Actress Lindsay Lohan considered him to be a father figure, while others in Hollywood simply called him “a legend.” Now, those who knew and loved Robert Altman will have to call upon their memories of him. According to his publicist, the 81-year-old director died in Los Angeles Monday night. His cause of death wasn’t disclosed.
You may not remember what he looked like, but I’m sure you remember his name. Altman, who received an honorary Academy Award for his lifetime’s work as a director earlier this year, made such classics as “M*A*S*H,” “Nashville” and “The Player.” He was nominated for seven Academy Awards for those projects over his career, including Best Director for “M*A*S*H” in 1971, “Nashville” in 1976, and “The Player” in 1993– but didn’t win any of them.
That may be the reason the Academy of Motion Pictures bestowed Altman with an honorary Oscar this year. Altman was admired in Hollywood for his humility, which was articulated in his Oscar acceptance speech.
“No other filmmaker has gotten a better shake than I have,” Altman said while accepting the award. “I’m very fortunate in my career. I’ve never had to direct a film I didn’t choose or develop. My love for filmmaking has given me an entree to the world and to the human condition.”
According to entertainment trade publications, Altman was known for creating largely improvised features, often with big ensemble casts and interconnected story lines. Many consider “Nashville,” a drama about the country-western music business and the election campaign of an unseen political candidate, to be his crowning glory.
Those who knew Altman well said that he was known around town for “refusing to play the studio game in Hollywood.” All of the films he made in the past two decades were independently financed.
His most recent film was this year’s “A Prairie Home Companion,” starring Lohan who told reporters upon hearing the news of his death, “I feel as if I’ve just had the wind knocked out of me and my heart aches.”
PEOPLE magazine also printed a quote that Altman made shortly before his death. Speaking of his age and his commitment to directing Altman said: “As long as I am living that’s what I’ll be doing – making movies.”
Altman is survived by his wife, Kathryn, his four sons, and his daughter.