Nicolas Roeg

Nicolas Roeg was a cameraman on Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, among other 1960s evergreens, before he co-directed Performance (1970). With that background, it was perhaps inevitable that the Londoner’s own films would be visually striking, and that close-ups of Mick Jagger pouting in Performance, Donald Sutherland yelling in anguish in Don’t Look Now (1973), and David Bowie lounging before a bank of television sets in The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) would adorn countless book and magazine covers. (Angelica Huston’s grotesque make-up in The Witches (1990) was quite something, too, hence it has furnished countless children’s nightmares.) But Roeg did a lot more than design memorable images. Always experimenting with what cinema could do, and what other art forms couldn’t, his psychedelic dramas splintered time and warped reality, mixing the sensual with the ethereal. Watching any of his films, you never know what you are going to see next. He died on 23 November at the age of 90. NB

Montserrat Caballé

Barcelona was innately linked to the repertoire of soprano superstar Montserrat Caballé – as her birthplace; as the location of the prestigious Liceu Conservatory where a wealthy family funded her vocal studies; and as the title of her 1987 crossover smash duet with Freddie Mercury (who praised Caballé’s voice as “the best in the world”). Yet the whole world was her stage, and she had established her global presence by the mid-1960s – reportedly earning a 25-minute standing ovation for her stand-in lead performance in Lucrezia Borgiaat Carnegie Hall. Caballé earned lavish praise as the embodiment of a bel canto ideal, but she was also unafraid to confront conventions, and the exquisite scale and expression of her voice also evoked an extraordinary lightness and control. Her catalogue amassed accolades including several Grammys, and revealed unexpected twists, from her legendary recitals of Verdi, Bellini and Donizetti, to multi-genre collaborations including Vangelis, Johnny Hallyday, and Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson; she soared in every setting. She died on 6 October aged 85. AH

Hubert de Givenchy

“Fabric is the most extraordinary thing. It has life,” said Hubert de Givenchy. “You must respect the fabric.” The French fashion designer was known for his stunning, sculptural dresses, and was the creator of the ‘little black dress’. He had many glamorous and notable clients, including Jackie Kennedy, Greta Garbo, Maria Callas, Marlene Dietrich and Grace Kelly. He was a master of understated elegance. Born into an aristocratic family in Beauvais, northern France in 1927, he went on to study at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and then worked for avant-garde designer Elsa Schiaparelli. In 1952 he opened his own fashion house, Givenchy, and became known for his progressive, innovative designs. He met actress Audrey Hepburn in 1953 during the shooting of Sabrina, and he went on to design the black dress she wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Hepburn soon became Givenchy’s close friend, his muse and a major proponent of his fashion. In 1954 the prêt-à-porter collection was launched, and in 1958 he created the iconic ‘Balloon coat’ and ‘Baby Doll’ dress. In 1969, he launched a menswear line. He sold his business to LVMH in 1988. In later life, Givenchy lived in the Château du Jonchet, a restored historic castle near Paris, with long-time partner, the fashion designer Philippe Venet. He retired from fashion in 1995. “Life is like a book,” he once said. “You have to know when to turn the page.” He died on 10 March 2018, aged 91. LB

Charles Aznavour

The diminutive yet grandly debonair Charles Aznavour brought a quintessential French identity to global pop culture, in deep-rooted ways; one of his formative gigs as a young singer-songwriter was even supporting Edith Piaf at the Moulin Rouge. As he established his success, Aznavour would regularly be described as “the French Frank Sinatra”; he balanced a showbiz presence (joining the likes of Liza Minnelli onstage) with a self-deprecating charm – and a particular grace and bittersweet spirit at the heart of his work. Even English-language classics such as She, The Old-Fashioned Wayand What Makes A Man were steeped in the emotive story-telling of French chanson. His rich filmography also reflected his range, including 1979 Oscar-winner The Tin Drum and Atom Egoyan’s 2002 drama Ararat(which reflected Aznavour’s Armenian heritage). When Aznavour died, tributes included President Macron pronouncing him one of the most significant “faces of France”; he remains one of its most unmistakable voices. He died on 1 October at the age of 94. AH

