In 1971, America was introduced to a New York family whose trials, tribulations, and flaws rang all too familiar... albeit with a healthy dose of comedy: the Bunkers, the colorful characters who occupied a working-class New York household on All in the Family. Alongside curmudgeonly Archie, passionate Gloria, and wayfaring Mike, there was Edith: a golden hearted but flighty mother, played to comic perfection by Jean Stapleton. Sadly, CNN reports that 90-year-old Stapleton has passed away, as confirmed by her son.
For nearly a decade, Stapleton exemplified inimitable wit and charm as Edith Bunker, squawking amicably as her husband groused and grimaced, her daughter charged for change, and her son-in-law argued with the lot and scarfed down whatever food Edith brought to the table. Brimming with good nature amid the hostility of her family members, Edith was the heart and soul of the Bunker home and of All in the family, a character that could have easily gone by the wayside were not for the mammoth precision in Stapleton's performance.
The actress, also a veteran of stage and the big screen, is survived by children John and Pamela Putch.
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Carrie Fisher and her reps sure do like to confuse Star Wars fans. In March, the actress — who starred as Princess Leia in Star Wars, Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back, and Star Wars: Episode VI — Return 0f the Jedi — said that she would be showing up in the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII. But then her reps recanted the statement saying that Fisher had been joking. Well, in another confusing twist of events, Fisher is again talking about appearing in the new Star Wars film, which will be produced by Disney.
"I like being bought by Disney, because they never wanted to buy me before," Fisher reportedly said during a talk at Canada's Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo Saturday, according to the Calgary Herald. "I’m glad they are doing a new movie because they are sending a trainer to my house so I can get in really good shape. So I’m really eating a lot of sugar in advance, as you can see. By the time I really get down to it I will have eaten everything."
Fisher isn't the only Star Wars alum who might be returning for Episode 7. Harrison Ford has hinted that he will be returning as Han Solo. Mark Hamill has also suggested that he appearing again as Luke Skywalker.
Definitely confirmed, though, J.J. Abrams will be directing Star Wars: Episode VII. It is scheduled to be released sometime in 2015.
Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LDiMat.
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Last week, we scoured a galaxy far far away for a missing star: Mark “Luke Skywalker” Hamill. We found that he had been living comfortably in a universe of fantastic voice acting jobs.
But even with the Star Wars franchise’s legendary status, more than a few actors discovered that the series was a black hole from whence their careers had difficulty escaping. Today we turn our attention to another Star Wars veteran whose appearances on the silver screen have been woefully infrequent since the curtain closed on cinema’s greatest trilogy. Today, we search high and low for Billy Dee Williams.
Why We Love Him:
Before Billy Dee Williams realized international superstardom in the Star Wars series, he was paying his dues in small film roles and a massive repertoire of television work in the late 60s. In 1971, Williams took on the role of real life football star Gale Sayers in Brian’s Song. Like many members of my lesser sex, the gridiron subject matter of Brian’s Song is what enticed me to see it. And like most guys (even if they refuse to admit it) I wept like an infant by the time we got to William’s speech about his teammate and friend Brian Piccolo. It wasn’t merely that the film was inherently sad, Williams’ performance was incredibly powerful.
After kicking scores of ass during a run of blaxploitation films in the 70s, Billy Dee landed the role of Lando Calrissian in Star Wars: Episode V-The Empire Strikes Back. The Star Wars franchise itself was a mammoth success, but Williams’ was not content merely riding its coattails. Lando was, much like Han when we first met him, one of the few characters that began his story completely unaffiliated in and dispassionate about the intergalactic civil war. He was a businessman and a natural leader, and Williams brought an effortless level of cool to the role. In fact, much of what we love about Billy Dee Williams is his unflappable coolness. Lando’s subsequent troubled conscience makes him one of the more interesting and layered characters in the series and Williams inhabits each layer with master skill.
What Happened To Him?
Like Hamill, Billy Dee Williams had trouble matching the success of Star Wars later in his career. I will say that 1981’s Nighthawks is not only one of my favorites of his performances, but also one of the best buddy cop movies I have ever seen. Williams and Stallone play two tough-as-nails beat cops who join a task force aiming to take down an international terrorist. The film is suspenseful, gritty, and Williams and Stallone play off one another beautifully. The film is currently streaming on Netflix so if you have a chance, it’s definitely worth checking out.
But beyond that, there just aren’t many notable titles on his post-Star Wars resume—with one exception. In 1989, Tim Burton cast Williams as Gotham district attorney Harvey Dent in the first Batman film. Harvey Dent in the comic books was always portrayed as a Caucasian character so the choice to cast Williams was interesting. True to form, Williams made Dent a cool-as-ice politician much like Lando Calrissian. He did this so well that, though his screen time was brief, he made our introduction to Harvey Dent a memorable one.
Where’s He Been?
