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RIP: Charlton Heston

Actor Charlton Heston has passed away at age 84. Science Fiction fans remember him from Planet of the Apes (1968) (based on the Pierre Boulle novel), The Omega Man (1971n Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend) and Soylent Green (1973, based on Make Room, Make Room! by Harry Harrison).

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About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

11 Comments on RIP: Charlton Heston

  1. I wonder what was in his cold, dead hand.

  2. Ummmmmm….THE OMEGA MAN??? Hello?? Based on Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend. That deserves to be listed between Apes (“Get your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty undertaker!”) and Soylent (“Soylent Green is….ME!”).

    Also Beneath the Planet of the Apes, cameo as ape in the dreadful Apes remake, and I’ll even throw in The 10 Commandments as fantasy by some measures.

    And how about some attempt at eulogy?

    You don’t get more uber-iconic in the cinema sci-fi genre than Chuck. Arnold is the only one who comes close, followed distantly maybe by Will Smith. What Heston’s resume lacks in number of genre films, it gains a thousandfold in the coolness of those films and their importance to sci-fi–not on a gravitas level like, for instance, 2001, but on a visceral, populist level. What Lucas is to the genre as a director, Heston is as an actor.

  3. RIP indeed. I hope that Charleton Heston has gone home and skipped the biscuit factory on the way. He was definitely the premier genre actor of his time. Soylent Green has got to be the most depressing story ever and Planet of the Apes is an astoundingly creative story. And although it’s not sci fi, the Ten Commandments is my all time favorite Heston movie. Heston’s film presense and obvious enthusiasm for telling stories such as Apes, Omega Man and Soylent Green added to the gripping and enduring power of those movies.

    I’m sorry to see the passing of this acting legend, but he appears to have had a long good life. I will miss his roles as smart and worldly heroes that are all alpha male but without too much machismo sprinkled on top.

  4. @Greg: Ack! What a glaring oversight…post updated. And I don’t think I could outdo your eulogy.

  5. A no-longer-living legend. See a tribute from the sci fi side at

  6. Lookit Trnt, makin’ with the pix. We need to start a LOL-Signal….

  7. Ummm, Greg L., how could you POSSIBLY limit top-tier sci-fi icons to Heston and Arnold without mentioning one of the most iconic film sci-fi actors of all time, a man quite literally known around the world for his portrayal of a (perhaps THE) landmark sci-fi character? I of course am talking about SHATNER. I mean, come on! Captain Kirk has got to be one of the most well-known characters across the globe in the history of pop culture. And don’t give me this “he belongs to TV” crap. The TV series made the character, but the very popular movies (again, not just in the U.S. but around the world) catapulted him even further. Shatner is a sci-fi GOD. And there are few better cinema sci-fi characters than Captain Kirk, and few better sci-fi performances than Shatner’s in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” While Heston and Arnold may have played more sci-fi roles than Shatner, that is irrelevant. If you’re talking about identifying icons, Shatner stands tall.

  8. I, too, worship at the altar of Shat. I absolutely agree with you, Bill S., on Shatner’s iconic status. I did purposely limit my comments to movies, since that was Heston’s milieu. I don’t think Shatner “belongs” on TV. But I do think that Trek is, essentially, a TV phenomenon at its core. And that is not to denegrate it–it, and Kirk, are no less iconic in the overall genre pantheon. It’s just a different category. No insult intended!

    In fact, I think Shatner is very much an actor in the Heston style. And “Khan” is one of the best examples of that! Can you imagine the clash of titans if Capt. Kirk ran into Col. Taylor??!!??!! (Of course, they would team up in the end and defeat whatever menance they were facing.) What a franchise crossover THAT would be!

    So yes, if I were making a list of all-time great sci-fi icons, regardless of medium, Shat would probably be tied with Heston for first. I’d be hard pressed to pick one over the other. Please don’t make me choose!!!

  9. Greg L. // April 8, 2008 at 2:27 pm //

    P.S. Here’s a great Heston eulogy. Most references to Heston in “Apes” focus on the more obvious stuff–the strangeness of the concept and the “get your stinking paws off me” scene chewing. But I think Morgenstern and Kael correctly zero in on what always draws me to the character of Taylor–the cranky, cynical misogynist forced to actually defend humanity. Nobody could play that but Heston….or like Heston.

  10. Greg splitting hairs, ape or otherwise, as he always does. Shatner is larger than life, just like the medium of film in which he so boldly plays. I KNOW that “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” is on your all-time sci-fi FILM top 10 list. And no matter WHAT the origin of something, it does not matter when it comes to where someone winds up. James Dean was an actor in theater. That was his origin. He was discovered by Hollywood. He made only THREE films, and he nonetheless is a screen icon. Shatner is a sci-fi icon, regardless of medium. You diss Shat by not including him on your big-screen icons list. You should be ASHAMED. I’m telling Shat…

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