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Charlton Heston did more in his 53 year career than most people. He parted the Red Sea. He painted the Sistine Chapel. And he stood proud for the causes he believed in.

“Charlton Heston was seen by the world as larger than life,” said the family of the actor after he passed away on Saturday. “No one could ask for a fuller life than his… In his own words: ‘I have lived a wonderful life! I’ve lived enough for two people’.”

The Oscar-winning actor played everybody from Moses to Michelangelo in his epic career, a vocation that took him from The Ten Commandments to Ben-Hur to Planet of the Apes. But the actor, whose chiselled looks once led director Anthony Mann to declare “Just put a toga on him and he looks perfect”, made as much of a mark off the screen as he did on it. As well as being the president of the often controversial National Rifle Association, Heston was also a lobbyist for the civil rights movement and a campaigner for the environment.

Heston’s first role in a professional movie came in 1950’s Dark City, but it was his part in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth in 1952 that catapulted him to stardom. But he had already lived a lifetime of adventures by the time he reached that point – he was a gunner for the Army Air Corps in World War II, and followed this by becoming a nude model. In 1944, Heston married fellow drama student Lydia Clarke – a union that would last the 64 years until his death.

Charlton Heston was one of the “old school” actors who paved the way for celebrities today. During the 1960’s he was involved in the civil rights movement that changed society for the better. When an Oklahoma movie theater showing one of his films in 1961 was segregated, Heston joined protests and later accompanied Martin Luther King on marches in 1963. He opposed the war in Vietnam and went on to raise awareness of environmental issues with films such as The Omega Man and Soylent Green. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003. It is almost certain that the celebrities who stand up for causes today would not be taken as seriously if it was not for the early campaigning of actors such as Heston.

Charlton Heston is survived by his wife and two children.

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