October 4, 1923 – April 5, 2008 (84)
born John Charles Carter; he was an actor who appeared in almost 100 films over the course of 60 years. He played Moses in the epic film The Ten Commandments (1956), for which he received his first nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama and the title role in Ben-Hur (1959), for which he won the Oscar for Best Actor. He also starred in The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), Secret of the Incas (1954), Touch of Evil (1958) with Orson Welles, The Big Country (1958), El Cid (1961), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Khartoum (1966), Planet of the Apes (1968), The Omega Man (1971) and Soylent Green (1973).
In 1970, he portrayed Mark Antony in another film version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. His co-stars included Jason Robards as Brutus, Richard Chamberlain as Octavius, Robert Vaughn as Casca, and English actors Richard Johnson as Cassius, John Gielgud as Caesar, and Diana Rigg as Portia.
In 1973 he appeared in The Three Musketeers, playing Cardinal Richelieu in an all-star cast; He starred in Earthquake (1974), a disaster film; Airport 1975 (1975), another disaster film; Midway (1976) a war film.
Heston’s good run at the box office ended with Two-Minute Warning (1976), a disaster film, and The Last Hard Men (1976), a Western. He played King Henry VIII for The Prince and the Pauper (1977), from the Musketeers team, then starred in a disaster film, Gray Lady Down (1978).
Heston was in a Western written by his son, The Mountain Men (1980), and a horror film, The Awakening (1980). He made his second film as a director Mother Lode (1982) also written by his son.
From 1985 until 1987, he starred in his only prime time stint on a television series in the soap, The Colbys. With his son Fraser, he produced and starred in several TV movies, including remakes of Treasure Island and A Man For All Seasons. In 1992, Heston appeared on the A&E cable network in a short series of videos, Charlton Heston Presents the Bible, reading passages from the King James version.
In 1993, Heston teamed up with John Anthony West and Robert M. Schoch in an Emmy Award-winning NBC special, The Mystery of the Sphinx.
Never taking himself too seriously, he also made a few appearances as “Chuck” in Dame Edna Everage’s shows, both on stage and on television. Heston appeared in 1993 in a cameo role in Wayne’s World 2. That same year, Heston hosted Saturday Night Live. He had cameos in the films Hamlet, Tombstone, and True Lies.
He starred in many theatre productions at the Los Angeles Music Center, where he appeared in Detective Story and The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, and as Sherlock Holmes in The Crucifer of Blood, opposite Richard Johnson as Dr. Watson. In 2001, he made a cameo appearance as an elderly, dying chimpanzee in Tim Burton’s remake of Planet of the Apes. His last film role was as Josef Mengele in Rua Alguem 5555: My Father, which had limited release (mainly to festivals) in 2003.
Heston’s distinctive voice landed him roles as a film narrator, including Armageddon and Disney’s Hercules. He played the title role in Mister Roberts three times and cited it as one of his favorite roles. In 1998, Heston had a cameo role playing himself in the American television series Friends, in the episode “The One with Joey’s Dirty Day”. In 2000, he played Chief Justice Haden Wainwright in The Outer Limits episode “Final Appeal”.
In 1996, Heston had a hip replacement. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1998. Following a course of radiation treatment, the cancer went into remission.
On August 9, 2002, he publicly announced (via a taped message) that he had been diagnosed with symptoms consistent with Alzheimer’s disease. In July 2003, in his final public appearance, Heston received the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House from President George W. Bush.
Heston died on the morning of April 5, 2008, at his home in Beverly Hills, California, with Lydia, his wife of 64 years, by his side. He was also survived by their son, Fraser Clarke Heston, and daughter, Holly Ann Heston. The cause of death was reported to be due to pneumonia.