Ben Cross, an English actor who appeared in film, television, and theatre, has passed away at the age of 72 in Vienna. The cause of death has been reported as an illness. His death was announced by his daughter Penny in a post on his Facebook page.
Cross, who appeared in over 100 film and television roles between 1972 and 2020, is probably best known for his roles as Olympic sprinter Harold Abrahams in the 1981 Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire, and as Spock's Vulcan father Sarek in the 2009 Star Trek reboot. He was also a veteran of the West End and Broadway stage.
Born Harry Bernard Cross on December 16, 1947, he worked various oddjobs in his early adulthood before being accepted into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. After graduation, he performed in several theaters across England, including Duke's Playhouse in Lancaster, Haymarket Theatre in Leicester, and as a member of the Prospect Theatre Company in Cambridge. He later joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, and achieved international recognition when he starred in the West End production of the musical Chicago.
He made his feature film debut in 1976 in Richard Attenborough's epic World War II film A Bridge Too Far. Part of an an ensemble cast that included Dirk Bogarde, Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Gene Hackman and James Caan; Cross played a British paratrooper who participates in an ill-fated Allied military operation in the Netherlands.
Cross' breakthrough came in 1981, when he portrayed real-life Olympic sprinter Harold Abrahams in Hugh Hudson's Chariots of Fire. Cross and his co-star Ian Charleson were cast after the producers deliberately sought on young, unknown leads. The role saw him undergo a grueling nine-moth training regimen to match the athleticism of his on-screen character. The film was an unexpected smash hit and won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and a BAFTA for Best Film.
Cross continued acting regularly on screen and on stage. He played vampire Barnabas Collins in a 1991 miniseries reboot of the classic soap opera Dark Shadows, and was a main cast member on the Cinemax action drama Banshee. He provided voiceover work for the animated series Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja. Cross also worked as a singer, lyricist, and musician, and recorded several singles throughout his life.
In 2009, Cross was reintroduced to a new generation of moviegoers when he played Spock's vulcan father Sarek in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek. Cross, a longtime science fiction fan, actively sought out the role and was cast by Abrams on the basis of his acting in a made-for-television horror film titled Species: The Awakening. To prepare for the role, Cross drew on own his experience as a parent.
At the time of his passing, Cross had just finished working on the horror film The Devil's Light, tentatively set for a Q1 2021 release. He had also just worked on the upcoming Netflix film The Last Letter from Your Lover.
Cross is survived by two children, Theo and Lauren, from his first wife Penny.