Jack Lemmon, who passed away Tuesday night, is being remembered as one of Hollywood's best-loved performers. The 76-year-old actor was fondly recalled by director Billy Wilder, who directed him in seven films, including Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, and Irma La Douce. When asked to choose his favorite collaboration with Lemmon, he told Army Archerd, "I choose them all.
"He was a wonderful guy," Wilder told The Los Angeles Times. "I loved him dearly and he was the best actor I ever worked with." Shirley MacLaine, who starred with Lemmon in The Apartment and Irma La Douce, told Archerd that she was "devastated. I can't believe he's gone — but to me he isn't." She also told The Associated Press, "Anything I could say about this great human being and artist is not enough. We have lost the profound master of emotional canvas-painting. Name the feeling, he could paint it with himself as the brush."
Younger Actors Saw Lemmon as an Inspiration The younger generation of actors also felt a debt to Lemmon. Kevin Spacey, who co-starred with Lemmon in 1992's Glengarry Glen Ross, considered the late actor his mentor. When Spacey won his 1999 Best Actor Oscar for American Beauty, he dedicated it to Lemmon.
Spacey's heartfelt dedication followed a surprising tribute from actor Ving Rhames at the 1998 Golden Globe Awards. Rhames, whose name was called out as the winner in the Best Actor in a Television Movie category for his work in HBO's Don King: Only in America refused to accept the award.
Instead, a tearful Rhames insisted that Lemmon, who was also nominated in the same category, for the movie Twelve Angry Men, join him onstage and take Rhames' Golden Globe prize. (Rhames was later given his own award by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.)
Hank Azaria, who, along with Lemmon won an Emmy for the TV movie Tuesdays With Morrie, said of his co-star, "Just watching Jack Lemmon made me want to get into this business. He could bring grace and dignity to his work even when he was playing ungraceful, undignified people."
William Friedkin, who directed Lemmon in Twelve Angry Men, told the Times, "All I can tell you is that anyone who ever worked with Jack feels the same way. It has been a privilege to have had Jack in your life."