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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 November 2006, 11:45 GMT
Tributes paid to director Altman
Robert  Altman
Altman was preparing to work on a new movie
Actors and writers have been paying tribute to Robert Altman, who died of complications related to cancer.

Meryl Streep, who worked with Altman on his final project, A Prairie Home Companion, said: "What a gent, what a guy, what a great heart."

Actor Elliot Gould, who starred in Altman's MASH, said: "He was the last great American director in the tradition of John Ford."

Altman's production company revealed he had been fighting cancer for 18 months.

Streep added: "Bob's restless spirit has moved on. I have to say, when I spoke with him last week, he seemed impatient for the future.

"He still had the generous, optimistic appetite for the next thing, and we planned the next film laughing in anticipation of the laughs we'd have."

'Mischievous boy'

Richard Gere, the lead in Altman's 2000 movie Dr T and the Women, described the director as "unprecedented".

"There's no-one I'm prouder to have worked with. He was an ecstatic ... a magician ... a conjurer ... a mischievous boy," he said.

He was very good at letting actors think that they had more control than they actually did
Tommy Lee Jones

"He understood and could express that uniquely American shapeshifting goofiness more than anyone.

"He was the deepest ocean and the lightest feather at the same time. We all loved him so much."

Garrison Keillor, on whose radio show A Prairie Home Companion was based, said: "He loved the chaos of shooting and the sociability of the crew and actors - he adored actors.

"And he loved the editing room and he especially loved sitting in a screening room and watching the thing over and over with other people."

Tommy Lee Jones, who co-starred in the film, said: "He was very good at letting actors think that they had more control than they actually did."

I am extremely sad. Another giant has left us
Sophia Loren

Tim Robbins, who starred in The Player and also appeared in Short Cuts and the fashion-world comedy Pret-a-Porter, described Altman as "a great friend and inspiration to me since I had the honour of meeting him in 1990".

Tom Skerritt, who got his break from Altman which led to his role in MASH, said the director's death had left him with "a big void I'm feeling this morning".

And Italian icon Sophia Loren, who worked with Altman in his 1994 satire on the fashion industry Pret-a-Porter, said cinema had lost an "extraordinary man."

"I am extremely sad. Another giant has left us," Loren said.

New movie

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."

Altman was to begin work on Hands on a Hardbody, a fictionalised version of a documentary about an endurance contest where people try to win a car by keeping their hands on it.

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