Actor, Ben Cross, best known for his portrayal of British Olympic athlete, Harold Abrahams in “Chariots of Fire.” And Sarek in the 2009 “Star Trek” reboot, passed away on August 18. He was 72 years old.
“Today the world has lost a talent, but our family has lost a beloved husband, dad, and grandpa”
Cross, who had been working recently, died Tuesday morning in Vienna, Austria, from an unspecified illness according to his family. His daughter, Lauren, posted the news via his Facebook account, writing, “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.”
“Today the world has lost a talent, but our family has lost a beloved husband, dad, and grandpa. He was a born showman and entertainer. A walking encyclopedia of music who could sing anything,” the family said in a statement. “He was a man who taught us to embrace our feelings, whatever they may be. We are grateful for the time we had with him.”
A statement from his 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.’
Rise To Fame
Cross was born Harry Bernard Cross in London in 1947 to a working-class family. He began acting at a young age, participating in grammar school plays. But he left school to work as a window cleaner, waiter, joiner and carpenter. He was eventually accepted into London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts at age 22. He excelled at RADA and won the acting school’s prestigious Vanbrugh Prize for performance of the year. He would go on to claim a string of key stage roles and made his big-screen debut on 1977 World War II epic, “A Bridge Too Far.”
In 1978, he also became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company before gaining fame playing the role of Billy Flynn, in the musical, “Chicago.” The part led to his breakthrough casting, as Olympic runner Harold Abrahams, in the Brit classic, “Chariots of Fire.”
His Breakthrough: Chariots of Fire
Chariots of Fire followed the true story of two Olympic athletes and their different reasons for seeking gold. Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a devout Christian, sees running as part of his worship to God. While Harold Abrahams (Cross), a Jewish athlete ran to overcome anti-Semitism and class bias. Cross was under the impression that the film wouldn’t be “going beyond the English shores.” However, It became a hit in the US and went on to win 4 Oscars including one for Best Picture.
“A film like that is professionally life-changing,” he said in 2012. “Suddenly, you get offered lots of work, which is lovely. But since then I have done 80 or 90 projects, none of which have been in any way as successful.”
Other Notable Works
Cross followed up Chariots of Fire with a number of versatile projects. Including 10-part BBC drama, “The Citadel,” HBO spy film, “Steal The Sky,” NBC miniseries, “Twist of Fate.” And the same network’s “Dark Shadows” revival. Other notable stage roles that decade were in John Guare’s play “Lydie Breeze.” As well as opposite Charlton Heston in the revival of “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.”
In 1995, Cross starred as the villain Prince Malagant opposite Richard Gere, Sean Connery and Julia Ormond in Columbia Pictures action-adventure “First Knight.” He played Prince Charles in “William & Kate: The Movie.” The Veteran actor also portrayed the role of Sarek, Spock’s father, in 2009’s “Star Trek”, directed and produced by JJ Abrams.
Among recent performances were the CW series “Pandora” and 2018 action movie “The Hurricane Heist.” Netflix’s “Last Letter from Your Lover,” in which Cross starred with Shailene Woodley and Felicity Jones, is currently in post. The actor had also been cast in movies in development, including, “Resilient 3D” and “Liberty.” Cross wrapped his last role as Cardinal Mathews in Lionsgate’s “The Devil’s Light” only ten days ago.
Cross was married three times and is survived by his wife, Deyana Boneva Cross. His two children, Theo and Lauren Cross. As well as three grandchildren, Violet, Zinnia, and Alexander.