RIP Mira Furlan
January 22, 2021 2:22 AM   Subscribe

Mira Furlan, best known for her roles as Delenn in Babylon 5 and Danielle Rousseau in Lost, has died at age 65. Furlan was a member of the Croatian National Theatre and frequently appeared in Yugoslav television and films. She played Ankica Vidmar in the 1985 film When Father Was Away on Business, which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. J. Michael Straczynski's In Memoriam.
posted by adrianhon (100 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by NotTheRedBaron at 2:26 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]


She was so good as Delenn in Babylon 5. For all its faults as a series she was always a believable, charismatic character.

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posted by faceplantingcheetah at 2:28 AM on January 22 [14 favorites]


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posted by Proofs and Refutations at 3:08 AM on January 22


When I had to learn English, one of the most difficult words for me was "goodbye." There is no corresponding word for "goodbye" in Minbari. All our partings contain within them the possibility of meeting again: in other places, in other times, in other lives. So you will excuse me if I do not say "goodbye."

Songs From Movies That Have Never Been Made, 1998
posted by polymodus at 3:46 AM on January 22 [16 favorites]


"All life is transitory, a dream. We all come together in the same place, at the end of time. If I don't see you again here, I will see you in a little while, in a place where no shadows fall."
– Delenn, Confessions and Lamentations

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posted by jklaiho at 3:47 AM on January 22 [20 favorites]


This one really guts me, as B5 was a rock to cling to during difficult times, and I found her portrayal of Delenn to be so strong, fierce and vulnerable and childlike, a constant mix of wonder and reality.
I wish I'd met her at a convention.
It was a joy to see her pop up unexpectedly in Lost, and loved her just as much there.
Rest in peace.
posted by Bill Watches Movies Podcast at 3:48 AM on January 22 [8 favorites]


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posted by Obscure Injoke at 4:19 AM on January 22


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posted by JohnFromGR at 4:20 AM on January 22


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posted by adamsc at 4:21 AM on January 22


She joins her friends in a journey beyond the Galactic Rim.

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posted by RockPusher at 4:41 AM on January 22


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posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 4:45 AM on January 22


My lovely wife is a serious Babylon 5 fan, and I don't relish telling her this sad news. It was a great show, and Furlan's role was an essential part of it.

One of my favorite moments is when she faces down an EarthForce battle fleet with the threat "Only one human captain has ever survived battle with a Minbari Fleet. He is behind me. You are in front of me. If you value your lives, be somewhere else! As kind as Delenn was, she had a core of pure steel.

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posted by Gelatin at 4:45 AM on January 22 [24 favorites]


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posted by acb at 4:47 AM on January 22


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posted by sammyo at 5:00 AM on January 22


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posted by Thorzdad at 5:09 AM on January 22


To absent friends. In memory... still bright.

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posted by mephron at 5:15 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]


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posted by meinvt at 5:32 AM on January 22


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posted by Faint of Butt at 5:42 AM on January 22


B5 was (and still is)and important show for me. Really sad to wake up to this news.

Then I will tell you a great secret, Captain. Perhaps the greatest of them all. The molecules of your body are the same molecules that make up this station , and the nebula outside, that burn inside the stars themselves. We are starstuff. We are the universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out. And as we have both learned, sometimes the universe requires a change of perspective.
posted by nubs at 5:56 AM on January 22 [22 favorites]


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posted by Ber at 6:32 AM on January 22


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posted by jameaterblues at 6:32 AM on January 22


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posted by Freeze Peach at 6:34 AM on January 22


Dammit. B5 was and is one of my favorite shows. But starring in it seems to have condemned its actors to short lives. Has anyone checked on Bruce Boxleitner lately?
posted by adamrice at 6:42 AM on January 22 [3 favorites]


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posted by PresidentOfDinosaurs at 6:45 AM on January 22


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posted by cyrusdogstar at 6:50 AM on January 22


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posted by leslies at 6:50 AM on January 22


65 is way too damn young.

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posted by Frayed Knot at 6:54 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]


There's so much here, and so much lately.

Babylon 5 introduced itself most episodes as the last, best hope for peace, before announcing that it failed. For many of us, it was the first, stumbling effort to build a serial scifi story in space, a way to take the great parts of scifi literature and apply them to a medium that had treated scifi mostly as something campy and episodic. In so doing, it laid large portions of the foundation for Farscape, Battlestar Galactica, the Expanse, and the new Star Trek series, among many others. In that, it succeeded.

I know, intellectually, that I watched that show as a kid. I remember being young when I tuned in. I know it's been decades. But it doesn't feel that way when I recall the show itself. I read the Delenn's dialog that people are quoting above and I remember those moments in the show pretty easily, even though it's been a long while since I rewatched any of the show. And then comes the announcement of Mira's death and suddenly I am like, well holy shit, I am old.

