The world lost trailblazers, pioneers and giants this year from many walks of life.
Take a look back at the international stars who died in 2022.
Robbie Coltrane, beloved Harry Potter actor
Robbie Coltrane, the Scottish actor who played the half-giant Hagrid in the Harry Potter films, died in October aged 72.
Born Anthony Robert McMillan, Coltrane chose his stage name as a tribute to the jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. His family said he had been “unwell for some time” before he died.
During his 40-year career Coltrane starred as a detective in the crime series Cracker, a former KGB agent in two James Bond films and, alongside Monty Python’s Eric Idle, a gangster who disguises himself as a nun in Nuns on the Run.
But he was most loved for his performances as Rubeus Hagrid in Harry Potter, a film series based on the popular books by author JK Rowling. Coltrane appeared in all eight Harry Potter movies as the groundskeeper at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry — for which his agent said he received a “stream of fan letters every week for over 20 years”.
Angela Lansbury, star of stage, film and Murder, She Wrote
Best known for playing Jessica Fletcher in the TV series Murder, She Wrote, British actor Angela Lansbury died in October, aged 96, five days before her 97th birthday.
Lansbury won five Tony Awards for for her stage performances between 1966 and 2009, as well as a special Tony for lifetime achievement in 2022. She also earned Academy Award nominations for two of her first three film roles, Gaslight (1945) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1946).
Beyond her successful theatre and film career, Lansbury drew huge audiences as the mystery writer and amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher in the TV series Murder, She Wrote. The show ran from 1984 until 1996, during which time Lansbury received 12 Emmy nominations for her portrayal of Jessica Fletcher, though she never won.
“What appealed to me about Jessica Fletcher,” Lansbury told the New York Times during the show’s second season, “is that I could do what I do best and have little chance to play — a sincere, down-to-earth woman.”
Loretta Lynn, queen of country music
Loretta Lynn, an American “queen” of country music who sang about love, desire, cheating husbands and revenge, died in October aged 90.
Lynn’s first hit single, I’m a Honky Tonk Girl, was released in 1960. She rose to stardom because of her music — her voice was distinctive and powerful, with its Kentucky drawl — but also because of her story.
A coal miner’s daughter who grew up working class in Butcher Hollow, Lynn was married at 15, a mother at 16 and became a grandmother in her 30s. Her decades-long marriage was marred by her husband’s drinking and cheating, her drug abuse, and mutual violence — themes she wrote about in her songs.
“I wasn’t the first woman in country music,” Lynn said in an interview with Esquire in 2002. “I was just the first one to stand up there and say what I thought, what life was about. The rest were afraid to.”
Lynn’s biggest hits included Coal Miner’s Daughter, You Ain’t Woman Enough, The Pill, Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind), Rated X and You’re Looking at Country. She won four Grammy Awards, was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008 and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2013.
A rapper whose gritty hits were a mainstay of nineties radio and music video TV, Coolio died in September aged 59.
Born Artis Leon Ivey Jr, Coolio released his debut album, It Takes a Thief, in 1994. Featuring the opening track and single, Fantastic Voyage, the album sold more than a million copies and reached number 8 on the US charts.
But his “superstardom” came a year later with the release of Gangsta’s Paradise, a dramatic minor-key track which drew on Stevie Wonder’s 1976 song Pastime Paradise and featured vocals by the singer L.V. Its opening lyric a play on Psalm 23 — “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” — it quickly became a number 1 hit around the world and won the 1996 Grammy for best rap solo performance.
Coolio would later say the song cast a long shadow over the rest of his career, in one interview describing it as “more of a blessing than a curse”.
He went on to release six more albums, though none as successful as his first two, and starred in numerous films and TV shows. He was also a spokesperson for the Environmental Justice and Climate Change group in the US, a keen golfer and an avid collector of snow globes.
Louise Fletcher, actor
Actor Louise Fletcher was not well known by the public when she was cast as Nurse Ratched in the 1975 film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She died in September, aged 88, with Ratched having been named one of the most memorable villains by the American Film Institute, second only to the Wicked Witch of the West.
Fletcher’s portrayal of the mental institution nurse earned her the Academy Award for Best Leading Actress in 1976. During her acceptance speech she used sign language to thank her hearing-impaired parents for their support, for “teaching me to have a dream”.
Her acting career spanned more than six decades and included TV roles on Star Trek, Picket Fences and Joan of Arcadia. Still, Fletcher told journalists her height — she was 5 foot 10 — made it difficult for her to find work in anything but westerns, where being tall was apparently an advantage.
