Decorated Turkish actor Tarık Akan has died at age 66 at an Istanbul hospital, sending large crowds from all walks of life into mourning.
The Nazim Hikmet Culture and Arts Foundation, of which Akan was a board member, said the actor died early on Sept. 15, while Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said Akan had been receiving treatment for lung cancer.
Akan starred in over 100 films and directed documentaries and television series in a career spanning more than four decades.
The acclaimed actor, who earned accolades for the 1982 political movie “Yol” (The Path), was among the country’s leading cinema figures in the 1970s and 1980s and earned an Honorable Mention at the 35th Berlin International Film Festival in 1985 for the film “Pehlivan” (The Wrestler) telling the life of a traditional wrestler.
“Yol” was written by Turkish cinema legend Yılmaz Güney, also known as the “Ugly King,” and was directed by Şerif Gören, his assistant who took directions from then-jailed Güney. The movie was granted the Cannes Palme d’Or.
The actor and activist acted in his first film in 1970 at the age of 21. In the 1970s, Akın – who measured 1.92 meters (6 feet, 3.5 inches) tall – played the young male lead in romantic comedies.
He also took roles in political dramas such as “Maden” (The Mine, 1978), the story of coal mines union struggles, “Kanal” (Canal, 1979), “Sürü” (The Herd, 1979), “Bir Avuc Cennet” (A Handful of Heaven, 1985), “Kan” (Blood, 1986), “Ses” (The Voice, 1986), “Berdel” (1990), “Karartma Geceleri” (Blackout Nights, 1990) and “Yolcu” (The Passenger, 1993).
He also co-starred with famous Turkish actor and director Yılmaz Erdogan in “Vizontele Tuuba” (2004), a popular comedy.
Recently he was involved in documentaries and TV series.
In 2002, Akan also wrote his first book, the biographical “Anne Kafamda Bit Var” (Mother, There are Lice on My Head) on his personal life and his time in prison.
Born in Istanbul in 1949, Akan was married to Yasemin Erkut and they had two sons and a daughter.
In 1991, he took over the elementary school in Istanbul’s Bakırköy, in which he had been was educated, and transferred it to his own Özel Taş Elementary School.
In 2005, he became the chairman of the education-aimed Nesin Foundation, succeeding Ali Nesin, the son of founder and leftist author Aziz Nesin.
In his later years, he served at the Nazım Hikmet Cultural and Arts Foundation, a body founded under the name of world-renowned Turkish poet Nazım Hikmet.