Ernest Becker argued that so much of Western society is structured around a repression of our finitude, a denial that we will someday die, a sort of collective forgetting until we arrive with almost sudden panic at our end. We have opportunities, he wrote, to remember that we're only here for so long, and in these moments when we are reminded of our finitude, what Becker called "little Ds" or little deaths, we have a chance to deal with some of our own anxieties toward our eventual end.

2020 was just one nearly never-ending stream of little Ds. 2021 is just continuing the trend so far. It's almost too much, too frequent of a reminder.

Straczynski is a hell of a writer. Always has been. Babylon 5, Sense 8, even his runs on Thor and Spider-man. His In Memoriam follows suit. I've heard that catch in the throat before, and reading that line makes my own throat catch even without anything to say. I take some comfort in the fact that Mira believed so firmly in the value of her art, that she had such an historically important show in which to express it, and that at least for some while longer, that gift keeps giving.
posted by hank_14 at 6:55 AM on January 22 [11 favorites]


(Shoutout to cyrusdogstar who introduced me to Babylon 5 [and MetaFilter]. I ended up watching five seasons with him.)

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posted by May Kasahara at 6:57 AM on January 22 [2 favorites]


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posted by enfa at 7:04 AM on January 22


That jms obituary is lovely.

I'm not sure if I told you all this story, but: as a grad student in 1995 I spent two weeks in Croatia and Bosnia, during the war. It's a long story, and the key point here is being under shelling and rocket fire in Mostar, then coming home to the US with a decent case of PTSD.
A few weeks later I watched some Babylon-5. The second episode was The Long Twilight Struggle, during which the Centauri bomb the hell out of the Narn homeworld. My hands shook and I wept.

So, a wreck, I emailed jms. His email address was on the various boards. I wrote something incoherent about how terrifying and accurate it was how he depicted raining down death on a civilian population. Within a day he wrote back a very polite response, and asked me if I knew about Mira Furlan's nationality and experience. I hadn't known at the time, and so much made sense. As the seasons went on and her character lived through civil war, I saw it all too clearly. What a catharsis that must have been for her. I hope.

Years later I watched Lost on DVD and with a shock realized Furlan was playing that character. It electrified me and all the 1990s jms memories came surging back.

Thank you, Mira. And.
posted by doctornemo at 7:08 AM on January 22 [16 favorites]


She was ROUSSEAU!

sorry I didn’t see that in the OP. I loved LOST , yes even the ending (just not most of the final season) and her character’s entrance was stunning.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:11 AM on January 22


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posted by emmet at 7:36 AM on January 22


Good Night...
posted by CyberSlug Labs at 7:42 AM on January 22


I first had a chance to meet with Mira Furlan when she was scheduled to attend a local sci-fi festival here in Montréal, Québec, back in September of 1994. It was her first ever Canadian convention, and only her second con appearance ever; as a result, she was not quite used to being around fandom and fans in person.

I had been quite looking forward to meeting her, as the character she played on Babylon 5, Minbari Ambassador Delenn, was a fellow Intergalactic diplomat — as my own Star Trek persona was a female Klingon Ambassador to Terra (Lady K’Zin Epetai Kasara), from our then fast-growing club, the Klingon Imperial Diplomatic Corps.

At the afternoon’s autograph session, as leader of the KIDC, I gifted her with a special diplomatic box of other intergalactic goodies, containing among other things: Klingon gagh worm-like jelly snacks, Klingon “Misfortune Cookies”, and, from my own private reserve, a small but exquisitely packaged wax-sealed bottle of rare Saurian Brandy. We also adopted her into our extended Klingon family line, the “House of Kasara”, a rare matrilineal line, and she was quite pleasantly amused by the whole mini-ceremony and gifts.

For some reason, I do remember that we ended up sharing dinner together that evening in the hotel restaurant, along with about a dozen other fannish friends. My companion and I were honoured to be seated directly across the table from her; I discovered that she spoke several languages, including French and German — my own German was a bit rusty by then, but it was fun to exchange some brief German conversation with her.

A brief bit of back story is needed here — one of my dearest old friends had recently served as a UN Peacekeeper in Croatia & former Yugoslavia, and had returned with a very special box of small flat chocolate squares; each had a paper wrapper printed with illustrations of famous Serbian & Croatian landmarks. Hearing that I was going to be meeting Mira Furlan, he generously donated it to me, so that I could have something with an extra special connection to give to her.