Fletcher’s son said his mother, who had twice survived breast cancer, died of natural causes.
Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek star and trailblazer
Nichelle Nichols, the actor who played Lieutenant Uhura in the 1960s space adventure TV series, Star Trek, died in July, aged 89.
Nichols began her entertainment career as a supper club singer and dancer in Chicago. But she made history with her portrayal of Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura, the smart and competent communications officer on the starship U.S.S. Enterprise, between 1966 and 1969. Until then, Black women had generally been cast in “subservient” TV roles.
Nichols was considering leaving Star Trek at the end of the first run when a chance meeting with Martin Luther King convinced her to stay. “He said I had the first non-stereotypical role, I had a role with honour, dignity and intelligence,” she said in 2011. “He said: ‘You simply cannot abdicate. This is an important role. This is why we are marching. We never thought we’d see this on TV.'”
After blazing a trail on the small screen, Nichols starred in six Star Trek films, beginning in 1979 with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. She also served for many years as a NASA recruiter, helping bring minorities and women into the astronaut corps and, as NASA put it following her death, “inspired generations to reach for the stars”.
Issey Miyake, fashion designer
One of the first Japanese fashion designers to show in Paris and the man behind Steve Jobs’s iconic turtleneck, Issey Miyake died of liver cancer in August, aged 84.
Miyake is perhaps best known for his signature style of pleating, which he developed in the late 1980s and released in his “Pleats Please” collection in 1993. The garments were made from very light, sharply-pleated polyester in solid colours or prints — wrinkle-free and versatile designs underpinned by his philosophy that clothes “must bestow freedom on those who wear them”.
Miyake, who survived the US’s atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, was also commissioned by the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs to make dozens of black turtlenecks, which became Jobs’ personal uniform.
Despite his success in the fashion industry, Miyake, a graduate of Tokyo’s Tama Art University, often remarked that he didn’t consider himself a “fashion designer”.
“Anything that’s ‘in fashion’ goes out of style too quickly,” he told Parisvoice magazine in 1998. “I don’t make fashion. I make clothes.”
Jerry Lee Lewis, rock ‘n’ roll pioneer
A pioneer of rock and roll and rockabilly music and one of the first performers inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Jerry Lee Lewis died in October aged 87.
As a 21 year-old in 1956, Lewis strode into Sun Studio in Memphis, USA and demanded an audition. His early singles were considered as powerful and “definitively southern” as those of Elvis Presley, who also began his career with the legendary label Sun.
Known for his boogie-woogie piano and bluesy country vocals, Lewis produced a string of hits including Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On and Great Balls of Fire. But his career was also tainted by scandal — particularly after it was discovered in 1958 that he had married his 13 year-old cousin, having not yet divorced his second wife.
Lewis was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2022 but was too unwell to attend the ceremony, having suffered a stroke in 2019.
“To be recognised by country music with their highest honour is a humbling experience,” he said in a statement. “I am appreciative of all those who have recognised that Jerry Lee Lewis music is country music and to our almighty God for his never-ending redeeming grace.”
Pharoah Sanders, jazz giant
Pharoah Sanders, the revered saxophonist and composer who helped define the spiritual jazz movement, died in September, aged 81, having released dozens of albums right up until 2021.
The sound of Sanders’s tenor saxophone has been described as a “force of nature“. He produced “shrieking harmonics and imposing multiphonics” to create what the New York Times’ music critic Robert Palmer in 1978 called an “instantly recognisable” sound.
“I’m always trying to make something that might sound bad sound beautiful in some way,” he told the New Yorker in 2020. “I’m a person who just starts playing anything I want to play, and make it turn out to be maybe some beautiful music.”
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Sanders moved to New York in 1962, looking to join the city’s free jazz scene. His debut album for ESP-Disk in 1964 flew under the radar, but he soon caught the attention of jazz legend John Coltrane, who invited Sanders to join his group in 1965.
Sanders’s career took off from there and over decades he recorded and collaborated on numerous albums, working alongside jazz greats such as Alice Coltrane, Randy Weston, McCoy Tyner, Joey DeFrancesco and others.
In 2021, Sanders released the album Promises in collaboration with Sam Shepherd, the electronic musician who records as Floating Points, and the London Symphony Orchestra. It was widely praised as a “stirring” and “celestial” album and a “late career masterpiece” for Sanders.
