrances. So it makes sense that the Egyptian actor first arrived on the world stage in epic fashion. The year was 1962. And while Sharif's intense charcoal eyes, sly seducer's grin, and honeyed purr of a voice had already established him as a fixture on screen in his homeland since the mid-'50s, it wasn't until he rode into frame on the back of a camel in Lawrence of Arabia that one of the most dashing and disarming international stars of the '60s and '70s was born. As the film's fiery lion in the desert, Sherif Ali, Sharif earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination, lighting the fuse on a film career that would span five decades. Equally at ease playing romantics and rogues, Sharif quickly made good on the promise of Lawrence by reteaming with the film's director, David Lean, in 1965's Doctor Zhivago opposite Julie Christie, and later in 1968's Funny Girl alongside Barbra Streisand. Sharif worked constantly and embraced his offscreen reputation as a gambling bon vivant who won and lost fortunes with a world-weary shrug. Even in the final stages of his career, in films like 2003's heartbreaking Monsieur Ibrahim, Sharif's entrances were no less elegant, effortless...grand. He belonged to the world. –Chris Nashawaty
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By Kris Jenner
First and foremost I was a huge fan. Jackie wrote books that took you to another place, and you just got lost in them. Through the '80s I never missed one. Anytime Robert [Kardashian] and I went on vacation, I would run out to buy the latest: I couldn't wait to sit on a beach and read it — and if anyone bothered me, watch out.
One day Melanie Griffith said, "Let's go to dinner with Joan and Jackie." I remember thinking, Melanie is one of my best friends, and I know if she's going to have dinner with anybody they must be very special. And Jackie was. Every time you saw her she was always put together, she was really funny, had such a great attitude, and was so beautiful inside and out. Jackie was such an inspiration to my generation, because she was a working mom who did something with her life that was so creative and brought people so much pleasure.
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By Lesley Stahl
Bob Simon, the opera-buff war correspondent, was dashing, funny, endlessly curious, and brilliant. And modest. Most of us at 60 Minutes didn't find out until his funeral that he had a Phi Beta Kappa key. He lived abroad for most of his career, covering just about every war from Vietnam on. His stories were always deeper, richer, and better written than anyone else's — whether it was about the intifada in Israel or a mezzo soprano at the Met. He had two big turning points in his adult life. The first was during the Gulf War when he was captured by Saddam Hussein and held prisoner for 40 days. The second was the birth of his grandson, Jack, who he told me brought him more happiness than he ever imagined. When he died, many of us in the office thought they were his best friend, including me.
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By the time I was 12 or 13, I had become a huge horror-movie fan... but I lived in New Zealand. We only had one TV channel, which eventually became two, and virtually no cinema revival houses or festivals. Seeing old horror classics was next to impossible, but I'd pore over books and magazines, reading stories about Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, or Christopher Lee, studying every photo obsessively. For virtually all my teen years, the intense adoration I felt for Hammer horror films, Peter Cushing's Van Helsing and Chris Lee's Dracula, was based entirely on black-and-white photographs! Then home video arrived, and I was finally able to hunt down Hammer films in vivid color as they became available on VHS. Even though I understood a lot more about filmmaking by then, they didn't disappoint me in the slightest. That terrific Hammer movie trove should be looked back on with not just nostalgia but also recognition as a great cinematic achievement.
Chris traveled to New Zealand three or four times during the shooting of The Lord of the Rings, and I knew he didn't like to discuss the Hammer movies so I did my best to keep my mouth shut. But on his very last day of shooting, he kindly agreed to sign a few things for me, so I produced my much-loved childhood horror-movie books and Hammer film posters. His eyebrows shot up, but he signed them all. On my Dracula Has Risen From the Grave one-sheet, he wrote: "To Peter, with best wishes from a past life." Interestingly, even today when I think about films like Dracula, Prince of Darkness, or Taste the Blood of Dracula, it's those damn black-and-white photographs that instantly spring into my mind. They still remain a powerful part of my own past life.