Philip Roth

He may have decisively set down his pen with the publication of his 2010 novel, Nemesis, but Philip Roth’s death earlier this year still registered as an immense loss to literature, especially coming a time when his cautionary 2004 novel, The Plot Against America, feels so eerily prescient. The son of first-generation Jewish-Americans, he was born in Newark on 19 March 1933. His teen years informed Portnoy’s Complaint, his first commercial success, but he made his debut a decade earlier, in 1959, with the fearless Goodbye, Columbus, a novella and short stories that ruffled as many feathers with its descriptions of faith as Portnoy would with sex. Roth, a baseball lover with a peerless work ethic, also brought his wry, steely intelligence to bear on masculinity, class, and identity. In late middle-age, a tumultuous chapter featuring prescription sedatives, a quintuple heart bypass and a bitter divorce ushered in his richest creative period, producing the likes of Sabbath’s Theatre, I Married a Communist, and The Human Stain – all provocative, quintessentially great American novels with universal reach. Roth was arguably the best writer not to have won the Nobel Prize since Tolstoy. He died on 22 May, aged 85. HA

Aretha Franklin

The Memphis-born Queen of Soul’s reign was a truly extraordinary one, throughout a career that spanned nearly six exceptional decades (she recorded her 1956 debut album aged 14). Aretha achieved millions of international record sales, including countless classics – Respect, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, Chain Of Fools, Rock Steady and Spanish Harlem to name a few of her solo numbers – and numerous accolades including 18 Grammy Awards. She drew deeply from her gospel roots, and she created a soundtrack for world history (performing at both Martin Luther King’s funeral in 1968, and Obama’s inauguration in 2009) and everyday heartbreak and joy. Even now, it does not feel right to refer to Aretha’s voice in the past tense, because it always sounds so fantastically, vitally in the moment. She died on 16 August at the aged of 76. AH

Robert Indiana

A leading proponent in the Pop Art movement, Robert Indiana designed the Love print as his Christmas card in 1965 (the logo had previously appeared in poems and a painting). It became one of the most recognisable artworks of the 20th Century, featuring in paintings and sculptures as well as some 330 million postage stamps. According to Indiana, he only received a fee of $1000 for the stamp design – he called the design the 20th Century’s “most plagiarised work of art”, keeping a collection of knock-offs in his home. But he was happy to recreate it with the word ‘hope’ for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008, donating all proceeds from the sale of reproductions to the campaign and raising more than $1m. Born Robert Clark in New Castle, Indiana on 13 September 1928, he moved to New York in 1954, becoming lovers with the artist Ellsworth Kelly two years later and adopting the name of his home state. Indiana described himself as an “American painter of signs” – yet his work resounded far beyond the surface; one curator has argued that he inflected Pop Art with “the darker side of the American dream”. He died on 19 May, aged 89. FM

VS Naipaul

Sir Vidia Surajprasad Naipaul snagged almost every literary prize worth winning, including a Nobel, but he could be a divisive figure and death has yet to diminish that. He was born in rural Trinidad on 17 August 1932 to Hindu parents of Indian origin. His father, a journalist, had a passion for Shakespeare and Dickens and stoked a fiery literary ambition in his son. After leaving the Caribbean in 1950 for Oxford, where he tried to commit suicide, Naipaul published his first novels while still in his mid-20s. In 1961, his masterpiece, A House for Mr Biswas, appeared. Autobiographical and keenly comic, its themes of identity, exile and post-colonialism recur throughout his writing. Having by then made his home in London, a questing rootlessness sent him roaming across India and Africa, resulting in travel books full of challenging, often unflattering views. He fanned the flames with a high-handed, irascible manner and a sometimes dubious attitude towards women, but his brilliance as a stylist endures. He died on 11 August, aged 85. HA

Mark E Smith

Fired-up; frequently caustic; weirdly poetic – Mark E Smith was the real-deal indie music anti-hero. Smith formed The Fall after seeing the Sex Pistols’ infamous Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall gig in 1976 (which also triggered the post-punk formation of Joy Division, The Smiths and Buzzcocks); he remained the only constant in The Fall’s raucous career (largely because he repeatedly sacked his bandmates). His death at 60 followed a long period of illness from lung and kidney cancer, which had also forced Smith to cancel gig dates. His legacy rages on vividly, through a 31-album catalogue with The Fall, from 1979’s Live at The Witch Trials, through artful highlights like 1988’s I Am Kurious Oranj (created as a collaboration with dancer Michael Clark), to 2017’s New Facts Emerge, as well as collaborations with the likes of electronic act Mouse On Mars (as Von Südenfed) and Gorillaz. His attitude and diatribes were uncompromising and deeply scathing of mainstream trends, but they were also smartly witty and surreally funky enough to earn him massive love(-uh!) – and a brilliant 20ft tribute mural on the side of a chip shop in his Prestwich hometown. He died on 24 January, aged 60. AH


