Film director Ken Russell has died at the age of 84.
He died peacefully in his sleep in a hospital on Sunday.
Oscar-nominated for his 1969 film Women In Love, controversy was never far from Russell’s work. Women in Love – an adaptation of the DH Lawrence novel -found notoriety when it was released in 1969 as a result of a nude wrestling scene between Oliver Reed and Alan Bates. The film won an Academy Award for leading lady Glenda Jackson, as well as nominations for cinematography, screenwriting and direction.
Oliver Reed said that Russell “started to go crazy” when he worked with him on the film. Reed said: “Before that he was a sane, likeable TV director. Now he’s an insane, likeable film director.”
Glenda Jackson told the BBC: “[It was] just wonderful to work with him and to work with him as often as I did… He created the kind of climate in which actors could do their job and I loved him dearly.”
Jackson added that she believes the director has been overlooked by the British film industry: “It was almost as if he never existed – I find it utterly scandalous for someone who was so innovative and a film director of international stature.”.
Russell’s censor-baiting didn’t end with Women In Love, and religious drama The Devils, which featured a scene sexualising the crucifixion was initially rejected by Warner Bros. It will be released in its entirety for the first time in March 2012, 42 years after it was made.
His best known work, however, is perhaps the 1975 rock opera Tommy, based on The Who’s 1969 concept album of the same name. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Russell struggled to find funding for his work, but in 2007 he returned to the public eye with an appearance in Celebrity Big Brother. He stuck around for just four days.
Russell is survived by his fourth wife, Elize.