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In memoriam: Remembering the famous faces from around the world we lost in 2021

We take a look back at some of the many greats we lost this year.

THIS YEAR, WE lost many luminaries of the stage and screen around the world.

Here, we remember those who bid their final farewells in the last 12 months.

On 8 January, director Michael Apted died aged 79. The British filmmaker was known for the Up series of documentaries which followed the lives of 14 children since 1964, as well as directing Coal Miner’s Daughter, Gorillas In The Mist and James Bond film The World Is Not Enough.

On 14 January, illusionist Siegfried Fischbacher, the surviving member of the duo Siegfried & Roy, died in Las Vegas at age 81.

Fischbacher’s long-time showbusiness partner, Roy Horn, died last year of complications from Covid-19 at a Las Vegas hospital. He was 75. The duo astonished millions with their extraordinary magic tricks until Horn was critically injured in 2003 by one of the act’s famed white tigers.

las-vegas-nevadas-headlining-illusionists-siegfried-roy-siegried-fischbacher-and-roy-horn-in-their-private-apartment-at-the-mirage-hotel-on-the-vegas-strip-along-with-one-of-their-performing-wh Siegfried (right) & Roy pictured in their private apartment at the Mirage Hotel on the Vegas Strip, along with one of their performing white lions. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The iconic talk show host Larry King, one of the most recognisable figures on US television as he interviewed everyone who was anyone over a career spanning 60 years, died on 23 January at the age of 87.

King, with his trademark suspenders, black rim glasses and deep voice, was best known for a 25-year run as a talk show host on CNN’s Larry King Live.

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Actress Cloris Leachman, who won an Oscar for The Last Picture Show and Emmys for her comedic work in The Mary Tyler Moore Show and other TV series, died aged 94 on 28 January.

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Cicely Tyson, the pioneering African-American actress and honorary Oscar winner, died on 29 January aged 96.

Known best for Emmy-winning television movie The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and her Academy-nominated turn in 1972 film Sounder. She frequently turned down roles she saw as reinforcing negative Black stereotypes, including maids and prostitutes, and was seen as recently as last year on the small-screen thriller How to Get Away with Murder.

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Canadian actor Christopher Plummer died aged 91 on 5 February.

Plummer starred in the Sound of Music alongside Julie Andrews in 1965 and went on to earn an Oscar, the oldest actor to win an Academy Award, for his role in 2010′s Beginners.

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On 9 February, Motown singer and the Supremes co-founder Mary Wilson died aged 76.

She founded the US group aged 15 while living in a Detroit housing project and continued with the band long after lead singer Diana Ross’ departure, eventually going on to be inducted into the 1988 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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On 28 February, Coronation Street star Johnny Briggs, famous for his role as ladies’ man Mike Baldwin, died aged 85.

Briggs made his Corrie debut as Baldwin in 1976 and remained on the cobbles until 2006. His character’s death, of a heart attack and having suffered from a form of Alzheimer’s, was watched by 12 million viewers.

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Bunny Wailer, the reggae luminary who was the last surviving member of The Wailers, died at the age of 73 on 2 March.

Wailer, a baritone singer whose birth name was Neville Livingston, formed The Wailers in 1963 with late superstars Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. They were catapulted to international fame with the album Catch a Fire.

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Murray Walker, known as the voice of Formula One, died aged 97 on 13 March.

Walker, whose broadcasting career spanned more than 50 years, worked for the BBC and ITV, before he retired from commentating in 2001.

On 16 March, actor Yaphet Kotto, who rose to fame in the 1970s fighting James Bond in Live and Let Die and an extraterrestrial stowaway in Alien, died aged 81.

Kotto drew plaudits for roles as the first Black Bond villain — dictator Dr Kananga — in 1973′s Live and Let Die, and an Emmy nomination for playing real-life Ugandan strongman Idi Amin in the TV movie Raid on Entebbe. He also starred in Alien in 1979, 1987′s Running Man, and in 1988′s Midnight Run.

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On 17 March, Sabine Schmitz, the only female winner of the 24 Hours of Nurburgring, died at the age of 51. The former Top Gear presenter revealed last year that she had been dealing with a rare form of cancer since 2017.

On 24 March, actor George Segal died at the age of 87.

Segal, who was Oscar-nominated for 1966 black comedy-drama Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, had played Albert ‘Pops’ Solomon on TV comedy The Goldbergs. He also starred as magazine publisher Jack Gallo in the US sitcom Just Shoot Me from 1997 to 2003.

