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Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has shared a moving tribute to Sir Ian Holm, who passed away Friday at the age of 88.

Holm played Bilbo Baggins in Jackson’s enormously successful J.R.R. Tolkien film series, and in a lengthy Facebook post, Jackson described him as a “delightful, generous man” as well as “quiet, but cheeky, with a lovely twinkle in his eye.”

Jackson said he was initially intimidated to work with Holm – who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998 for services to drama – but recalled that the veteran actor “immediately put me at ease” on the very first day of filming.

“He took me to one side and said that he would be trying different things in every take, but I shouldn’t be alarmed. If, after five or six takes, he hadn’t given me what I needed, then by all means I should give him specific direction,” Jackson wrote. “And that’s exactly what we did. But incredibly his varied line reads and performances were all quite wonderful. He rarely needed direction. He gave us an amazing range of choices to select from in the cutting room.”

Jackson also recalled poignantly that when he first asked Holm to return for his The Hobbit trilogy in 2012, the actor politely declined.

“He confided that he’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and could no longer remember lines,” Jackson wrote. “He had difficulty walking, and certainly couldn’t travel to New Zealand. Always a private man, he told us that he’d basically retired, but wasn’t announcing it.”

Jackson then explained that Holm agreed to shoot his scenes close to home in London with only a “tiny crew” in front of him. “Elijah Wood and Ian had become friends back on Lord of the Rings, and Elijah was on set in London every day, giving Ian additional support,” Jackson said.

The director added: “In the finished movie, I hope that audiences just see Ian Holm reprising Bilbo. But what I experienced on set was a wonderful actor delivering his last performance. It was incredibly brave of him to do that, and very emotional for those who witnessed it.”

Sir Ian Holm is survived by his wife, photographer Sophie de Stempel, whom he married in 2003, and by his five children. Rest in peace.

What do you think of Jackson’s kind words? 

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Filed Under: Peter Jackson, Sir Ian Holm
By Nick Levine