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Philip Seymour Hoffman (July 23, 1967?Feb. 2, 2014) as told to EW by Francis Lawrence
Phil was complicated: shy, lonely, funny, and incredibly smart. He was also tough. When we worked together for the first time on [2013's] Catching Fire, he had, as most great actors have, a defense mechanism. He was sort of testing the waters until he saw the results of the work. There was something so exacting about what he expected of himself and what he expected of the people around him. But when it worked, he was so pleased.
After the first film, there was a different level of trust and respect that started to pay off for us personally on the Mockingjay movies. We talked about kids and family, but we talked about story a lot. Quite honestly, I think that I learned more about acting from him than I have from anybody else I've worked with. He was always looking for the humanity in everything. That's what he was after and that's one of the things that made him such a great actor. That's the dynamic that he was able to bring to his character and to the world of these [Hunger Games] movies. In the wrong hands, Plutarch [Heavensbee] could have been a cartoon character from the Capitol, but he wanted to figure out how to make Plutarch a real person. The way he worked through a scene was unlike any actor I've ever seen. It was pretty incredible. I'm so grateful and thankful that I got a chance to work with him.
Hoffman died of an accidental overdose in New York.
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Mike Nichols (Nov. 6, 1931?Nov. 19, 2014)
You don't expect someone as smart as Mike Nichols to be so damn funny and charming. There was always something intimidating about that fearsome intellect. But part of what made the director of The Graduate, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Carnal Knowledge, Working Girl, and Silkwood such a vital storyteller was his ability to show us who we are without malice or condescension. File his films under ''constructive criticism'' for the human race.
A former comedian who broke into show business in the 1950s as part of the sketch duo Nichols and May, he became a filmmaker who never shied away from our darker sides, but always found a way to illuminate them with the warming glow of absurdity. His was a bittersweet sophistication, with a wink.
In trying to find someone worthy of paying tribute to Nichols, there proves to be no better eulogizer than Nichols himself (with a little bit of help from Eugene O'Neill). Diving into a recording from a conversation about his last film, 2007's Charlie Wilson's War, there he is, talking about the rapscallion politician played by Tom Hanks, but also defining himself: ''Anybody who tells the truth, especially by themselves, is a very compelling figure.''
The trick, he said, to telling a story that resonates through the ages is not getting hung up on the here and now. ''Relevant to our times is a confusing prospect. We all know and love what Mary Tyrone said in Long Day's Journey Into Night: 'The past is the present, isn't it? It's the future, too.' I don't know if you can say anything better than that. Nor anything truer. You can't argue with it.
''The job of people like us who tell stories is to stay where you are,'' Nichols continued. ''The reason Long Day's Journey is the great American play about family, and about the country, is it is where it is, it happened when it happened. Yes, it contains the past, and it contains the future, and it contains our present. That's why we sit at plays like that, or Death of a Salesman, and weep.''
That's why generations to come will do the same (and also laugh) with the films of Mike Nichols. He showed us what we were, and will always be. He was a man of his time and yet—timeless. —Anthony Breznican
Nichols died of cardiac arrest in New York.
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Lauren Bacall (Sept. 16, 1924?Aug. 12, 2014)
Before she was a legend, before she used her patrician, pack-a-day voice and sleepy bedroom eyes to create a dangerous new style of Hollywood glamour—in other words, before she was Lauren Bacall—she was an anonymous 19-year-old teaching the biggest screen icon on the planet how to whistle. It's probably pointless to reduce a career as long and indelible as Bacall's to one film. But in 1944's To Have and Have Not, you can actually see a star being born fully formed. The brassy self-possession, the wise-beyond-her-years weariness, the smirking way she seduced Humphrey Bogart. It's all there in her debut. She was 25 years younger than Bogie, but watching them together, it's clear that she's in control. Over the seven miraculous decades that followed, she'd never not be. —Chris Nashawaty
Bacall died of a stroke in New York.
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James Garner (April 7, 1928?July 19, 2014) by Sally Field
The part of Murphy in 1985's Murphy's Romance was originally written for Paul Newman. I knew Paul would never do it, and in reality Jimmy was so much more right for the role but the studio didn't want him. [Director] Marty Ritt and I made it clear Jimmy was it. He's so wonderful in the movie. It was the only time he got an Oscar nomination.
Jimmy was this big, handsome, supermasculine man, but he never felt the need to be the center of attention. We were filming in the middle of nowhere in Arizona and Jimmy would come to set even when he wasn't needed. He knew I was nervous about the scenes where I had to ride horses. He would stand off camera and watch, and give me a thumbs-up. That's who he was—this incredibly generous, sweet man.
Our chemistry in that film is all him. Usually when you kiss in a movie it's far from fun: Your teeth hurt and it's awkward and stupid. It's hardly even a kiss. But Jimmy kissed me like no one on earth has ever before or since kissed me. All the blood went out of my body and I could hardly speak. It was honestly the best thing that has ever happened in my career.
I just adored him. I wish he was still here. I wish I had it to do all over again. I wish I could have Jimmy Garner for just one more movie. Oh, hell, I'd be happy for another hour.
Garner died of a heart attack in Los Angeles.
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Joan Rivers (June 8, 1933?Sept. 4, 2014) by Sarah Silverman
Joan Rivers was not done. At 81 she had lived a life that could jam-pack 10 lifetimes. But she wasn't an average person. She wasn't done. She left us unfinished.
She was as vital last August as ever—in fact, she was doing her best work. She once said she didn't feel she found her comedic voice until she was 70. I love that. For true-blue stand-up comics like Joan Rivers, there is no endgame. It's a process. A lifestyle. The only thing that was going to stop Joan from being a comic was death. So, touché, death. And f---you very much.
