Malibu resident Robert Altman dies

Malibu mourns the loss of a film legend.

By Kim Devore / Special to The Malibu Times

Robert Altman, who died Monday at a Los Angeles Hospital, is being remembered in Malibu and throughout the world as one of the most loved and prolific directors of our time. His films, with their rich, multilayered storylines and all-star ensemble casts were Hollywood favorites. They included “The Player,” “Nashville,” “McCabe & Mrs. Miller,” “Short Cuts” and “Gosford Park.”

Although he had been writing and directing episodic television for years, Altman became a household name in 1970 when he accepted a script that 15 other directors had turned down. The script was “MASH.”

One of Altman’s last public appearances was at the Malibu Celebration of Film in early October where the legendary director received the Sandy Courage Award.

MCOF Executive Director Kim Jackson described Altman as “America’s independent maverick, an iconic, classic filmmaker.” She echoed the sentiments of many by saying, “It was certainly a career highlight to work with him.”

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City Councilmember Sharon Barovsky, who lives down the street from the Altman home on Malibu Road, remembers the director as a friend and neighbor.

“He was salty,” she said, “but with a great generosity of spirit.”

Barovsky added that Malibu had a special place in the director’s heart.

“He loved Malibu,” she said. “This is where he came to decompress.”

Altman kept making films right till the end, most recently with Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Virginia Madsen and Lindsay Lohan in “A Prairie Home Companion.” He was a man who loved his work and lived for his work. Once, when asked about retirement, he quipped, “Retirement? You’re talking about death right?”

Altman was unique on screen and off. He was respected as a professional who stuck to his guns and never played the Hollywood game. He was a man who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind even when it came to the people he worked for.

“The idea of paying some chief executive $40 million a year is just obscene,” he once said. “I don’t deny it’s nice to have silk sheets or whatever, but we live in a deeply unequal society and our luxury is both excessive and wasteful.”

Earlier this year, Altman received an Academy Award for a lifetime of artistic achievement. He used the occasion to announce for the first time publicly that he has undergone a heart transplant operation. It was a secret he kept to himself for more than a decade out of fear that no one would hire him. Addressing the Academy audience, Altman displayed his usual grace and humor saying, “I’m here, I think, under kind of false pretenses, and I have to become straight with you. Eleven years ago, I had a heart transplant-a total heart transplant. I got the heart of a young woman who was in her late ’30s. So, by that calculation, you may be giving me this award too early, because I think I got about ’40 years left on it-and I intend to use it.”

Altman is survived by his wife, Kathryn Reed Altman; six children, Christine Westphal, Michael Altman, Stephen Altman, Connie Corriere, Robert Reed Altman and Matthew Altman; 12 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

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