Sridevi – born Shree Amma Yanger Ayyappan – was only 54 when she died, but it’s a struggle to think of any other actor who accomplished as much. She appeared in her first Tamil film as a four-year-old child, and acted in three further languages before moving to the Hindi-language world of Bollywood, aged nine. She went on to become Indian cinema’s first female superstar. Reserved and private when she wasn’t performing, she held nothing back when the cameras were rolling. Whether she was lighting up the screen with knockabout comedy or steamy dance routines – see Mr India (1987) for some unforgettable examples of both – no one was more vivacious or expressive. She also used her popularity to change the industry, insisting that her characters were strong independent women, and that she had the same screen-time and pay as her male co-stars. After she married producer Boney Kapoor in 1996, she stepped away from Bollywood, and she didn’t return until shortly before her death. She died on 24 February, aged 54. NB

Neil Simon

Back in August, Broadway dimmed its lights in tribute to Neil Simon, the Pulitzer-winning playwright, screenwriter and memoirist long hailed as its king. Born in the Bronx on 4 July 1927, Simon escaped to the cinema as an escape from shyness and warring parents during his Depression-era boyhood. By his mid-20s, he was writing for Syd Caesar’s TV show, and in 1961, he made his Broadway debut with Come Blow Your Horn. It took him three years and 20 rewrites – an uncharacteristically slow start to a career that would be defined by prolificacy. His first real hit, Barefoot in the Park, came just two years later, and at his peak, he had four shows running on Broadway simultaneously. “It’s got to be funny almost every 15 seconds,” Simon once said of his oeuvre, that nevertheless grappled with love, divorce, sibling rivalry and ageing. The Odd Couple, one of his many plays to be embraced by Hollywood, established a dominant theme: seemingly incompatible duos trapped together. While his later works sometimes seemed dated, Simon’s bittersweet humour remains accessible, poignant and above all hilarious. He died on 26 August, aged 91. HA

Kate Spade

Kate Spade was synonymous with fashionable New York in the 1990s. The US designer and businesswoman was the founder and former co-owner of the brand Kate Spade New York, which created sophisticated but functional handbags. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, she studied journalism and then worked in the accessories department at the fashion magazine Mademoiselle. She and her husband Andy Spade spotted a market for stylish accessible bags, and founded the company in 1993. The business soon expanded into other product lines, including homeware. The bags were simple and elegant, and marked a shift in accessories towards more affordable luxury. The business was partially sold in 1999, and the rest in 2006. In 2016 she and her husband launched a new footwear and handbag brand called Frances Valentine. The couple had one daughter, Frances. Editor-in-chief of US Vogue Anna Wintour said of the designer: “Her bags came to encapsulate a decidedly Manhattan moment in time,” adding that it was impossible to walk a block in the city without seeing one. Spade died on 5 June, at the age of 55. LB

Stan Lee

By the time Stan ‘The Man’ Lee died, he had lived to see the characters he co-created dominate not just his chosen medium of comics, but cinema and television, too. The roll call of those characters is, to use one of his favoured adjectives, amazing: Spider-Man, the Hulk, The Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man, The X-Men, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and more. Almost as amazing is that Lee dreamt up nearly all of these Marvel superheroes in the early 1960s. Then and now, they are as human as they are superhuman. Spider-Man is a nerdy teenager, the Hulk a frustrated child; the Fantastic Four is about family dynamics, the X-Men is about school dynamics. And all of his superheroes are outsiders – a condition that Lee, as the son of Romanian-Jewish immigrants, understood only too well. This June also saw the death of Steve Ditko, the visionary artist who co-created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. You could call it the end of an era, except that the Marvel era rolls on. As The Man said, “Excelsior!” He died on 12 November, aged 95. NB

Penny Marshall

The woman born Carole Penny Marshall in 1943 in The Bronx, New York might be best remembered as one half of the beloved TV duo, Laverne & Shirley, but it’s as a trailblazer for women in the film industry that she deserves the most credit. Along with her co-star Cindy Williams, the characters of LaVerne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney made their debut on the hit US TV show Happy Days in November 1975, playing dates for Fonzie and Richie. The wisecracking pair were such a hit that a spin-off series soon ensued, running from 1976 until 1983. Marshall directed several episodes of the programme and in 1986 she made her debut feature film, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, which starred Whoopi Goldberg. With Big (1988) starring Tom Hanks, Marshall became the first woman to direct a film that made more than $100m (£79m) at the US box office. She went on to direct Awakenings (1990), starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, which was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture. Along with Jumpin’ Jack Flash, female protagonists featured in several of Marshall’s films, including A League of Their Own (1992), about an all-female baseball league, and Riding in Cars with Boys (2001). Known for her warmth and sense of humour, tributes to Marshall included one from her former husband, Rob Reiner, who wrote on Twitter: “She was born with a great gift. She was born with a funnybone and the instinct of how to use it. I was very lucky to have lived with her and her funnybone. I will miss her.” And from her co-star Williams, with whom she had remained friends until her death, simply “I Love You, Partner.” Penny Marshall died on 17 December, aged 75. RL

