18 August 2020 22:36
Ben Cross, the English actor best known for his portrayal of the British Olympic athlete Harold Abrahams in the 1981 Best Picture Oscar winner Chariots of Fire and as Sarek in the 2009 reboot Star Trek, died today in Vienna after a short illness. The veteran stage and screen star's family confirmed the news to Deadline. Cross was born Harry Bernard Cross in London in 1947 to a working-class family. He began acting at a young age, participating in grammar school plays, but left school to work as a window cleaner, waiter, joiner and carpenter before being accepted into London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts at age 22. He excelled at RADA and won the acting school's prestigious Vanbrugh Prize for performance of the year.
He would go on to claim a string of key stage roles and made his big-screen debut on 1977 World War II epic A Bridge Too Far. Chariots Of Fire Warner Bros Cross' path to international stardom began in 1978 with his performance in the play Chicago, in which he played Billy Flynn, the slick lawyer of murderess Roxie Hart. His performance prompted his casting in the Brit classic Chariots of Fire, alongside actors such as Ian Charleson, Ian Holm and John Gielgud. Based on a true story, the box office smash and four-time Oscar winner charted the story of two British track athletes — one a Jew who ran to overcome prejudice and the other a devout Christian who ran for the glory of God — who competed in the 1924 Olympics. For their acclaimed performances as fierce running rivals, Cross and co-star Charleson both won Most Promising Artist of 1981 from the Variety Club Awards. Cross followed up Chariots of Fire with projects including 10-part BBC drama The Citadel, HBO spy film Steal The Sky, NBC miniseries Twist of Fate and the same network's Dark Shadows revival.
Among notable stage roles that decade were in John Guare's play Lydie Breeze and opposite Charlton Heston in the revival of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial. In 1995, Cross starred as the villain Prince Malagant opposite Richard Gere, Sean Connery and Julia Ormond in Columbia Pictures action-adventure pic First Knight, and was cast as Sarek in 2009's Star Trek, directed and produced by JJ Abrams. Among recent performances were the CW series Pandora and 2018 action movie The Hurricane Heist and the actor wrapped his last role as Cardinal Mathews in Lionsgate horror The Devil's Light only 10 days ago. In post-production is Netflix romance Last Letter from Your Lover, in which Cross starred with Shailene Woodley, Felicity Jones, Joe Alwyn and Callum Turner. The actor also had been cast in development movies including Resilient 3D and Liberty. Cross, who was married three times, is survived by his wife Deyana Boneva Cross, and his two children, Theo and Lauren. Here is a sampling of tributes to the actor on social media: We just lost a member of our @seriespandora family. Ben was an incredible actor and a delight to work with. He will be greatly missed by all of us. #BenCross #pandoraCW — Mark A. Altman (@markaaltman) August 18, 2020 RIP #bencross. We worked together on Steal the Sky For HBO IN 1988. We worked in Jerusalem together. It was right after having my first baby dreelouisehemingway #goodpeople #beforehistime #movies #hbo @hbo — Mariel Hemingway (@MarielHemingway) August 18, 2020 godspeed my scandalous friend — angus macfadyen (@macfadyenangus) August 18, 2020 Ben Cross, best known for his starring role in Chariots Of Fire, has died at the age of 72. The actor was lauded for his portrayal of British Olympic athlete Harold Abrahams in the 1981 film, which won four Oscars including best picture. A statement from his representatives said: "Ben passed away suddenly today following a short illness. He had just finished shooting The Devil's Light for Lionsgate and later this year will be seen in Last Letter From Your Lover in a leading role." A post on his Facebook page, which claims to be written by his daughter Lauren, said Cross experienced a "rapid decline" in the last week. It said: "I am utterly heartbroken to share with you that my darling father died a few hours ago. "He had been sick for a while but there was a rapid decline over the past week. "The press will be announcing his death soon, I just wanted you all, his most loyal and loving fans, to hear it from us first. "Thank you for all your support over the years. He really enjoyed interacting with you." Cross was born Harry Bernard Cross in London to a working class Catholic family. Ben Cross, centre, with Alex Ferns and Sanjeev Bhaskar at the curtain call for the play Art in London in 2002 (PA) In 1970, he was accepted into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (Rada) aged 22. Advertising After graduating, he moved from the stage to screen and appeared in a minor role in 1977's A Bridge Too Far alongside Sir Sean Connery and Sir Michael Caine. The same year he became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and performed in Privates On Parade. He found wider success in 1978 appearing in the play Chicago as Billy Flynn, the lawyer representing murderer Roxie Hart. That performance is widely believed to have earned him his role in Chariots Of Fire. Ben Cross starred alongside Sir Ian Holm in Chariots Of Fire (Toby Melville/PA) Cross played athlete Abrahams, with the late Sir Ian Holm nominated for an Oscar as best supporting actor in his role as coach Sam Mussabini in the film based on the true story of two British men racing for Olympic gold in 1924. In the intervening years, he appeared as Malagant in 1995's First Knight and Sarek in the 2009 Star Trek reboot. Shortly before his death he finished filming the horror feature The Devil's Light for Lionsgate. Cross has two children, Lauren and Theo. Ben Cross and I were working together on#DevilsLight 12 days ago before he headed off to Vienna. It was good working with him, seeing his twinkle & his craft. He wrote songs for the Sinatra of Bulgaria, had so many stories & spoke in Bulgarian and German on set. — Colin Salmon (@colinsalmon24) August 18, 2020 James Bond star Colin Salmon, who worked on The Devil's Light alongside Cross, was among those paying tribute. He said on Twitter: "Ben Cross and I were working together on#DevilsLight 12 days ago before he headed off to Vienna. "It was good working with him, seeing his twinkle & his craft. "He wrote songs for the Sinatra of Bulgaria, had so many stories & spoke in Bulgarian and German on set. Go Well Ben RIP." At the beginning of my career, I met #Bencross while casting a feature. We shot a screen test at Pinewood Studios. Ben Cross was a lovely man and talented actor. #RIP pic.twitter.com/slLAsXSAqH — Todd Holland (@ToddHolland3) August 18, 2020 US television and film director Todd Holland also shared a tribute, writing: "At the beginning of my career, I met #Bencross while casting a feature. "We shot a screen test at Pinewood Studios. I went to his home for dinner with his family. "Ben Cross was a lovely man and talented actor. That movie never got made. But… what a classy guy."