So, after dinner, as everyone still sat around chatting; I offered the box to her as a small additional, but more personal (non-fannish) gift. Well, to say she was *incredibly* touched by the gift was an understatement, since it honoured her homeland in such a unique way. She opened it immediately and began selecting them one at a time, and held us all enthralled as she recounted her memories and stories of each of the locations featured on the chocolate wrappers, as the tiny squares were passed around for each of us to see for ourselves. However, the most poignant aspect was when she would specify if the place no longer existed (as most had been destroyed during the war). It was a touching, heartfelt and memorable experience for all of us as we listened to her; as none of us Canadians had really been exposed to the ravages of war first-hand.

The following summer, I had the chance to see her again when attending Toronto Trek 9, held just west of Toronto, Ontario. This time when I met her, I was dressed in my *full* formal Klingon Imperial Diplomatic Ambassador gear (complete with prosthetic forehead and wig) and I was accompanied by my KBA bodyguards (AKA: the Klingon Bitches with Attitude), and a full Klingon diplomatic entourage— so I wasn’t too sure she’d recognize me under all that makeup.

However, apparently she’d had a lot of practice from being on the set of B5 and she *did* indeed recognize me immediately, and when I mentioned my surprise that she did — she commented “How could I ever forget that lovely dinner, those special chocolates — and that *wonderful* liquor!” And that’s how I discovered that a certain Minbari Ambassador had a soft spot for chocolates and Saurian Brandy.

“All life is transitory. A dream.
We all come together in the
same place at the end of time.
If I don’t see you again here,
I will see you, in a little while,
in a place where no shadows fall.”
~ Delenn, “Confessions and Lamentations”, Babylon 5
posted by Jade Dragon at 7:45 AM on January 22 [75 favorites]


Thank you for sharing that, Jade Dragon.
posted by ursus_comiter at 8:01 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]


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posted by otherchaz at 8:09 AM on January 22


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posted by R343L at 8:11 AM on January 22


But starring in it seems to have condemned its actors to short lives

Indeed it has:
-Richard Biggs (Dr. Stephen Franklin) age 44 (tear in aorta)
-Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar) age 59 (lung cancer)
-Michael O'Hare (Commander Sinclair) (age 60) (heart attack)
-Jeff Conaway (Zack Allen)(age 60) (aspiration pneumonia, exacerbated by drug abuse)
-Jerry Dolye (Garibaldi)(age 60) (natural causes, complications from alcohol abuse)
-Stephen Furst (Vir) (age 63) (complications related to diabetes)

And now Mira, at age 65. This is just looking at the main cast, as well.
posted by nubs at 8:12 AM on January 22 [12 favorites]


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posted by Alterscape at 8:23 AM on January 22


B5 was a gigantic part of my life - so so many of my lifelong important relationships came through the usenet groups, spinoff internet groups, meetups, conventions.

Others have already quoted the quotes, so I'll just leave this here.

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posted by Ilira at 8:44 AM on January 22


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A sad loss, and much too early.
posted by jb at 8:52 AM on January 22


I don't have anything to add here. I can't stop thinking of all those great Delenn moments, and I'm so sad about this. God.

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posted by Sokka shot first at 8:52 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]


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posted by the sobsister at 10:58 AM on January 22


I'm having a hard time with this because Babylon 5 was so important to me when it was airing.

Rewatching my tapes got me through a horrific depressive episode in college. Hanging out on the Official Fan Club chat room and then the IRC channel #babcom introduced me to so many people.

I met my husband in #babcom.

And Delenn, Delenn was so important, that shining beacon of light in an otherwise dark time in my life.

I was also an incredibly silly nerd, I liked making silly things, and I liked being on the Internet. Hell, half of the reason I learned how to make websites was to talk about Babylon 5. And one thing led to another and the next thing I know, I'm in the Yahoo! magazine for Delenn Deserves Better.

I never met her. I don't think I would've known what to say or do or anything, I'm horribly awkward when talking to people. But oh, I miss her. I miss her so.
posted by Katemonkey at 11:16 AM on January 22 [6 favorites]


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posted by FallibleHuman at 11:33 AM on January 22


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posted by chewbud at 12:25 PM on January 22


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posted by Snowflake at 12:43 PM on January 22


I'm watching my through Babylon 5 for the first time at the moment, and Delenn is a wonderfully played character. I'm coming to the end of season two and looking forward to where the show and character goes next.

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posted by Urtylug at 12:56 PM on January 22


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Rest in peace
posted by Gadgetenvy at 12:59 PM on January 22


Nothing to add that hasn't already been said; just really, really sad today.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:02 PM on January 22


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Far too young to go.
posted by Alensin at 1:07 PM on January 22


The B5 curse strikes again. Shit.

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posted by sotonohito at 1:57 PM on January 22


Babylon 5 was the first time I felt a fierce fandom divide. I had always loved Star Wars and Star Trek in equal measures; I could see that they lived in the same space but were light years apart from one another. When Babylon 5 came out, it hit all of my young and impressionable buttons and then my friends had the inimitable gall to tell me that Deep Space 9 was better.

