Ian Holm, who died yesterday, is said to be best known for his roles in Lord of the Rings and Alien--Bilbo Baggins and Ash the android, respectively. Those are both great roles but barely the tip of the iceberg for one of the greatest, most ubiquitous actors of his generation. From the title role in King Lear to Lewis Carroll in Dreamchild, he could bring a vital interpretation to a lead role or, very frequently, elevate a film by his performance in a key supporting role.
In Terry Gilliam's 1985 masterpiece Brazil, Holm played the cowardly, bureaucratic boss of the film's protagonist, a conceited office worm yet in his way just as sinister as the psychotic Ash. Holm was great playing cold, or rather, someone who's mentally cracked in some way you can see in their eyes. Genuinely disturbing men.
Yet he was also capable of playing sweet, sometimes impressively melancholy men. His role as Lewis Carroll in 1985's Dreamchild (he appeared in six movies that year!) was echoed in 1998 by his performance as the White Knight opposite Kate Beckinsale's Alice in a TV production of Through the Looking Glass. It's hard to imagine an actor better conveying the timid and affectionate man who prefers the honest world of children to the nonsensical labyrinth of adult society.
And when he was younger, he offered a particularly energetic take on the role of Puck in my favourite film of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the 1968 version with Helen Mirren, Diana Rigg, and Judi Dench.
I'm bound to see him again, I'm sure, in the many films he made I've yet to see, and that's good to know.