Charlton Heston 1924-2008
Charlton Heston, the Oscar-winning actor who went from biblical epics to uttering some of classic sci-fi’s most memorable lines, died Saturday. He was 84.
Heston played Moses in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 film The Ten Commandments and went on to win the 1959 best actor Oscar for his portrayal of a chariot driver in Ben-Hur.
He acted in more than 100 films and TV shows, participated in ’50s-era civil rights marches, served as president of the Screen Actors Guild and chairman of the American Film Institute, and became president of the National Rifle Association.
Heston also roared out some of sci-fi’s greatest and most memorable lines, bringing his macho swagger and over-the-top intensity to the screen in movies like 1973’s food freak-out flick Soylent Green and the Planet of the Apes series.
In a pivotal scene from 1968’s Planet of the Apes (see clip), Heston’s character, time-traveling astronaut George Taylor, utters the first words spoken by a human to the simian rulers of a bizarro future Earth: “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!”
In Soylent Green, a dystopian flick about a future Earth overheated by greenhouse gases and overpopulated by hungry people, scientists cook up a kind of space-age tofu out of mysterious ingredients. At the end of the film, Heston’s Det. Robert Thorn utters the classically disturbing truth: “Soylent Green is people!”
“If Hollywood had a Mt. Rushmore, Heston’s face would be on it,” said Michael Levine, who worked as the actor’s publicist for about two decades. “He was a heroic figure that I don’t think exists to the same degree in Hollywood today.”
Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes.