The Oscar nominated filmmaker Ken Russell passed away in hospital at the age of 84 on Sunday night after suffering a series of strokes. Russel, whose daring and sometimes outrageous films often tested the patience of audiences and critics had recently agreed to direct the feature film ‘Alice In Wonderland The Musical’ and he was working on the script and casting of that film.
Russel’s widow, Elize Tribble, announced: ‘It is with great sadness that I can confirm that Ken Russell passed away peacefully in his sleep on Sunday afternoon. It was completely unexpected, as he was doing what he loved.
‘He had recently agreed to direct the feature film Alice In Wonderland The Musical and he was working on the script and casting of that. He also had just completed an article for The Times on a review of the re-release of his film The Devils, so he was keeping himself very busy.
‘I am in the process of informing his extended family who are, like me, devastated at Ken’s passing.’ This was confirmed by his son Alex Verney-Elliott who said: “My father died peacefully. He had had a series of strokes. He died with a smile on his face.”
Russell is famous for making several controversial films, including ‘Women In Love’ – which became famous for featuring a scene in which Oliver Reed and Alan Bates wrestled naked and earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Director – religious drama ‘The Devils’, ‘The Music Lovers’ and The Who’s iconic rock opera ‘Tommy.’
Tributes to him have started to pour in from the movie industry with his friend and fellow filmmaker Michael Winner, 76, describing him as an artist who “pushed the barriers completely.”
Winner – who had been friends with Russell since 1968 – said: “Among many achievements that spring to mind, he made British cinema less insular and self-referential. He was also a leading creative force in the history of British television. He will be widely mourned … He pushed the barriers completely and got away with it sometimes and didn’t others, but he made some startling movies. He had an eye for the composition of each image on the screen – a great eye for imagery and then, of course, he had a great idea for the grotesque.”
Russell’s TV work included an adaptation of D. H. Lawrence’s erotic novel ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ and Joely Richardson, who starred opposite Sean Bean in the 1993 BBC series, has praised the filmmaker’s contribution to British cinema and television.
She said: “I will forever feel privileged and honoured to have worked with the great Ken Russell. More than that, I was extremely fond of the man himself.”
Although his made very few films in the 90s and the last decade, Russell appeared briefly on ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ in 2007 but left after less than a week after getting involved in an argument with late reality TV star Jade Goody.
Rest in peace Ken.