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Actor Jessica Walter, best known to modern audiences as the matriarch of the comedy Arrested Development, died at the age of 80 on 25 March.

The Emmy-winning actress appeared in dozens of TV shows and films such as Clint Eastwood’s Play Misty for Me and her 1966 breakout role Grand Prix, before portraying the martini-swilling Lucille Bluth in the US series.

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Britain’s Prince Philip died at the age of 99 on 9 April.

The royal was Queen Elizabeth II’s loyal husband for seven decades following their marriage in 1947. Although he often hit the headlines for the wrong reasons, thanks to various off-the-cuff and sometimes ill-judged remarks, the Queen regarded him as “the strength” behind the throne.

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On 9 April, US rapper DMX died aged 50 after nearly a week on life-support following a heart attack. The Grammy-nominated performer reigned over the late 1990s and early 2000s with hits including X Gon’ Give It To Ya, Where The Hood At? and Party Up.

He has released eight albums, his most recent in 2015, and is among hip-hop’s darkest stars, laying his inner demons out in anthems that gained him commercial and critical acclaim.


Actor Helen McCrory, best known for starring in the Harry Potter films and Peaky Blinders, died aged 52 on 16 April.

McCrory played the role of Polly Gray in the popular TV series Peaky Blinders from 2013 to 2020. She also appeared in the final three Harry Potter films, playing the role of Narcissa Malfoy.

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On 22 April, former US Vice President Walter Mondale, who served in the Jimmy Carter administration, died at the age of 93.

Mondale’s own try for the White House, in 1984, came at the zenith of Ronald Reagan’s popularity and his selection of Representative Geraldine Ferraro of New York as his running mate made him the first major-party presidential nominee to put a woman on the ticket.

On the same date, Bay City Rollers singer Les McKeown died at the age of 65. The Scottish pop vocalist was the frontman of the group during their 1970s heyday. Formed at the end of the 1960s, the Bay City Rollers enjoyed huge success at home and abroad with their distinctive tartan outfits and upbeat pop tunes like Bye Bye Baby and Shang-a-Lang

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Astronaut Michael Collins who participated in the Apollo moon landing mission died following a battle with cancer on 28 April. Collins, 90, flew the command module above the lunar surface in 1969 as his colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the surface.

astronauts-commander-neil-a-armstrong-command-module-pilot-michael-collins-and-lunar-module-pilot-edwin-e-aldrin-jr 20 July 1969: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins (centre), and Buzz Aldrin. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Olympia Dukakis, Oscar-winning star of romantic comedy Moonstruck, died aged 89 on 1 May. Her other notable films included Look Who’s Talking and its sequel, Working Girl and Steel Magnolias.

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British model and singer Nick Kamen died aged 59 following a long illness on 5 May. Kamen was best known for his role in the iconic 1985 Levi’s ad, shot in a launderette, as well as his hit song Each Time You Break My Heart, co-written by Madonna and released the following year.

On May 19, actor and writer Charles Grodin died at the age of 86. Grodin appeared in a string of notable films from the 1970s onward, including Midnight Run, The Woman In Red, The Heartbreak Kid, the Beethoven comedies, and Heaven Can Wait. On Broadway, he starred with Ellen Burstyn in the long-running 1970s comedy Same Time, Next Year.

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Eric Carle, the author of the well-known children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar, died aged 91 on 27 May.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, published in 1969, was welcomed by parents and delighted kids with its story of the metamorphosis of a green and red caterpillar with a touch of blue and brown to a proudly multi-coloured butterfly. It has sold some 40 million copies and has been translated into 60 languages, spawned stuffed animal caterpillars and has been turned into a stage play.

On that same date, Kevin Clarke, who starred alongside Jack Black as Freddy Jones in the 2003 movie School of Rock, was killed in a collision at the age of 32.

After starring in School of Rock with Black, Clark continued pursuing drumming. Most recently, he played in the band Jess Bess and the Intentions, which made its debut performance on Saturday at Legendary Wooden Nickel in the Chicago suburb of Highwood.