So logically the question becomes, why didn’t Williams return to the Batman franchise in Batman Forever? Well, I guess I should say that it would make logical sense to ask this question if you were aware of the fact that Harvey Dent would eventually become the villainous Two-Face. Even though the script for 1989’s Batman made it very clear that this transformation would not occur right away, Williams only accepted the role because he was assured that when the Two-Face story was explored, he would be the actor to play him. He actually had a clause in his contract that stated as much. But when Joel Schumacher took over the series, he decided he wanted Tommy Lee Jones to play the part and so Warner Brothers bought Williams out of his contract. Since then, he’s been in very few theatrically released films. His most recent widely released film was 2002’s Undercover Brother.
The saddest part of this whole story is that Billy Dee Williams currently has no projects in development. I wholeheartedly feel he is among the most talented and cinematically captivating actors of all time. He’s made appearances on animated series here and there over the last few years, often reprising the role of Lando for nostalgic sake. But frankly, I would love to see him land another role like that of Fox in Nighthawks; something gritty and heavy that he can sink his teeth in to.
That man is simply too cool to remain inactive.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there was this actor. This particular actor enjoyed immense success due to his involvement in one of the greatest cinematic trilogies of all time. But, as with all the other subjects of this column, this actor seemingly fell off the face of the Earth. But did he actually leave our planet in search of galactic conflict in which he could intervene? Or has he just been using the force to remain cloaked and off our radars? Today we activate our tractor beam in the hopes of reeling in Mr. Mark Hamill.
Why We Love Him
Despite having an extensive body of work prior to Star Wars, few actors have ever been so inextricably linked to a single character the way Hamill is associated with Luke Skywalker. Star Wars told an epic adventure story in a wholly unique fashion despite the fact that it was borrowing from everything from American westerns to Japanese samurai films. The characters were legendary and found instant connection with audiences the world over, and heroic young farm boy Luke Skywalker was chief among them.
But it wasn’t just the success of Star Wars that rooted Hamill in that franchise. The first installment in the Star Wars saga marked the first time audiences had seen Hamill on the screen. Mark got his start on television, appearing in series such as The Cosby Show, General Hospital, and The Texas Wheelers. His only other theatrically released film by the time Star Wars hit theaters was Ralph Bakshi’s animated sci-fi flick Wizards to which he lent his voice. Hamill’s success story is the stuff of Hollywood dreams…or nightmares depending on how one looks at it.
What Happened to Him?
While many young actors fantasize about their first film being an instant classic, Hamill found himself struggling to avoid typecasting after the gargantuan success of Star Wars. Right after the first chapter, he starred in the teen comedy Corvette Summer and, in 1980, Samuel Fuller’s war drama The Big Red One. But aside from the next two Star Wars films, the 80s proved professionally frustrating for Hamill and the actor took refuge on Broadway, appearing in a number of productions, including Amadeus and The Elephant Man. He returned to film in 1989, but the caliber of projects available to him had dropped dramatically. His superhero flick The Guyver woefully called into question the use of the word super and Time Runner made us all wish time travel were real…so that we could travel back and tell ourselves not to watch it. It was clear that his star was falling.
Where’s He Been?
It was no accident that Hamill’s first official film was the animated Wizards. As his career progressed further into the 90s, he proved that he was an unbelievably talented voice actor. Hamill landed the voice role of The Joker on the phenomenal Batman: the Animated Series and his shrill, maniacal cackle—seemingly disembodied from the actor himself—became as indelible to the character as any other incarnation; a fan favorite to be certain.
Hamill would go on to portray The Joker in a number of other milieus including Superman: the Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures, and several Batman videogames. He also lent his voice to many other successful animated series including Johnny Bravo, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Robot Chicken. In fact, Hamill has not appeared in a theatrically released live-action film since Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back in 2001.
As frustrated as Hamill was to be typecast as heroic Luke Skywalker types after Star Wars, he managed to do such a great job reinventing himself through animation that he’s now become frustrated at being vocally typecast as The Joker. He has said that the upcoming videogame Batman: Arkham City will be the last time he plays the role. My hope is that Hamill makes a comeback to the silver screen because, though his voice work is in fact remarkable, his cinematic legacy is profound and he more than deserves the chance to extend it.
British actor Paul Bettany has joined the race to play Batman's nemesis
The Joker in a planned sequel to Batman Begins.
Director Christopher Nolan left no doubt The Joker would feature heavily in
the next Batman installment when the villain, formerly played by Jack
Nicholson, left a calling card in the final scene of the box office smash hit.
And now Batman fan sites are desperately trying to make sure producers pick
the right man for the job.
Crispin Glover was an early favorite, along with Star Wars' Mark Hamill, who
provides the voice of The Joker in the Batman animated series and Aussie actor
Lachy Hulme, and now Bettany has got the fans' vote.
An insider tells website Batman-On-Film.com that the Beautiful Mind star is
officially in the running to play the evil character.
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