Christine McVie, Fleetwood Mac singer-songwriter
Christine McVie, the British-born Fleetwood Mac vocalist, songwriter and keyboard player, died in November aged 79.
McVie was a steady presence in the band, which featured frequent line-up changes and volatile personalities. Her smooth contralto helped define such classics as You Make Loving Fun, Everywhere and Don’t Stop.
She wrote many of the band’s biggest songs, including Say You Love Me, Over My Head and You Make Loving Fun.
The band — which sold tens of millions of records — became nearly as legendary for its intertwined personal lives as it was for its decades of harmonious hits.
McVie was married to bassist John McVie, and their break-up — along with the split of Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham — was famously documented on the 1977 release Rumours, among the bestselling albums of all time.
Fleetwood Mac, co-founded by drummer Mick Fleetwood in 1967, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
The group’s many other hit singles included Dreams, Go Your Own Way and Little Lies.
Jean-Luc Godard, French cinema legend
A visionary film director and key figure in the Nouvelle Vague movement that revolutionised cinema in the 1960s, Jean-Luc Godard died in September, aged 91.
After beginning his career as a film critic, Godard rose to fame in 1960 with the release of his first feature-length film, Breathless, about a small-time French crook who steals a car and murders a policeman before hatching a plan to escape to Italy with his American love interest.
Breathless became representative of the French New Wave movement in which directors — namely a group of former critics for the publication Cahiers du Cinema — eschewed traditional filmmaking conventions and experimented with personal and visually expressive techniques.
Film critic Roger Ebert said Godard’s use of “jump cuts” was the “great breakthrough” of Breathless, but what was “most revolutionary about the movie is its headlong pacing, its cool detachment, its dismissal of authority, and the way its narcissistic young heroes are obsessed with themselves and oblivious to the larger society”.
Godard went on to make a series of politically-charged films in the 1960s before experiencing something of a career revival in recent years with films including Praise of Love (2001), Film Socialisme (2010), Goodbye to Language (2014) and The Image Book (2018).
French President Emmanuel Macron said Godard was “like an apparition in French cinema. Then he became a master of it”. “Jean-Luc Godard, the most iconoclastic of New Wave filmmakers, invented a resolutely modern, intensely free art,” Macron said. “We have lost a national treasure, a man who had the vision of a genius.”
Leslie Jordan, comedian and actor
Leslie Jordan, whose wry Southern drawl and versatility made him a comedy and drama stand-out on TV series including Will & Grace, American Horror Story and Boston Legal, died in a car crash in October. He was 67.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic his videos added “social media star” to his list of achievements which included winning an Emmy for his work as a guest actor on Will and Grace.
Many of Jordan’s videos included him asking “How ya’ll doin?” and some included stories about Hollywood or his childhood, growing up with identical twin sisters and their “Mama,” as he called her.
Other times, he did silly bits like complete an indoor obstacle course.
“Someone called from California and said, ‘Oh, honey, you’ve gone viral.’ And I said, ‘No, no, I don’t have COVID. I’m just in Tennessee,” Jordan said.
However the social media spotlight led to new opportunities.
Shortly before his death Jordan released a gospel album called Company’s Comin’ and wrote a new book, his second including a 2008 memoir.
“That sort of dealt with all the angst and growing up gay in the Baptist Church and la, la, la, la, la. And this one, I just wanted to tell stories,” he said in 2021.
Jordan arrived in Los Angeles by bus in 1982 “with a dream and $1,200 pinned in [my] undershorts,” hoping to make it as an actor.
He was told his 150cm (4 foot, 11 inches) stature and strong, southern accent would hold him back, but he proved the naysaysers wrong.
Bob Saget, comedian and actor
Comedian Bob Saget, who shot to fame in sitcom Full House, How I Met Your Mother and America’s Funniest Home Videos died in his sleep in January aged 65 after hitting his head and “thinking nothing of it”.
Saget had posted on Twitter just hours before his death that he was enjoying getting back into touring with his comedy show.
“I had no idea I did a two hour set tonight. I’m happily addicted again to this shit,” he said.
Saget was born in Philadelphia to a Jewish family, and later moved to Virginia.
He attributed the development of his sense of humour to attending the conservative local synagogue where he became a rebellious student.
Colleagues and friends posted on Twitter of their sadness at his death with many noting his kindness and generosity.
“Bob was one of the best human beings I’ve ever known in my life,” tweeted Candace Cameron Bure, who portrayed Danny’s eldest daughter DJ Tanner in Full House. “I loved him so much.”