Snag_1b66270 In a post paying tribute to Clark on Instagram, Jack Black said he was “heartbroken”. JackBlack / Instagram JackBlack / Instagram / Instagram

On 3 June, F Lee Bailey, the celebrity lawyer who defended OJ Simpson, Patricia Hearst and the alleged Boston Strangler died at the age of 87. In a legal career that lasted more than four decades, Bailey was seen as arrogant, egocentric and contemptuous of authority, but he was also acknowledged as bold, meticulous and tireless in the defence of his clients.

On 14 June, Ned Beatty, the actor whose first film role in 1972’s Deliverance launched him on a long career, died at the age of 83.

Beatty received an Oscar nomination as a supporting actor for his role as corporate executive Arthur Jensen in 1976′s Network. He also contributed to some of the most popular movies of his time and worked constantly, his credits including more than 150 movies and TV shows.

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Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who led the US into war in Afghanistan and Iraq during the presidency of George W Bush, died at the age of 88 on 30 June. Rumsfeld, the two-time Defense Secretary and one-time presidential candidate, had a career under four presidents and nearly a quarter of a century in corporate America.

On 6 July, prolific film director Richard Donner died at the age of 91. Donner’s other credits include the first Superman movie, The Goonies, the 1976 horror classic The Omen, the Lethal Weapon cop franchise, and his final movie in 2006, 16 Blocks.

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Home and Away actor Dieter Brummer died aged 45 on 26 July. Brummer was best known for his stint as Shane Parrish in the Australian soap. He played the character between 1991 and 1995.

On 29 July, ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill, one of the Texas blues-rock trio’s famous bearded figures, died at the age of 72.

Born Joe Michael Hill in Dallas, he teamed up with Gibbons and Beard to form ZZ Top in Houston in 1969. The band released their first album in 1970 and three years later scored a breakthrough hit with La Grange. They had chart hits Tush in 1975, Sharp Dressed Man, Legs and Gimme All Your Lovin’ in 1983, and Rough Boy and Sleeping Bag in 1985.

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Dennis Dee Tee Thomas, a founding member of the long-running soul-funk band Kool & the Gang, died at the age of 70 on 8 August. Thomas was the alto sax player, flutist and percussionist, serving as master of ceremonies at the band’s shows.

The band – known for such hits as Celebration and Get Down On It – has earned two Grammy Awards and seven American Music Awards. They were honoured in 2014 with a Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award. 

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On 12 August, actress Una Stubbs, best known for roles in the film Summer Holiday and in the BBC sitcoms Till Death Us Do Part and In Sickness And In Health, died at the age of 84.

Stubbs had a career in film, television and theatre spanning decades, including a recent role as Mrs Hudson in the BBC’s Sherlock opposite Benedict Cumberbatch.

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Nanci Griffth, the Grammy-winning folk singer-songwriter from Texas, died at the age of 68 on 13 August. Griffith had a significant Irish following; she lived in Dublin for a time in the 1990s and has regularly visited Ireland.

nanci-griffith-performs-at-shepherds-bush-empire Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

On 18 August, TV star and comedian Sean Lock died from cancer at home surrounded by his family aged 58.

Lock, known for his surreal content and deadpan style, was a team captain on Jimmy Carr’s Channel 4 comedy panel show 8 Out Of 10 Cats and spin-off 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown. He also wrote and starred in the popular BBC sitcom 15 Storeys High.

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Japanese actor Sonny Chiba, who wowed the world with his martial arts skills in more than 100 films, including Kill Bill, died aged 82 on 20 August.

Chiba, known in Japan as Shinichi Chiba, rose to stardom in Japan in the 1960s and did many of the stunt scenes himself. His overseas career took off after his 1970s Japanese film The Street Fighter proved popular in the US.

japanese-actor-jj-sonny-chiba-attends-the-short-shorts-film-festival-asia-2018-ssff-award-ceremony-at-jingu-kaikan-on-june-17-2018-tokyo-japan-ssff-is-one-of-asias-largest-short-film-festival Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Jill Murphy, the author of the Worst Witch book series, passed away aged 72 on 20 August. Murphy wrote and illustrated The Worst Witch when she was just 18, and the books have been adapted for television multiple times, including a beloved series in the late 1990s starring Georgina Sherrington, Felicity Jones and the late Una Stubbs.

On 23 August, Don Everly, one half of the pioneering Everly Brothers, died on aged 84.

