Robert Vaughn died from acute leukemia on Friday. The 83-year-old actor had been receiving treatment on the East Coast for this past year.
Vaughn was probably best known for his role of Napoleon Solo, the protagonist of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E., a series influenced by James Bond. The show pitted Solo and his partner Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) against the evil organization called T.H.R.U.S.H. The series, which ran from 1964 to 1968, spawned a spin-off, “The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.,” and several movies.
Vaughn began acting in the 1950s. His first noteworthy performance was in 1959’s “The Young Philadelphians,” which starred Paul Newman. Vaughn was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
He appeared in “The Magnificent Seven” the following year. The movie, which was directed by John Sturges, was a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai.” The film transplanted the story from medieval Japan to the Wild West and also starred Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson and Steve McQueen.
During the 1970s, Vaughn worked on many television miniseries, including 1977’s “Washington: Behind Closed Doors” and 1979’s “Backstairs at the White House.” He received Emmy nominations for his roles in both shows.
By now, Vaughn was often playing senators and other powerful figures. Many of his characters were wily schemers. He continued working in both film and television up through the current decade; he appeared on “Law & Order: SVU” in 2015. His last film appearance was as Carmine in “Gold Star” (2016).
Vaughn is survived by his wife Linda Staab; they married in 1974. They had adopted two children, a daughter named Caitlin and a son named Cassidy.
Robert Redford, 80, has announced that he plans to retire. During an interview with his grandson Dylan at the Walker Arts Centre, Redford told him that he plans to retire from acting after finishing his two current film projects. Those projects are “Old Man With a Gun,” which will be about an aging back robber, and “Our Souls at Night,” which will reunite him with Jane Fonda. Redford had also just finished a third movie, “The Discovery.” All three movies are expected to come out in 2017.
Redford has been acting since the 1960s. He has played characters like The Sundance Kid in 1969’s “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and Johnny Hooker in 1973’s “The Sting.” The latter film netted him a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actor. Younger fans know Redford as Alexander Pierce, the evil leader of Hydra in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014). He has also appeared in other recent pictures like “All Is Lost” (2013) and the remake of “Pete’s Dragon” (2016).
In the late 1970s, Redford embarked on a career as a director. His first film, 1980’s “Ordinary People,” got him an Academy Award for Best Director.
In 1981, Redford established the Sundance Institute to aid and fund independent filmmakers, especially those at the beginning of their careers. Three years later, the Institute began running the US Film Festival, which was eventually renamed the Sundance Film Festival.
Redford’s retirement won’t be too quiet, for he plans to continue directing and painting.
Kenny Baker, 81, died on August 13 after a long illness. The actor was best known for his role as R2-D2, the feisty droid who loyally accompanied Luke Skywalker in the “Star Wars” movies. Baker had originated the role in the first movie that had come out in 1977. Baker also played one of the Ewoks in 1983’s “Return of the Jedi.” He appeared in other movies including “The Elephant Man” (1980) and “Time Bandits” (1981).
Baker was born in Birmingham, England on August 24, 1934. He had a type a dwarfism and reached an adult height of 3 feet, 8 inches that made him the perfect size for playing R2-D2. Baker sat inside the robot and controlled it. While most of the robots in the movies were remote-controlled or CGI, Lucas had human actors portray R2-D2 and C-3PO, for they were major characters that needed to connect with the audience. Lucas proved to be correct, for R2-D2 became one of the more popular characters in the series. He later noted that Baker had to endure “tough working conditions” like the desert heat of Tunisia.
Lucas himself was partial to the droid and always included at least one scene in which he aided the heroes in every movie. He also liked Baker, and said in the obituary on starwars.com, “Kenny Baker was a real gentleman as well as an incredible trooper who always worked hard under difficult circumstances. A talented vaudevillian who could always make everybody laugh, Kenny was truly the heart and soul of R2-D2 and will be missed by all his fans and everyone who knew him.”
Kathleen Kennedy, the president of Lucasfilm, said, “We’re all saddened to learn of Kenny’s passing. There is no Star Wars without R2-D2, and Kenny defined who R2-D2 was and is. He will be greatly missed.”
R2-D2 will still be played by human actors. Jimmy Vee will take over the role for “Star Wars: Episode VIII.”