Ronnie Spector, The Ronnettes singer
Ronnie Spector, the cat-eyed, bee-hived rock ‘n’ roll siren who sang such 1960s hits as Be My Baby, Baby I Love You and Walking in the Rain as the leader of the girl group the Ronettes, died in January aged 78.
“We weren’t afraid to be hot. That was our gimmick,” Spector wrote in her memoir.
The Ronettes’ sexy look and powerful voices — plus song writing and producing help from Ike and Tina Turner’s producer Phil Spector who went on to work with the Beatles — turned them into one of the premier acts of the girl-group era, touring England with the Rolling Stones and befriending the Beatles.
Spector was born Veronica Bennett. She, and her multiracial band mates, grew up in Manhattan singing and dancing in clubs where they became known for their liberal use of eyeliner and mascara.
“The louder they applauded, the more mascara we put on the next time,” she wrote in her memoir. “We didn’t have a hit record to grab their attention, so we had to make an impression with our style. None of it was planned out: we just took the look we were born with and extended it.”
That look won them a record deal with Phil Spector’s record company and after a roller coaster few years the band broke up in 1967.
The following year Ronnie married Phil but their marriage was troubled. She accused him of keeping her locked in their Beverley Hills mansion and they divorced in 1974. Phil Spector was later convicted of murder.
Meanwhile Ronnie’s iconic influence continued to be felt: Billy Joel wrote Say Goodbye to Hollywood in her honour and Amy Winehouse cited Ronnie Spector as an idol.
Taylor Hawkins, Foo Fighters drummer
Taylor Hawkins, the drummer with rock band Foo Fighters, died in March just hours before the band was due to perform at a Colombian music festival as part of a South American tour. He was 50.
Hawkins joined Foo Fighters three years after the band formed and went on to become one of its most prominent members, beside lead singer Dave Grohl.
Hawkins’ birth name was Oliver and he grew up Fort Worth, Texas, and Laguna Beach, California.
He was the drummer for singer Alannis Morrisette in the 1990s before former Nirvana drummer Grohl asked him to join Foo Fighters.
In 2005 British drumming magazine Rhythm named him “Best Rock Drummer”. Yet he admitted to suffering from stage fright.
In 2019 Hawkins spoke about his drumming influences naming Queen’s Roger Taylor and Stewart Copeland from The Police “obviously” as well as Alex Van Halen and U2’s Larry Mullen.
He named Phil Collins as “one of my favourite drummers ever”.
“You know, people forget that he was a great drummer as well as a sweater-wearing nice guy from the ’80s, poor fella. He’s a great drummer, unbelievable drummer,” he said.
Hawkins also formed his own group, Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders, releasing three albums between 2006 and 2019. He formed another group, NHC, with members of the band Jane’s Addiction in 2020 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the following year.
Estelle Harris, actor
From the mother everyone loved to hate in Seinfeld to Mrs Potato Head in Toy Story, Estelle Harris had a long and varied career until her death in April at age 93.
Her role as George Costanza’s mother, Estelle, on the 90s smash hit TV series Seinfeld gave her global fame but it was her skill at adding depth to the overbearing character that made her so loved.
“She is the mother that everybody loves, even though she’s a pain in the neck,” Harris told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1998.
Harris saw a sympathetic undertone to her character that went further than portraying her “as being funny, cute and a loudmouth”.
“It’s not how I play her,” she said. “I play her with misery underneath.”
Harris was born in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood, the daughter of Polish Jewish immigrants who ran a candy and soda store and grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania.
She began her career performing in dinner theatre and TV commercials – earning the title Queen of Commercials, best-known for singing the praises of Handi-Wrap.
Harris moved into serious acting roles in 1977 with the film Looking Up. Her last role was a reprisal of her character Mrs Potato Head in the 2019 film Toy Story 4.
Ray Liotta, actor
Golden Globe-nominated actor Ray Liotta, who first performed on stage for a lark in his last year of high school and had his big acting break on a US daytime soap, died unexpectedly in May while on a film location in the Dominican Republic. He was 67.
Liotta was nominated for a Golden Globe award for 1986’s Something Wild. He portrayed singer Frank Sinatra in the 1998 TV movie The Rat Pack and starred opposite Brad Pitt in the 2012 film Killing Them Softly.
Liotta’s career achievements arose from difficult beginnings. He lived in an orphanage as a baby and was adopted at six months old.
He will be best remembered for the character of Henry Hill in Goodfellas, a role that he once said had “a life of its own”.