Their 19 top 40 hits included Bye Bye Love, Let It Be Me, All I Have To Do Is Dream and Wake Up Little Susie, and performers from The Beatles to Simon & Garfunkel cited them as key influences.

everly-brothers-us-pop-duo-with-phil-at-left-and-don Everly Brothers: Phil and Don (right) Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts died at the age of 80 on 24 August. He had been a member of the rock group since 1963.

In 1989, alongside the rest of The Rolling Stones he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 2006 was voted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame by Modern Drummer magazine.

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Ed Asner, best known for his roles in the hit comedy The Mary Tyler Moore Show and later in the drama Lou Grant, died aged 91 on 30 August.

He had more than 300 acting credits and remained active throughout his 70s and 80s in a variety of film and TV roles, voicing the elderly hero in the hit 2009 Pixar release, Up.

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On 5 September, Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding passed away aged 39. She was diagnosed with advanced-stage breast cancer in August 2020 and went public with her diagnosis to raise awareness of the disease.

Harding rose to fame after appearing on ITV’s Popstars: The Rivals in 2002, forming Girls Aloud alongside Cheryl Cole, Nadine Coyle, Nicola Roberts and Kimberley Walsh.

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Jean-Paul Belmondo, star of the iconic French New Wave film Breathless, died at the age of 88 on 6 September. A national tribute led by French President Emmanuel Macron was held at the site of Napoleon’s final resting place in Paris prior to Belmondo’s funeral.

On 7 September, The Wire and Boardwalk Empire actor Michael K Williams died aged 54. 

Williams, who memorably played shotgun-wielding stick-up man Omar Little on HBO’s acclaimed crime drama, was found dead at his home in Brooklyn. He received an Emmy nomination earlier this year for the role of Montrose Freeman in the series Lovecraft Country, and had appeared in films including 12 Years a Slave and Inherent Vice.

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Star of Hollywood’s golden age musicals Jane Powell died at the age of 92 on 14 September.

Best known for her role as Milly in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Powell made her screen debut at the age of 15 in Song of the Open Road (1944) and went on to star in A Date with Judy (1948), Royal Wedding (1951), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), and Hit the Deck (1955).

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On 15 September, comedian Norm MacDonald, a former Saturday Night Live writer and performer, died at the age of 61. 

On 21 September, pioneering African American writer and director Melvin Van Peebles, whose groundbreaking 1971 film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song inspired a younger generation of Black filmmakers, died at the age of 89.

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Willie Garson, the actor whose most high-profile role was playing Stanford Blatch in Sex and the City, died at the age of 57 on 22 September.

Most recently, he had been working on the spin-off series And Just Like That. He also starred in White Collar and appeared in numerous hit shows and films.

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Director Roger Michell whose films include Notting Hill, Venus and My Cousin Rachel, died at the age of 65 on 23 September.

He was also an acclaimed theatre director and was resident director at the UK’s Royal Shakespeare Company for six years. Also among his film credits is Enduring Love, Morning Glory, and Changing Lanes.

On 18 October, Ronnie Tutt, a drummer who spent years playing alongside Elvis Presley, died aged 83. Beyond Elvis, Tutt played with some of the biggest names in music, touring with Neil Diamond’s band and recording and playing with Johnny Cash, Stevie Nicks, Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers, Elvis Costello, Michael McDonald and more.

Colin Powell died aged 84 of Covid-19 complications on 18 October. Powell, who was the first Black US Secretary of State, was the son of Jamaican immigrants who became a US war hero. He saw his legacy tarnished when he made the case for war in Iraq in 2003.

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Actor Dean Stockwell, star of the TV series Quantum Leap and films such as Dune, Blue Velvet and Paris, Texas, died aged 85 on 9 November. The actor had a long career, going back to his childhood in the studio system.

On 27 November, legendary Broadway songwriter Stephen Sondheim died at the age of 91. The US lyricist and composer is best known for works including West Side Story and Sweeney Todd, while his ballad Send in the Clowns has been recorded hundreds of times, including by Frank Sinatra and Judy Collins.

Six of Sondheim’s musicals won Tony Awards for best score and he received a Pulitzer Prize for Sunday in the Park. The composer also won an Academy Award for the song Sooner or Later from the film Dick Tracy, five Olivier Awards and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honour.

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Virgil Abloh, the influential Louis Vuitton menswear designer and founder of fashion label Off-White, died at the age of 41 after a private battle with cancer on 28 November. The US designer first came to prominence as rapper Kanye West’s creative director but later made history as the first African-American to lead French luxury brand Louis Vuitton.

