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Director and & # 39; Beyond the Fringe & # 39; star Jonathan Miller dies at the age of 85

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Jonathan Miller, the British director, filmmaker and comedian of polymath who together created the groundbreaking comedy "Beyond the Fringe", died at the age of 85.

Miller's family said on Wednesday that he "died peacefully at home this morning with his family around him after a long battle with Alzheimer's."

"His death is a great loss for our family and his friends and will leave a huge gap in our lives," the family said.

Miller, one of the most important and diverse art figures in the country, had a decades-long career that included theater, television and opera.

Some of Britain's largest and most respected art institutions, including the National Theater, the British Film Institute and the Royal Opera, rushed to pay homage to his long career.

Miller, born in London in 1934, studied medicine and qualified as a physician before turning to art, spurred on by the success of "Beyond the Fringe", a satirical review he created in 1960 with fellow students at Cambridge University, Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and Alan Bennett.

The show went from London's West End to Broadway and helped launch a wave of irreverent, satirical comedy with & # 39; Monty Pythons Flying Circus & # 39 ;.

It distracted Miller from a planned career in neurology to art.

"It was actually an accident," he told the Associated Press in 1981 – and a decision he sometimes regretted.

From the early 1960s, Miller directed plays for both the stage and television, including a 1970 production of "The Merchant of Venice" with Laurence Olivier in the lead role. His TV director's work included a 1960s psychedelic adaptation of "Alice in Wonderland" for the BBC and later six Shakespeare playing for the same broadcaster.

In the 1970s – and despite his inability to read music – he moved to opera, where he collaborated with major companies, including Glyndebourne, the Royal Opera and the English National Opera. His production of "Cosi Fan Tutte" for the Royal Opera was a main component of the company's repertoire for nearly 20 years, and he directed 15 productions at ENO, including "The Marriage of Figaro" and "The Mikado."

The company said Wednesday that "his 40-year contribution to the success of ENO was huge and that his productions are loved by all ages."

Talkative, witty, sometimes acerbic, Miller also presented television series including "The Body in Question" – a vivid journey through medical history and the human body – and "Atheism: a rough history of disbelief"; wrote books on topics ranging from Sigmund Freud to acting; and started with sculpture and photography.

In 2002 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for services to music and art.

Miller is survived by his wife, Rachel; children Tom, William and Kate; and different grandchildren.

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