Oscar-winning actor CHARLTON HESTON has died. He was 83.
Heston passed away on Saturday (05Apr08) night at his home in Beverly Hills, California, after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Born John Charles Carter in Evanston, Illinois on 4 October 1924, he was the son of mill operator Russell Whitford Carter and his wife Lilla Charlton.
He would later change his Christian name to Charlton and take on his new stepdad Chester Heston’s surname.
Heston studied acting at school and went on to win a drama scholarship to the local Northwestern University, before enrolling in the U.S. Air Force in 1944.
That same year, he married fellow Northwestern student Lydia Marie Clarke.
After three years in the force and rising to the rank of Staff Sergeant, Heston returned home, where he continued to pursue his passion for acting with a stint in theater.
Heston landed his big-screen break in 1952’s The Greatest Show on Earth, and in 1956 appeared as Moses in The Ten Commandments.
His role in the religious epic won him much critical acclaim, and he went on to star in movie classics El Cid, Planet of the Apes, Earthquake and Ben-Hur, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1960. Ben-Hur was awarded a total of 11 Oscars, including Best Picture – a feat only equaled by 1997’s Titanic and 2003’s The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.
He made his directorial debut with 1972’s Antony and Cleopatra, but the film received terrible reviews and, as a result, was not released in cinemas.
In the latter years of his career, Heston moved on to playing a number of supporting roles and cameos, appearing in films like 1993’s Wayne’s World 2, 1994’s True Lies, and Tim Burton’s 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes.
His last movie role was in My Father, Rua Alguem 5555, in which he portrayed the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele.
But Heston was also well-known for his work behind the scenes, serving as the president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1965-1971, and as chairman of the American Film Institute.
Away from Hollywood, Heston became a prolific Civil Rights activist in the 1950s and 60s, and later went on to become the president of the National Rifle Association in the 1990s.
In 1993, Heston was awarded the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the U.S.
He is survived by his wife Lydia, their son Fraser Clarke Heston and their adopted daughter, Holly Ann Heston.
Paying tribute to the screen legend, his family says in a statement: “To his loving friends, colleagues and fans, we appreciate your heartfelt prayers and support.
“Charlton Heston was seen by the world as larger than life. No one could ask for a fuller life than his. No man could have given more to his family, to his profession, and to his country.
“In his own words, ‘I have lived such a wonderful life. I’ve lived enough for two people’.”
A private memorial service is to be held later this month (Apr08).