Shock and sadness has hit the acting world with the announcement that two legends – Michael K. Williams and Jean-Paul Belmondo – died this week.
It’s rough news in an already rough year of losses.
According to reports, the 54-year-old Michael K. Williams was found unresponsive in his Brooklyn apartment by his nephew on Monday afternoon. It’s suspected that Williams, whose diverse career involved being a tour dancer for the likes of Madonna and George Michael, had died of a drug overdose
Williams’ role as Omar Little in the critically acclaimed The Wire has garnered constant praise. The nuanced portrayal of the secretly-queer stick-up man, inspired by real-life hitman Donnie Andrews.
Donnie Andrews, cemented Williams as being one of the greatest actors of our generation.
Most recently he portrayed a conflicted and similarly closeted gay father in Misha Green’s horror anthology Lovecraft Country, a performance that earned him a slew of award nominations and wins, most recently a Best Supporting Actor in the pending Primetime Emmy Awards.
Jean-Paul Belmondo, the face of the French New Wave and life-long rogue, was also confirmed dead on Monday. The 88-year-old commonly known as Bebel in his native France, is said to have died in his Paris home.
Belmondo’s role as the existential killer in Godard’s acclaimed À Bout de Soufflé made his ruggedly handsome face an international hit. His rough, unhewn features were a welcome counterpart to the stereotypical Hollywood jawline of James Dean or Tab Hunter.
That craggy visage, combined with raw emotiveness, positioned Belmondo as unique among his peers. Watching the late Jean-Paul Belmondo on screen was like watching Brando and Bogart rolled into one. But his offscreen antics – fistfights and passionate outbursts along with high profile relationships all contributed to the star quality.
Despite his intensity, one of Belmondo’s favourite roles to date was the ridiculous spy thriller, That Man from Rio. What could be seen as a potential parody of James Bond, it was a hit with audiences although the French star’s artistic fans thought it a sell out from his New Wave days.
Two sad losses in the space of one week, it feels like only yesterday when we lost a generation of actors in the space of months. Hopefully this doesn’t turn out to be a repeat of 2016.
Vale to two of the best.