Pete Shelley

Pete Shelley embodied punk spirit with heart, guts and soul. Born Pete McNeish in Lancashire, Shelley co-founded punk/new wave upstarts Buzzcocks with Bolton college mate Howard Devoto (then Howard Trafford). Buzzcocks had intended to debut as support for the Sex Pistols’ infamous 1976 Manchester gig (organised by Shelley and Devoto, and attended by the likes of Mark E Smith); they actually hit the stage at a later date, also scoring success with their independently released EP, Spiral Scratch. When Devoto left to form Magazine, guitarist Shelley took over as Buzzcocks lead vocalist and main songwriter, fuelling smart and sparky late-70s classics such as Orgasm Addict, What Do I Get, Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve), and Everybody’s Happy Nowadays. Shelley was innovative, fearless and funny; he was married twice, but warrants respect as a queer icon (his electro-tinged 1981 solo hit Homosapien was initially banned for its gay references). He remained vitally creative, reuniting with Devoto on 2002’s Buzzkunst collaboration and the reformed Buzzcocks (including 2014 album The Way). Shelley died aged 63 at his home in Talinn, Estonia; his catalogue endures as the work of one of Britain’s sharpest songwriters. He died on 6 December, aged 63. AH

Tom Wolfe

Journalist and novelist Tom Wolfe was known as a contrarian and a dandyish dresser, often to be seen around Manhattan in his dapper, trademark three-piece white suit, starched collar, white shoes and hat. Born in Richmond, Virginia, he was encouraged by his mother to draw and write. In New York in the 1960s and 70s he became one of the pioneers of the New Journalism. He was a brilliant satirist, who delighted in puncturing the pretensions of others, and he had a great flair for trend spotting, inventing idioms such as ‘Radical chic’ and ‘the Me Decade’. Wolfe’s prose style was extravagant and inventive, and he was known for his verbal dexterity and unorthodox punctuation. From 1965 to 1981 he wrote nine non-fiction books, including the acclaimed account of the 60s counterculture, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. The Right Stuff (1979), a non-fiction account of the first Nasa astronauts, won the National Book Award and was adapted into an Oscar-winning film. His 1987 novel The Bonfire of the Vanities was a wide-ranging satire on the vanity, greed and excess of the 1980s. A runaway best-seller, the novel told the story of unscrupulous bond trader Sherman McCoy, a self-proclaimed ‘Master of the Universe’. Wolfe subsequently wrote several more novels including the 1998 best-seller A Man in Full. In 1978 he married Sheila Berger, the art director at Harper’s magazine, and they had two children, Alexandra and Tommy. “He is probably the most skilful writer in America,” wrote William F Buckley Jr in National Review. “I mean by that he can do more things with words than anyone else.” He died on 14 May 2018 at the age of 88. LB

Miloš Forman

In 1967, Miloš Forman directed The Fireman’s Ball, a low-budget, 71-minute farce shot in a Czechoslovak provincial town with a cast of locals who had never acted before. The next time he made a film in his home country, it was 1984’s Amadeus, a sumptuous, 161-minute historical extravaganza that would win a shelf-load of Oscars. But as different as they might seem, Forman’s films all shared the mocking, anti-authoritarian attitude that he developed while growing up under Soviet rule. The most acclaimed of them is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), which won Oscars in five of the main categories: film, director, adapted screenplay, actor and actress. But Forman’s love of misfit rebels with a cause, and his suspicion of the establishment, extended to The People vs Larry Flint (1996), Man on the Moon (1999), and beyond. He died on 13 April, aged 86. NB


