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Paul Newman


26 January 1925 – 26 September 2008 (Aged 83)

Newman was a legendary American actor and philanthropist, recognized as one of the greatest actors in cinema history and whose charity work has touched the lives of millions of people.

Among his most famous films are The HustlerCool Hand LukeButch Cassidy and the Sundance KidThe Sting, and The Verdict. Newman is one of only four actors to have been nominated for an Academy Award in five different decades.

After getting kicked off the college football team, Newman pursued his interest in acting, before serving in the Pacific theater with the United States Navy during World War II as a radio operator. After the war, he studied with Lee Strasberg at the famed Actor’s Studio.

In 1982, Newman founded Newman’s Own food company, which started with a homemade salad dressing that Newman and his friend A.E. Hotchner used to prepare themselves and give to friends as gifts.

Newman established a company policy that all proceeds would be donated to charity, with over $500 million being generated for charity to date. He also started the Scott Newman Center for drug abuse prevention in memory of his son who died from a drug overdose.

In 1988, Newman co-founded the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a residential summer camp for seriously ill children.

Now known as the SeriousFun Children’s Network, 30 camps worldwide are operating, serving thousands of kids each year, free of charge.

A keen auto racing enthusiast, Newman drove in the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans, finishing in second place. He was also a frequent competitor in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) events, winning 4 national championships.

In 1995, at the age of 70 years and 8 days, Newman became the oldest driver to date to be part of a winning team in a major sanctioned race, winning in his class at the 24 Hours of Daytona. He was posthumously inducted into the SCCA Hall of Fame in 2009.

Newman was married twice, first to Jackie Witte, with whom he had three kids. In 1958, they divorced and he married actress Joanne Woodward. Renowned as a devoted family man, they remained inseparable until his death.

They were also one of the first Hollywood couples to choose to raise their family outside of California.

A lifelong political activist and Democrat, Newman attended the March on Washington and was a vocal supporter of numerous social causes.

In 1986, Newman received an honorary Academy Award in recognition of his life’s work in film. Newman died from lung cancer at the age of 83.

Edmund Hillary


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20 July 1919 – 11 January 2008 (Aged 88)

Hillary was a historic explorer and mountaineer from New Zealand who, along with Nepalese Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, became the first climber confirmed to have reached the summit of Mount Everest on 29 May 1953.

During World War II, Hillary served as a navigator in the Royal New Zealand Air Force. After the war, he pursued his mountaineering ambitions and scaled New Zealand’s highest peak in 1948.

In 1958, he was part of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition that reached the South Pole overland.

In 1985, Hillary, along with famed astronaut Neil Armstrong, also reached the North Pole to become the first man to stand at both poles and on the summit of Everest.

Over the course of his life, Hillary remained humble despite his exploits and received numerous honors from countries around the world.

In 1975, he suffered a devastating loss when his wife and youngest daughter were killed in a plane crash.

In 1960, Hillary devoted himself to assisting the Sherpa people of Nepal through establishing the Himalayan Trust.

His efforts through the Trust are credited with the construction of many schools and hospitals in this remote region of the Himalayas.

Hillary died from heart failure at the age of 88. Time magazine has listed him as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

Heath Ledger


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4 April 1979 – 22 January 2008 (Aged 28)

Ledger was an Australian actor best known for his roles in films such as 10 Things I Hate About YouThe PatriotA Knight’s Tale, Brokeback Mountain, and The Dark Knight, for which he was posthumously awarded the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Ledger died from an accidental intoxication from prescription drugs at the age of 28. A few months before his death, Ledger had finished filming his iconic performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight.

In 2011, Ledger’s hometown of Perth named a 575-seat theatre the Heath Ledger Theatre. 

Ledger had a daughter with actress Michelle Williams, Matilda Rose, who the Academy determined would own the award.

Ledger became only the second person to win a posthumous Academy Award for acting, the other being Peter Finch, who won for 1976’s Network.

Ledger was also the first comic-book movie actor to win an Oscar for their acting.

George Carlin


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12 May 1937 – 22 June 2008 (Aged 71)

Carlin was an influential American comedian renowned for his black comedy and reflections on subjects such as politics and religion.

In 1978, one of his routines resulted in a 5–4 U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming the government’s power to regulate indecent material on the public airwaves, in the case  F.C.C. v. Pacifica Foundation.

Over the course of his career, Carlin recorded 14 comedy specials for HBO. In 1987, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

He also appeared in a number of films, such as 1990’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and Dogma in 1999.

Carlin was posthumously awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2008. He died from heart failure at the age of 71.

In 2017, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Carlin as second on its list of the 50 best stand-up comics of all time.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


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11 December 1918 – 3 August 2008 (Aged 89)

Solzhenitsyn was a Russian author who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970, yet only received his prize in 1974 after he had been expelled from the Soviet Union.

His work helped raise global awareness of the Gulag forced labor camp system.

During World War II, Solzhenitsyn served as a commander in the Red Army and was twice decorated, being awarded the Order of the Red Star in 1944.

In 1945, while serving in East Prussia, Solzhenitsyn was arrested for writing derogatory comments about Joseph Stalin in private letters to a friend.

He was taken to the Lubyanka prison in Moscow and sentenced to eight years in a labor camp.

