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Ian Holm (1931–2020), British star played Bilbo in “Lord of the Rings”

by Linnea Crowther

Sir Ian Holm was a British actor whose many roles included the hobbit Bilbo Baggins in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and the android Ash in “Alien” (1979).

A lord of the screen

In addition to the “Lord of the Rings” films and “Alien,” Holm’s other notable screen roles included trainer Sam Mussabini in “Chariots of Fire” (1981), Napoleon in “Time Bandits” (1981), and Father Vito Cornelius in “The Fifth Element” (1997). He also appeared in “Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes” (1984), “Brazil” (1985), “Henry V” (1989), “The Madness of King George” (1989), “The Sweet Hereafter” (1997), and almost 100 other films.

Holm reprised his role as Bilbo in “The Hobbit” trilogy, playing the elder version of the character in the prologue and epilogue. He had previously played Frodo Baggins, Bilbo’s nephew, in a BBC radio adaptation of “The Lord of the Rings.”


Stage career

Holm had an acclaimed stage career before he began working in film. He was with the Royal Shakespeare Company for 15 years, and he won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play in 1967 for his role in “The Homecoming.” In 1976, Holm left stage acting almost completely after suffering crippling stage fright while appearing I a production of “The Iceman Cometh.” But he returned occasionally, as when he won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor when he played King Lear at England’s National Theatre in 1997.

Holm was knighted in 1998 for his contributions to English drama.

On being a hobbit

“I’m completely amazed by the reaction that the [‘Lord of the Rings’] films have had. I get a lot of fan mail addressed to Bilbo and sometimes Sir Bilbo – it’s hardly ever addressed to Ian Holm, in fact.” —from a 2004 interview with the Independent

His legacy remembered

Holm is survived by five children and his fourth wife, Sophie de Stempel, who in his final weeks made and shared a series of portraits of Holm on Instagram.

Full obituary: The Guardian

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