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Actor-activist Charlton Heston remembered -

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LISA MILLAR: Charlton Heston is being remembered around the world today as one of Hollywood's
greatest leading men after his death on the weekend at his Beverly Hills home.

He played heroic figures in the movie epics of the 50s and 60s, portraying Moses and Michelangelo,
and winning an Oscar as the chariot-racing Ben Hur.

In his later years, when the film roles got smaller, he became a prominent public figure with his
crusade against gun control. But Charlton Heston didn't always play the role of a gun-toting
conservative in America's political theatre, as Paula Kruger reports.

PAULA KRUGER: Standing six foot three Charlton Heston muscular build, chiselled good looks and rich
resonant voice made him a star during an era when Hollywood was obsessed with filling movie screens
with epic films on the religious and historical past.

(excerpt from the film "The Ten Commandments")

MOSES: When darkness has covered Egypt for three days, your ministers will send for me.

(end of excerpt)

PAULA KRUGER: Bare-chested in many of his major roles, Charlton Heston once said he had a face that
belonged to another century.

He won an Oscar for his lead role in "Ben Hur", he spent weeks learning how to race chariots in
what became one of the most memorable action scenes in film history.

He later curse humankind in the "Planet of the Apes".

(excerpt from the film "Planet of the Apes")

GEORGE TAYLOR: God damn you! God, damn you all to hell!

(end of excerpt)

PAULA KRUGER: And one of his most famous roles was that of Moses in "The Ten Commandments".

(excerpt from the film "The Ten Commandments")

MOSES: Behold His mighty hand!

(end of excerpt)

PAULA KRUGER: One of his most memorable scenes from that film was when Heston held aloft his staff
and parted the Red Sea.

Many years later, when the wave of big film roles dried up to a trickle of soap opera appearances,
Charlton Heston would again become famous but not for being an actor.

In 2001, after being elected chairman of the National Rifle Association (NRA) for an unprecedented
fourth term, he held aloft a 230-year-old musket and electrified NRA members by saying he had only
five words for them.

CHARLTON HESTON (2001): From my cold dead hands!

(audience applauds)

PAULA KRUGER: He was the most popular and prominent leader for the crusade against gun control in
the United States.

Emilie Raymond is the author of the book "From my Cold Dead Hands: Charlton Heston and American

She told the BBC, Heston help unite the nation's conservatives.

EMILIE RAYMOND: It gave him a sense of pride, you know, finally we here we have someone who is
speaking our language, he's a celebrity, he's very admired. So, it brought a sense of pride to the
organisation. But for people who did not like the NRA's message, it was potentially a little scary,
you know, to have someone of his stature saying, "From my cold dead hands" in such a menacing

PAULA KRUGER: Heston was still a young man when he first got involved in political issues, but, at
first at least, he could hardly be labelled a conservative.

Like many Hollywood figures, he was opposed to the anti-communist witch hunt lead by Republican
senator Joe McCarthy.

Four years later he backed John F. Kennedy in his fight for the Presidency.

He stood with Martin Luther King, a man he described as a modern day Moses, on the steps of the
Lincoln Memorial after a civil rights march on Washington.

Heston was a good friend of Ronald Reagan, and it was during the Reagan presidency that his
politics seemed to change.

He still believed he was battling for civil liberties, but that the new enemy was 'political

His position as head of the National Rifle Association will be one of his most memorable roles in
US history. But it was a role that made him the target of film-maker Michael Moore in "Bowling for

In the film, Michael Moore approached Heston at his home and talked the screen legend into an
interview about gun ownership.

(excerpt from the film "Bowling for Columbine")

CHARLTON HESTON: I'm exercising one of the rights passed on to me from those wise old dead white
guys that invented this country. If it was good enough for them, it was good enough for me.

MICHAEL MOORE: But you could still exercise the right just by having the gun unloaded and locked
away somewhere.

CHARLTON HESTON: I know. I choose to have it.

(end of excerpt)

PAULA KRUGER: There were attempts by both Democrats and Republicans to get Charlton Heston to run
for office, but he didn't like the idea of giving up show business and instead wanted to combine
activism with acting.

Republican Presidential candidate John McCain preferred to pay tribute to Heston's earlier role in
the civil rights movement saying he was a real life leader.

Heston revealed in 2002 that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease but his family haven't
revealed exactly what caused him to die on the weekend at 84-years of age.

LISA MILLAR: Paula Kruger reporting.