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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 November 2006, 09:29 GMT
Film director Robert Altman dies
Robert Altman
Altman was one of Hollywood's legendary figures
Robert Altman, the acclaimed director of MASH, Nashville, Gosford Park and The Player, has died at the age of 81, his production company has announced.

The Hollywood maverick, renowned for his improvisational style, died in a Los Angeles hospital on Monday.

He was a five-time Academy Awards best director nominee, but never won the movie industry's top honour.

However, he was given an honorary Oscar this year for "a career that has repeatedly reinvented the art form".

He was a giant of the industry... who kept the energy of a youthful rebel
Julian Fellowes

One of Altman's final projects was a stage production of Arthur Miller's play Resurrection Blues at London's Old Vic theatre.

Actor Kevin Spacey, director of the Old Vic, said he had been "privileged" to work with him.

"Robert Altman was a truly unique director and an extraordinary man," he said.

"We are all saddened by this news and send our condolences to his wife Kathryn and family."

Actor and author Julian Fellowes, who wrote the screenplay for Altman's 2001 film Gosford Park, called him "an extraordinary character".

"He was a giant of the industry... who kept the energy of a youthful rebel until his 81st year," he told BBC News 24.

We've lost one of the truly great directors. A genuine pioneer
Dan Jones, Bristol

The recipient of a heart transplant in 1995, Altman was continually in and out of favour with both audiences and critics.

His other films included the "revisionist" Western movie McCabe and Mrs Miller and comic strip adaptation Popeye.

His last film, A Prairie Home Companion, was released in the US earlier this year.

The cause of his death was not disclosed.

"No other film-maker has gotten a better shake than I have," he said while accepting his honorary Oscar in March. "I'm very fortunate in my career.

"I've never had to direct a film I didn't choose or develop. My love for film-making has given me an entree to the world and to the human condition."

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