“People watch it, over and over, and still respond to it, and different ages come up, even today, teenagers come up to me and they really emotionally connect to it,” he said.
Meatloaf, singer and actor
Grammy Award-winning singer Meat Loaf — who was catapulted to stardom in 1977 with the release of his album Bat Out of Hell – died in January, aged 74, his wife Deborah and daughters by his side.
Meat Loaf was born Marvin Lee Aday in Texas and moved to Los Angeles in the 1960s to make it as a rock star. He formed the group Meat Loaf Soul and was hired as a support act to the era’s biggest names, including The Who.
But Meat Loaf was quickly sucked into the world of musical theatre, starring as the character Eddie alongside Susan Sarandon and Tim Curry in the 1975 cult film The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Once the film hit the cinema, Meat Loaf returned to music and releasing hit singles including Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad, Paradise by the Dashboard Light and I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That) as well as Bat Out of Hell, from his iconic album which went on to sell 43 million copies.
Meat Loaf fell out with his collaborator Jim Steinman, who felt he did not receive the credit he deserved for the album’s success, and the success of that first album was not repeated until 1993 when the pair released Bat Out of Hell II, featuring singles I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That). A third Bat Out of Hell album was released in 2006.
Meat Loaf did remain a fan favourite, however, with cameo appearances on the movie Fight Club and TV shows South Park and Glee.
Singer Bonnie Tyler described Meat Loaf as “a one off singer and personality”. Cher, who collaborated with him on the song Dead Ringer said she had “so much fun” with the larger-than-life singer.
Anne Heche, actor
Anne Heche died after a fiery car crash in Los Angeles in August. She was 53.
Heche first came to prominence on the NBC soap opera Another World from 1987 to 1991.
In 1997, she played opposite Johnny Depp in Donnie Brasco, and Tommy Lee Jones in Volcano and in the original I Know What You Did Last Summer. She also starred with Harrison Ford in Six Days, Seven Nights and with Vince Vaughn and Joaquin Phoenix in Return to Paradise.
Her relationship with Ellen DeGeneres from 1997 to 2000 heightened her fame and brought immense public scrutiny.
DeGeneres was among many of Heche’s Hollywood friends to pay tribute to the actress.
“This is a sad day,” she wrote. “I’m sending Anne’s children, family and friends all of my love.”
She was survived by two sons.
James Caan, actor
Hollywood actor James Caan died in July aged 82.
Caan never stopped making movies, with one of his final roles being in a film that is in post-production for 2023.
It was his portrayal of the violent son of gangster Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather that would become the one he was most synonymous with.
His performance in the classic film, which won Best Picture at the 1972 Academy Awards, saw him act opposite Brando, Al Pacino (Michael Corleone) and Robert Duvall (Tom Hagen). All were nominated for Oscars, but only Brando won, taking Best Actor.
Well known for his party lifestyle, Caan quit his acting career abruptly in the early ’80s before returning back to the spotlight at the end of the decade and a thriving career well into the new century.
Married four times, Caan has 5 children, one of who — Scott — also pursued an acting career.
William Hurt, actor
Oscar-winning actor William Hurt known died in March, aged 71.
He was nominated for an Oscar three times, winning best actor for 1985’s Kiss of the Spider Woman.
Hurt also received best actor nominations for 1987’s Broadcast News and for 1986’s Children of a Lesser God, a romantic drama set in a school for the deaf.
In the latter stages of his career, Hurt played General Thaddeus Ross in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, a recurring role he would reprise in later superhero films based on Marvel Comics including Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Endgame and Black Widow.
In 2018, the actor disclosed that he had been diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer which had spread to the bone.
Kirstie Alley, actor
Best known for the role of Rebecca Howe, opposite Ted Danson, on the NBC sitcom Cheers from 1987 to 1993, Kirstie Alley died
She won an Emmy for best lead actress in a comedy series for the role in 1991.
“I only thank God I didn’t have to wait as long as Ted,” Alley said in her acceptance speech, gently ribbing her co-star who had finally won an Emmy for his role as Sam Malone in his eighth nomination the previous year.
She later had her own sitcom, Veronica’s Closet.
Alley is also remembered for her role as Mollie in the 1989 film Look Who’s Talking with John Travolta.
Celebrities including Travolta have taken to social media to pay tribute to the actor.
In recent years, Alley appeared on several reality shows, including a second-place finish on US Dancing With the Stars in 2011. She performed on the US competition series The Masked Singer wearing a baby mammoth costume earlier this year.