On 29 November, Australia’s most acclaimed Indigenous actor David Gulpilil died of lung cancer aged 68. Gulpilil found his widest audiences with his roles in the 1986 hit film Crocodile Dundee and in director Baz Luhrmann’s 2008 epic Australia, in a career that spanned five decades. He was often described as a bridge between Indigenous Australia and the outside world who never fit comfortably in either place.

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Trailblazing golfer Lee Elder, the first Black player to qualify for the Masters, died aged 87 on 29 November.

Elder, who battled racism throughout his career, made history when he earned a place in the 1975 Masters. The racial barrier-breaking golfer, who was chosen as the ceremonial starter for this year’s Masters, was one of the first Black professionals to play on the tour after the PGA lifted its ban on non-white players in 1961.

On 30 November, former Liverpool and Arsenal forward Ray Kennedy died at the age of 70. During his time on Merseyside, Kennedy scored 72 goals across 393 appearances, winning five league championships, three European Cups, one League Cup, one Uefa Cup and a European Super Cup. Kennedy, who was also capped 17 times for England, had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease since the mid-eighties.

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On 5 December, long-time Kansas Senator and Republican nominee for US president Bob Dole died aged 98.

Dole, who overcame disabling war wounds to become Senate leader, announced in February 2021 that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. He tried to become president three times. The last was in 1996, when he won the Republican nomination only to see Bill Clinton re-elected.

former-united-states-senator-bob-dole-republican-of-kansas-delivers-his-speech-accepting-the-nomination-of-the-republican-party-to-be-its-candidate-for-president-of-the-united-states-at-the-san-dieg Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The bassist, producer and one-half of Sly and Robbie, Robbie Shakespeare, passed away at the age of 68 on 9 December.

Shakespeare was best known for his work with drummer Sly Dunbar, who formed the duo Sly and Robbie in the 1970s, working in reggae and dub across multiple critically acclaimed albums. The duo also worked with a host of other musicians, acting as producers and performers with acts like Bob Dylan, Sinéad O’Connor, Peter Tosh, Mick Jagger, Sting, The Rolling Stones and countless others.

On 10 December, Monkees singer and songwriter Michael Nesmith died at the age of 78.

Nesmith was best known as a member of the American pop quartet who achieved international fame in the 1960s, but was also a successful novelist and businessman.

los-angeles-ca-usa-michael-nesmith-and-davy-jones-in-a-scene-in-c-raybert-productionscolumbia-pictures-film-head-1968-director-bob-rafelsonwriters-bob-rafelson-and-jack-nicholsonsource Michael Nesmith and Davy Jones in a scene in the 1968 film Head. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Joan Didion, the revered American author and essayist, died at the age of 87 on 23 December.

She was known for her cool and ruthless dissection of culture and politics, from hippies to presidential campaigns to the kidnapping of Patty Hearst. Her essay collection The White Album has become standard reading and Slouching Towards Bethlehem and Play It As It Lays became essential collections of literary journalism. The Year of Magical Thinking is a classic work about grief that won the National Book Award.

Along with Tom Wolfe, Nora Ephron and Gay Talese, Didion reigned in the pantheon of “New Journalists” who emerged in the 1960s and wedded literary style to nonfiction reporting.

joan-didion-circa-1977 Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

On 26 December, pioneering Harvard biologist Edward O Wilson, who argued for a new vision of human nature in “Sociobiology” and warned against the decline of ecosystems, died aged 92.

South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of the leaders of the anti-apartheid movement, passed away at the age of 90 on 26 December.

Tutu, who had been living with prostate cancer for many years, was a leading campaigner against the apartheid policies of South Africa’s National Party, which ruled the country until 1994.

Born in 1931, he became a key organiser of peaceful demonstrations against white minority rule and was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1984. Although he retired in 2011, he continued to travel widely and speak out against injustice

archbishop-desmond-tutu-holds-a-religious-gathering-at-villa-park-football-stadium-birmingham-sunday-23rd-april-1989-standing-at-podium Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Award-winning Canadian filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée, whose work included Big Little Lies and Dallas Buyers Club, died suddenly aged 58 on 26 December.

The Quebecois producer and director was Oscar-nominated for Dallas Buyers Club in 2013, and drew further acclaim for his work on HBO shows Big Little Lies and Sharp Objects.

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