She was an expert writer and actress—so seamless you didn't see any of it. Hidden in plain sight. And it kills me that she never was seen as the actress she was, because I know it bothered her.
Joan had that underdog mentality that was the motor behind everything she did. And when things were good it was no reason to stop or rest or pause for a little pat on the back. Jesus Christ, they had to tape Fashion Police at zero o'clock in the morning so she could shoot her 7 million other shows.
She loved fiercely, was passionate—you did NOT want to get on her bad side—and was a professional doting grandma and meddling mother. (Two years ago, as I was leaving the E! studios after doing an episode of Fashion Police, she screamed down the hall after me: ''Find someone for Melissa!'') Anyone who knew Joan knew that she had only one true love, and that was her daughter, Melissa. Her Missy.
Joan Rivers was a comic to the marrow. She was hardcore and tough as nails, but inside there was this soft, gooey, giant-hearted, übersensitive inner core. And whether we knew it or not, that's what we loved about her.
I once went to Melissa's house to shoot Joan's Web series, In Bed With Joan. Joan made me hide in her closet until she introduced me. In the closet was this hideous coat—it was big and bulky and gray, half shag yarn, half fake fur. I said, ''Joan, this is the ugliest coat I've ever seen.'' She said, ''It's not ugly, it's beautiful! It's Topshop!'' My punishment for not appreciating her coat was I had to keep it. When I got home I put it on. I put my hands in the pockets. They were filled with crumpled tissues and mints. I knew I would never throw them away. They were in those pockets to stay. And I cherish that coat. Because she's right. It's beautiful.
Rivers died of complications during surgery in New York.
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Robin Williams (July 21, 1951?Aug. 11, 2014)
When the world suddenly lost Robin Williams at age 63 in August, friends and fans of the comedian were heartbroken. Billy Crystal, his longtime pal and comic cohort, bid farewell to his dear friend by imagining Williams doing stand-up for the most heavenly audience. Read the full transcript here.
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Ruby Dee (Oct. 27, 1922?June 11, 2014) by Audra McDonald
From the first time I saw Ruby Dee on the screen in A Raisin in the Sun, Ruby has had my heart. She was a shining beacon for me. When in doubt I would look to Ruby to see how she did it, how she persevered, how she believed in her own worth as an African-American woman, how she fought for the rights of others, and how she worked so hard at her craft even in the face of racism and prejudice.
She was a pioneer among women of color, not only as a consummate artist of stage and screen but in her civil rights activism, too. She wrote, directed, and created her own opportunities: She taught us that it was possible to change the world, both on screen and off.
Those like me, who have been privileged to follow her, can never forget how profoundly we owe our good fortune to her courage and strength. It is an honor to follow in her footsteps. Ruby is irreplaceable. And although she is not here anymore on this earthly plane, she is not gone. She is watching over us, guiding us, and cheering us to take her legacy and carry it onward, onward, and ever onward toward greatness.
Dee died of natural causes in New Rochelle, N.Y.
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Harold Ramis (Nov. 21, 1944?Feb. 24, 2014)
''I always wanted to work with Harold as a director. He's such a gentleman. So wonderful as Egon. And I think it's only in those Reitman movies that you [really] see him as an actor. He's such a good actor. I just thought he brought such elegance to that role.'' —Sigourney Weaver
''Harold was always the go-to guy. He was the guy who would cut through the BS and just talk to me and help me get through a lot of things that were weird. He was the guy who I could sit down with and he'd be straight.'' —Ernie Hudson
''He had no ego about it. He didn't even expect to be in the film, sort of. It was like, 'Well, I could do it, but you probably want somebody else for it.' He was such an awesome nerd.'' —Annie Potts
''Bill Murray gets most of the love, but there's a subset of people for whom Egon is their fantasy man. He used to get letters from Japanese girls saying, 'Egon, I love you. Please marry me. Let's fly away together.' I love that the nerds sort of unite behind Egon, and I know that he always really enjoyed that.'' —Violet Stiel, daughter
Ramis died of complications from autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis in Chicago.
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Jan Hooks (April 23, 1957?Oct. 9, 2014) by Jane Curtin
Jan was just delightful. She was incredibly brave and would go to places that were really out-there. She could be fierce, but she could also be intensely vulnerable. I applauded the choices she made, which were just so brave. If she was going to go with an emotion or a joke, there were no lesser degrees. She never even thought of them. She could push the envelope and get away with it in a way that the audience just loved. It would have been stupid and ridiculous had she not been nominated for that Emmy [Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for 3rd Rock From the Sun]. It was so well deserved. She had all of the qualities you need to just gut people's hearts. I don't think many people have that capability.
Hooks died of undisclosed causes in New York.
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Tommy Ramone (Jan. 29, 1949?July 11, 2014) by Chris Stein
There was a real familial thing going on at CBGB in the '70s. Clem, our drummer, has said that it feels like we were all in the same school together. But I knew Tommy from when he was in a band called Butch. He came up to me and said, ''I have this band called the Ramones and I heard you guys found a place to play downtown.'' The joke is I thought it was a Latin band, because of the name.
Tommy was always a great guy. What I always liked about him with the Ramones is that he always played very lightly with those guys. They had such a heavy sound, so his drumming was a great juxtaposition. He had a kind of in-charge thing with them. It makes sense that he was the first guy from the original lineup who said, ''I just can't take it anymore.'' He had a really good head on his shoulders.
It's weird that all four of those guys are gone. They were really embedded in their lifestyle and their quirkiness, and they were very much themselves. They were all that they seem to be, especially Tommy.
Ramone died of bile-duct cancer in Queens.