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Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : British Actor Ian McKellen Recovering after Falling off London Stage

Actor Ian McKellen attends a Service of Thanksgiving for Sir Peter Hall at Westminster Abbey in London, Britain, September 11, 2018. (Reuters)
Actor Ian McKellen attends a Service of Thanksgiving for Sir Peter Hall at Westminster Abbey in London, Britain, September 11, 2018. (Reuters)
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British Actor Ian McKellen Recovering after Falling off London Stage

Actor Ian McKellen attends a Service of Thanksgiving for Sir Peter Hall at Westminster Abbey in London, Britain, September 11, 2018. (Reuters)
Actor Ian McKellen attends a Service of Thanksgiving for Sir Peter Hall at Westminster Abbey in London, Britain, September 11, 2018. (Reuters)

British actor Ian McKellen, 85, fell off a London stage mid-performance and is now recovering after being taken to hospital, a theatre spokesman told the BBC on Tuesday.

McKellen is starring as John Falstaff in "Player Kings", a production of William Shakespeare's "Henry IV, Parts One and Two", in the capital's West End theatre district.

In a fight scene during Monday evening's performance, McKellen lost his footing and fell off the front of the stage, crying out as staff rushed to help, the BBC reported.

The show was cancelled and he was taken to hospital. He is in "good spirits" and expected to "make a speedy and full recovery" and will be back on stage on Wednesday, the theater spokesman said.

McKellen is best known for playing Gandalf in the film versions of "Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" and was also Magneto in the "X-Men" movies.

His stage career stretches back to 1961, where his credits include playing Richard III, King Lear and Macbeth.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Richard Simmons, a Fitness Guru Who Mixed Laughs and Sweat, Dies at 76

Richard Simmons. (Getty Images)
Richard Simmons. (Getty Images)
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Richard Simmons, a Fitness Guru Who Mixed Laughs and Sweat, Dies at 76

Richard Simmons. (Getty Images)
Richard Simmons. (Getty Images)

Richard Simmons, television's hyperactive court jester of physical fitness who built a mini-empire in his trademark tank tops and short shorts by urging the overweight to exercise and eat better, died Saturday. He turned 76 on Friday.

Simmons died at his home in Los Angeles, his publicist Tom Estey said in an email to The Associated Press. He gave no further details.

Los Angeles police and fire departments say they responded to a house — whose address the AP has matched with Simmons through public records — where a man was declared dead from natural causes.

Simmons, who had revealed a skin diagnosis in March 2024, had lately dropped out of sight, sparking speculation about his health and well-being. His death was first reported by TMZ.

Simmons was a former 268-pound teen who became a master of many media forms, sharing his hard-won weight-loss tips as host of the Emmy-winning daytime "Richard Simmons Show" and author of best-selling books and the diet plan Deal-A-Meal. He also opened exercise studios and starred exercise videos, including the wildly successful "Sweatin' to the Oldies" line, which became a cultural phenomenon.

"My food plan and diet are just two words — common sense. With a dash of good humor," he told The Associated Press in 1982. "I want to help people and make the world a healthier, happy place."

Simmons embraced mass communication to get his message out, even as he eventually became the butt of jokes for his outfits and flamboyant flair. He was a sought-after guest on TV shows led by Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas and Phil Donahue. But David Letterman would prank him and Howard Stern would tease him until he cried. He was mocked in Neil Simon’s "The Goodbye Girl" on Broadway in 1993, and Eddie Murphy put on white makeup and dressed like him in "The Nutty Professor," screaming "I’m a pony!"

Asked if he thought he could motivate people by being silly, Simmons answered, "I think there's a time to be serious and a time to be silly. It's knowing when to do it. I try to have a nice combination. Being silly cures depression. It catches people off guard and makes them think. But in between that silliness is a lot of seriousness that makes sense. It's a different kind of training."

Simmons’ daytime show was seen on 200 stations in America, as well as in Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Japan and South America. His first book, "Never Say Diet," was a smash best-seller.

He was known to counsel the severely obese, including Rosalie Bradford, who held records for being the world's heaviest woman, and Michael Hebranko, who credited Simmons for helping him lose 700 pounds. Simmons put real people — chubby, balding or non-telegenic — in his exercise videos to make the fitness goals seem reachable.

Throughout his career, Simmons was a reliable critic of fad diets, always emphasizing healthy eating and exercise plans. "There'll always be some weird thing about eating four grapes before you go to bed, or drinking a special tea, or buying this little bean from El Salvador," he told the AP in 2005 as the Atkins diet craze swept the country. "If you watch your portions and you have a good attitude and you work out every day you'll live longer, feel better and look terrific."

Simmons was a native of New Orleans, a chubby boy named Milton by his parents. (He renamed himself "Richard" around the age of 10 to improve his self-image). He would tell people he ate to excess because he believed his parents liked his older brother more. He was teased by schoolmates and ballooned to almost 200 pounds.

Simmons told the AP his mother watched exercise guru Jack LaLanne's TV show religiously when he was growing up, but he wasn't crazy about the fitness fanatic. "I hated him," Simmons said. "I wasn't ready for his message because he was fit and he was healthy and he had such a positive attitude, and I was none of those things."

Simmons went to Italy as a foreign exchange student and ended up doing peanut butter commercials and bacchanalian eating scenes for director Federico Fellini in his film "Fellini Satyricon." He told the AP: "I was fat, had curly hair. The Italians thought I was hysterical. I was the life of the party."

His life changed after getting an anonymous letter. "One dark, rainy day I went to my car and found a note. It said, 'Dear Richard, you're very funny, but fat people die young. Please don't die." He was so stunned that he went on the starvation diet that left him thin but very ill.

After the crash diet he gained back 65 pounds. Eventually, he was able to devise a sensible plan to take off the pounds and keep them off. "I went into the business because I couldn't find anything I liked," he said.

When Simmons hadn’t been seen in public for several years, some news outlets speculated that he was being held hostage in his own house. In telephone interviews with "Entertainment Tonight" and the "Today" show, Simmons refuted the claims and told his fans he was enjoying the time by himself. Filmmaker-writer Dan Taberski, one of his regular students, launched a podcast in 2017 called "Missing Richard Simmons."

In 2022, Simmons broke his six-year silence, with his spokesperson telling the New York Post that the beloved fitness icon was "living the life he has chosen."

One of the online tributes after Simmons’ passing was from actor-comedian Pauly Shore, who previously developed an unauthorized biopic of Simmons, which Simmons objected to at the time.

"I just got word like everyone else that the beautiful Richard Simmons has passed," he began in an Instagram post. "You’re one of a kind, Richard. An amazing life. An amazing story."