Naturally, this could not stand, especially once I delved into what happened between Paramount and and JMS. I refused to watch DS9 for years because everyone told me how much B5 sucked. Delenn! Vir! Londo! G'kar! The deeply philosophical ramblings mixed with action! It was everything I wanted. But man, Delenn. The way Ms. Furlan played was perfection itself and was to me superior even to that most iconic of characters, Spock, simply because there was no ego clashes to ruin the purity of her performance.
posted by gwydapllew at 2:10 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


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posted by wiskunde at 2:19 PM on January 22


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posted by Pentickle at 2:25 PM on January 22


At least now she gets to sleep lying down.
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posted by zengargoyle at 2:39 PM on January 22 [5 favorites]


Of all the posts here, zengargoyle, yours is the one that made me tear up.

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posted by ChodenKal at 3:00 PM on January 22


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posted by evilDoug at 3:07 PM on January 22


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posted by augustimagination at 3:59 PM on January 22


I was obsessed with B5 at a difficult time in my life. Delenn expressed hopes and acknowledged struggles in the faces of adversities.

I'm coming to the end of season two and looking forward to where the show and character goes next...

woah... that's just starting to get to the good parts...
posted by ovvl at 4:50 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


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This statement was posted to Mira Furlan's Twitter yesterday, reported by BBC to come from her in-progress autobiography. I thought it was quite beautiful:
I look at the stars. It's a clear night and the Milky Way seems so near. That's where I'll be going soon. "We're all star stuff", I suddenly remember Delenn's line from Joe's script. Not a bad prospect. I am not afraid.

In the meantime, let me close my eyes and sense the beauty around me. And take that breath under the dark sky full of stars. Breathe in. Breathe out.

That's all.
posted by Pfardentrott at 5:11 PM on January 22 [8 favorites]


Babylon 5 did and does mean a lot to me. She was absolutely astounding in it.

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posted by ChutneyFerret at 5:43 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


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posted by jabah at 6:51 PM on January 22


I am sorry to hear this. It was never a great show but Furlan was always totally committed and never put a foot wrong that I saw.

But starring in it seems to have condemned its actors to short lives

It is very odd. It’s been just over 27 years since the pilot of Babylon 5. The default assumption for ensemble SF shows seems to be about seven to eight core cast. B5 had more turnover than, say, any of the Star Trek series: some of the people iconic to the series (Boxleitner, Claudia Christian, the late Biggs and Conaway) were not there for the pilot, but in addition to the list from nubs, at least one character who was swapped out (Dr. Kyle) was played by someone who has since died (Johnny Sekka).

By my count, six of the nine central cast from the pilot have perished in that 27 years and a bit. For what it’s worth, the first death of a principal from Star Trek was DeForest Kelley in 1999, 33 years after that show began. We’re now 33 years on from the launch of TNG, and they are all still with us, and DS9 was famously exactly contemporary with B5: Rene Auberjonois (the only deceased regular) died just over a year ago. Voyager came along two years later and they are all still going strong.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:56 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


It was THE BEST SHOW at the time.

(seriously, its one of the hills I'm dying on... yes with an s... I have many....).


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posted by WaterAndPixels at 7:42 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


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posted by Flight Hardware, do not touch at 8:18 PM on January 22


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posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:37 PM on January 22


B5 will always be better than DS9 for the simple fact that it had the guts to be its own thing and not ride on anybody’s coattails. The creators of DS9 openly stated that they didn’t care for Star Trek and deliberately tried to make their show as un-Star Trek as possible, even pissing on the work of previous shows with glaring retcons, while conveniently cashing in on the built-in audience, name recognition, and infrastructure. B5 wasn’t perfect, but you don’t achieve greatness without taking risks and being creative. And I loved that there was always a bright thread of optimism running through even the gut-punchingly sad episodes. Delenn was often the embodiment of that optimism, and that’s how I’ll slways remember Ms. Furlan.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:32 PM on January 22 [5 favorites]


Man, this hurts. B5 was there for me when others weren’t. The light and the hope was what kept me going.

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posted by my-username at 2:22 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


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posted by porpoise at 1:58 PM on January 23


B5 is amazing and so was Delenn. So many good moments with her.

(Anyone checked on Claudia Christian?)
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:32 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


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posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 8:21 AM on January 24


I thought of her in passing while watching the inauguration last Wednesday. It was a day of very mixed emotion, grateful to be exiting a dark chapter in American history, hopeful for the future, but still fraught with tension. And so I found myself meditating on the Grey Council greeting:

I am Grey. I stand between the candle and the star. We are Grey. We stand between the darkness and the light."
posted by HumuloneRanger at 8:25 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


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posted by cmfletcher at 7:39 PM on January 25


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