Russell directed several classic British films during his 55-year career, including spy thriller Billion Dollar Brain, The Who’s rock opera Tommy, and Oscar-winning 1969 movie Women in Love.
He also notched up a range of acting and writing credits, and was working in front of the cameras as recently as 2010, when he played a university lecturer in crime drama Mr. Nice. He even has a role in upcoming horror movie Invasion of the Not Quite Dead.
Actress-turned-politician Glenda Jackson, who won a Best Actress Oscar for her performance in Women in Love, paid tribute to Russell after news of his death was announced on Monday (28Nov11).
She told the BBC, “(It was) just wonderful to work with him and to work with him as often as I did. He created the kind of climate in which actors could do their job and I loved him dearly.”
Jackson insisted it’s “a great shame” Russell was not more widely recognised in the movie industry, adding: “It was almost as if he never existed – I find it utterly scandalous for someone who was so innovative and a film director of international stature.”
Joely Richardson, who starred in Russell’s BBC TV series Lady Chatterley, adds, “I will forever feel privileged and honoured to have worked with the great Ken Russell. More than that, I was extremely fond of the man himself.”
Russell’s fellow British filmmaker Michael Winner told the Daily Mirror, “I’ve known Ken since 1968. He was the most innovative director. I persuaded Oliver Reed to work with him even though Oliver said, ‘I’m not a TV star, I’m a movie star.’
“His television was in a field of its own, it was absolutely extraordinary. Then he graduated to movies… He was also a very nice person. He was very cheerful and very well-meaning. He had a very good run even though his style of picture-making became obsolete, but that happened to everyone, Billy Wilder and (Alfred) Hitchcock.”
Russell passed away in a hospital on Sunday (27Nov11) after a series of strokes. He is survived by his wife Elize.