During his imprisonment at the camp in Ekibastuz, Kazakhstan, he worked as a miner and bricklayer. His experiences here formed the basis for his book One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

In 1956, Solzhenitsyn was exonerated and freed from exile. On return, Solzhenitsyn was a teacher at a secondary school during the day and secretly writing by night.

In 1971, Solzhenitsyn was poisoned with what was later found to be ricin, but he survived. 

After the publication of his acclaimed book The Gulag Archipelago in 1973, he was charged with treason and exiled from the Soviet Union.

In 1994, Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia after the state’s dissolution. He began publishing his autobiography in installments in 1998, with the final installment being released five years before his death.

He died of heart failure at the age of 89.

Charlton Heston


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4 October 1923 – 5 April 2008 (Aged 84)

Heston was a prolific and renowned American actor most recognized for his role as Moses in The Ten Commandments in 1956, and his Academy Award-winning role as Ben Hur in 1959. 

Among his other most famous films are Antony and Cleopatra, Touch of EvilEl CidPlanet of the ApesThe Big Country, and The Greatest Story Ever Told. In total, he appeared in nearly 100 films over the course of his 60 years in Hollywood.

During World War II, Heston served as a radio operator and aerial gunner in the U.S. Air Force, reaching the rank of staff sergeant.

After the war he returned to pursue his acting career, making his Broadway debut in Antony and Cleopatra in 1947.

During the 1960s, he was a vocal supporter of Democrats and civil rights but later became a Republican, notably supporting Ronald Reagan, and was president of the National Rifle Association from 1998 to 2003.

After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2002, he retired from both acting and the NRA presidency.

In 2003, Heston was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush. He died in 2008 at the age of 84.

Bernie Mac


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5 October 1957 – 9 August 2008 (Aged 52)

Mac was a much-loved American stand-up comedian and actor, best known as the star of the Bernie Mac Show, which ran from 2001 to 2006.

From an early age, Mac loved performing stand-up, and after losing his mother, brother, father, and grandmother, in a short period of time, he realized the healing power of laughter.

Mac began telling jokes for change in the Chicago subway before he established himself on the comedy club circuit in 1977.

In the early 1990s, Mac made numerous appearances on HBO’s Def Comedy Jam, also helping to put his name on the map.

In 2000, Mac joined fellow comedians Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer, and D. L. Hughley for Spike Lee’s The Original Kings of Comedy, bringing his comedy to a wider audience and his popularity to another level.

Mac appeared in several films, such as playing Frank Catton in Ocean’s Eleven and Bosley in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. As the star of The Bernie Mac Show, Mac earned two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.

In his final years, Mac suffered from sarcoidosis, a disease that causes inflammation in tissue, which frequently attacked his lungs. 

After undergoing unsuccessful treatment, Mac went into cardiac arrest and died from complications of pneumonia at the age of 52.

Yves Saint Laurent

(Fashion Designer)

1 August 1936 – 1 June 2008 (Aged 71)

Saint Laurent was one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century.

In 1953, having won a contest for young fashion designers, Saint Laurent was hired by Christian Dior.

Four years later, Saint Laurent had become the head designer of the House of Dior by the age of 21.

After a less than amicable split from Dior, Saint Laurent, backed by his partner, the industrialist Pierre Bergé, started his own fashion house in 1961, going on to become one of the world’s most iconic brands.

In 1983, he was the first living designer to receive a solo exhibition in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

In 2001, he was awarded the rank of Commander of the Legion of Honour by French President Jacques Chirac.

During his life, Saint Laurent struggled with alcohol and cocaine addiction. He died of brain cancer at his Paris home at the age of 71.

Harold Pinter


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10 October 1930 – 24 December 2008 (Aged 78)

Pinter was an influential British playwright whose writing career spanned more than 50 years. 

His plays are renowned for their use of understatement to convey the thoughts and feelings of the characters.

At the age of 18, Pinter was a conscientious objector, having experienced living through the Blitz, and refused to enlist in the military as part of his national service, for which he was fined.

Among his best-known works are The Birthday PartyThe French Lieutenant’s Woman,  The HomecomingBetrayal, The Servant, and The Room. 

In 1996, he received a Laurence Olivier Special Award in recognition of his lifetime achievements in theatre.

In 2005, Pinter was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature but was not well enough to accept the prize in person.

In 2007, he was awarded the French Legion of Honour. He died from cancer of the oesophagus at the age of 78.

Isaac Hayes


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20 August 1942 – 10 August 2008 (Aged 65)

Hayes was a renowned American singer-songwriter, best known for writing the songs “Soul Man” and the “Theme from Shaft“, as well as voicing “Chef” in South Park.

During the 1960s, Hayes was one of the main creative forces at Stax Records, working as an in-house songwriter and record producer, work which ultimately saw him inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005.

One of Hayes’s most acclaimed song is “Soul Man”, which he wrote along with David Porter and was performed by Sam & Dave.

The song’s influence has been recognized by the Grammy Hall of Fame, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Rolling Stone magazine.

In 1971, Hayes won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for the “Theme from Shaft“, becoming only the third African-American to win an Academy Award in a competitive field, after Sidney Poitier and Hattie McDaniel.

Hayes also voiced the character of “Chef” in the TV series South Park. However, in 2006, he angrily quit the show after an episode mocked Scientology, a religion he had joined in the mid-1990s.

During his career, he also won three Grammy Awards and a Golden Globe Award. In 2002, Hayes was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Hayes died after suffering from a stroke at the age of 65.