Published On: Wed, Aug 19th, 2020

Chariots of Fire star Ben Cross dies after short illness | Ents & Arts News

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Chariots of Fire actor Ben Cross has died at the age of 72 after a short illness.

Cross starred as the British Olympic athlete Harold Abrahams in the 1981 film, which won four Oscars, including best picture.

The film marked a turning point in British cinema and prompted writer Colin Welland to declare “The British are coming” as he accepted his Academy Award for best screenplay.

Colin Welland with his Oscar for best screenplay
Image:
Colin Welland with his Oscar for best screenplay

A statement from Cross’s representatives said: “Ben passed away suddenly today following a short illness.

“He had just finished shooting The Devil’s Light for Lionsgate and later this year will be seen in Last Letter From Your Lover in a leading role.”

A post on his Facebook page, which claims to be written by his daughter Lauren, said Cross experienced a “rapid decline” in the last week.

It said: “I am utterly heartbroken to share with you that my darling father died a few hours ago. He had been sick for a while but there was a rapid decline over the past week.

“The press will be announcing his death soon, I just wanted you all, his most loyal and loving fans, to hear it from us first.

“Thank you for all your support over the years. He really enjoyed interacting with you.”

Ben Cross with the Queen Mother at the premiere of Chariots of Fire in 1981
Image:
Ben Cross with the Queen Mother at the premiere of Chariots of Fire in 1981

Born into a working class London family in 1947, Harry Bernard Cross studied acting at Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (Rada).

In 1977 he had a minor role in A Bridge Too Far alongside Sir Sean Connery and Sir Michael Caine, before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company.

He found wider success in 1978 appearing in the play Chicago as Billy Flynn, the lawyer representing murderer Roxie Hart.

That performance is widely believed to have earned him his role in Chariots Of Fire.

The real Harold Abrahams winning the 100m final in the 1924 Paris Olympics
Image:
The real Harold Abrahams winning the 100m final in the 1924 Paris Olympics

Cross played athlete Harold Abrahams in the film based on the true story of two British men racing for Olympic gold in 1924.

In the intervening years, he appeared as Malagant in 1995’s First Knight and Sarek in the 2009 Star Trek reboot.

Shortly before his death he finished filming the horror feature The Devil’s Light for Lionsgate.

Cross has two children, Lauren and Theo.

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James Bond star Colin Salmon, who worked on The Devil’s Light alongside Cross, was among those paying tribute.

He said on Twitter: “Ben Cross and I were working together on#DevilsLight 12 days ago before he headed off to Vienna.

“It was good working with him, seeing his twinkle & his craft.

“He wrote songs for the Sinatra of Bulgaria, had so many stories & spoke in Bulgarian and German on set. Go Well Ben RIP.”



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