Under the stage name Avicii, the man born Tim Bergling in Sweden conquered the European dance scene in his short lifetime. The musician, DJ and record producer became a household name in 2011 with the single Levels, which peaked at number four in the UK singles chart, spent 20 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for a Grammy in 2013. The international success of Levels catapulted him to fame, and with it came a gruelling tour schedule. Following a previous stint in hospital in 2012, Bergling was forced to pull out of a festival in Miami to have emergency appendix and gallbladder surgery in 2014. Throughout his short but hugely successful career, he collaborated with high-profile artists including Madonna, Coldplay and Rita Ora, and in 2014 Forbes estimated his worth at $28 million. In 2016 Bergling announced that he was retiring from touring, telling The Hollywood Reporter that the decision made him “happier than I have been in a very, very long time”. After his death, his family chose to turn his website into an online memorial to him, writing: “Tim created music that brought people together with timeless memories from all over the world… His music and your memories are forever.” He died on 20 April, aged 28. AC

William Goldman

In the history of Hollywood, there have only been a handful of famous screenwriters who weren’t directors, too. One of them was William Goldman, who scripted a remarkable number of gloriously watchable classics, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), All the President’s Men (1976), Misery (1990), Marathon Man (1976) and The Princess Bride (1987) – the last two of which were adapted from his own novels. But he is almost as well known among cinephiles for the irreverent tell-all book he wrote about his Hollywood career, Adventures in the Screen Trade (1983). He saw screenwriting as a craft, not an art, and he was pragmatic about throwing out or adding in whatever it took to improve a film. But that didn’t mean his scripts were calculating or formulaic. Whether he was crafting a political thriller or a comic fantasy, his characters’ scruffy humanity and modern ironic wit were as distinctive as the motifs of any director. He died on 16 November, at the age of 87. NB

Dolores O’Riordan

When Dolores O’Riordan hit global fame as the young frontwoman of Limerick alt-rockers The Cranberries in the mid-90s, she struck an ingenue kind of figure: at odds with the blokey posturing of that era’s Britpop and grunge scenes. There was a trilling fragility to O’Riordan’s voice, but also a heart-rending sweetness and power, summoned on sweeping anthems such as Dreams and Linger, songs with increasingly political sentiments (Zombie; Salvation) and solo material. O’Riordan struggled with the brutal intrusions of fame; she was courageously frank about her health issues and personal traumas, and after an attempted suicide in 2013, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In recent years, O’Riordan returned to record with The Cranberries (including the 2017 ‘unplugged’ album Something Else) and plan collaborations, before the shock of her sudden death. Her songs retain a rare resonance: there is the pain of what she endured, but also the beauty of what she created. She died on 15 January 2018, aged 46. AH

Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds was one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars from the early 1970s until the mid-1980s, beginning with his breakthrough role in Jon Boorman’s Deliverance in 1972, and continuing through Smokey and the Bandit (1977), The Cannonball Run (1981) and his other car chase movies. After that… well, his trajectory had peaks and troughs, to put it politely, with a hit 90s sitcom (Evening Shade) and a cool comeback (Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights in 1997) making fewer headlines than his various bankruptcies and break-ups. But there was no joke you could make about Reynolds that he hadn’t made himself. He owed his early success to his self-deprecating humour as a talk-show guest, and from then on audiences loved the sense that he was a laidback, unpretentious southern guy who was just too manly to take showbiz seriously. “I don’t have any pretensions about wanting to be Hamlet,” he told one journalist. “I would just like to be the best Burt Reynolds around.” And he was. He died on 6 September, at the age of 82. NB

Bernardo Bertolucci

From Before the Revolution (1964) to The Dreamers (2003), Bernardo Bertolucci’s films often featured left-wing radicals, and the films were radical, too: always venturing boldly into new and dangerous territory. The Conformist (1970) – ranked at 77 in BBC Culture’s list of the top 100 foreign-language films – is a brilliant synthesis of psychoanalysis, politics, architecture, sex and violence. Last Tango in Paris (1972) is so scandalously sexual that US film critic Pauline Kael pronounced it a “landmark” and a “breakthrough” comparable to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. The director’s cut of the sprawling 1900 (1976), starring Robert De Niro and Gerard Depardieu, clocked in at five hours. And the multi-Oscar-winning The Last Emperor (1987) was the first western film to capture the splendour of the Forbidden City in Beijing. One of the giants of Italian cinema, Bertolucci’s reputation had diminished by the end of his life. He died on 26 November 2018, aged 77. NB

Written by: Hephzibah Anderson, Lindsay Baker, Nicholas Barber, Amy Charles, Arwa Haider, Rebecca Laurence and Fiona Macdonald.

If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.

And if you liked this story, sign up for the weekly features newsletter, called “If You Only Read 6 Things This Week”. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Capital and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday

Source link