RIP Jonathan Hardy

[caption id="attachment_894" align="alignleft" width="300"]Jonathan Hardy Jonathan Hardy at "Best of Both Worlds 16" convention, Sydney, July 27, 2002.
Photo by Peter Fallon.[/caption] Jonathan Hardy has passed away at the age of 71. His acting career spanned 37 years and included Moulin Rouge!, Mad Max, and a shirtload of Australian television including Farscape, where he not only performed the voice of Dominar Rygel XVI but also donned a toga to play Kahaynu, one of Moya's builders. Jonathan was also a screenwriter who shared an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1981 for Breaker Morant, one of Australia's all-time best films. He was a skilled raconteur who delighted in sharing anecdotes, meeting with fans, and lighting up every room he entered. Born in New Zealand (on September 20, 1940), he particularly enjoyed telling ribald jokes concerning Kiwis and their sheep. Because of his slight facial resemblance to Rygel (judge for yourself), there are some who claim that he served as the model for the puppet. However... [caption id="attachment_915" align="alignright" width="150"]Jonathan Hardy and Farscape's Rygel What resemblance?[/caption] ...if that's true, the Creature Shop must've been psychic, because Jonathan wasn't cast as the voice of Rygel until we were well into the shooting of Season One. In fact, Jonathan wasn't even in the first group of voice actors who auditioned. A scene from the first episode where Rygel bargains/argues with an alien Proprietor (it's the scene where Rygel says, "There was a time when you would have been disembowelled with a dull Lashlan spade for half such an insult to me!") was shown to half a dozen Australian voice actors, and each took a crack at it. [caption id="attachment_897" align="alignleft" width="300"] Froony and Hardy.
Photo by Cheryl Manning.[/caption] David Kemper sent a copy of that tape—the same Rygel scene voiced six different ways by six different people—up to Los Angeles, where Rockne O'Bannon and I were writing scripts and breaking stories. Watching it, we couldn't decide whether to die laughing or die by hurling ourselves out a window. Every one of the voice actors—talented gentlemen to be sure—had played Rygel as a comic character... and tried to make him funny by using some weird comedic accent. So we had Chico Marx Faux-Italian Rygel, we had Snidely Whiplash Rygel... and the most hilarious of all, Truly Outrageous Monty-Python-Holy-Grail-esque French Rygel. (What I don't remember is whether DK had warned us in advance what we were about to behold... or whether he'd just sent the tape up without comment to give Rock and me the same coronary surprise that he must've gotten upon first watching.) [caption id="attachment_895" align="alignright" width="300"] Jonathon and friends, BOBW16, Sydney, July 27, 2002.
Photo by Peter Fallon.[/caption] Anyway. Rock and DK were in complete agreement that the search had to continue, and that it must be made clear to the voice actors that Rygel was a serious character...  clever, devious, prideful, conniving, conceited, vengeful, etc. etc. etc., but serious. And then somebody found Jonathan Hardy, and that was that. Jonathan not only had the commanding yet versatile voice and the dramatic chops needed, but he also understood Rygel from word one... and he always played him as a real character, not a buffoon or a cartoon. Jonathan gave him dignity, without which a Dominar is nothing. Which was a tad ironic, because in person, Jonathan was a big, lovable goofball, a total party animal who never lost the twinkle in his eye. It seems appropriate to end with the (premature) eulogy Rygel gave Crichton in "That Old Black Magic"... [wpaudio url="http://froonium.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/FS108_HynerianCeremonyOfPassage.mp3" text="LISTEN TO: Rygel's Hynerian Ceremony of Passage" dl="0"]. Farewell, Jonathan. May you have safe passage to the hallowed realm of your choice.

26 Comments

  1. Thinkum says:

    Have been feeling depressed ever since the news started making the rounds last night.

    When Jim Henson died, it felt to me like Kermit died; last night, it felt like Rygel had died.

    As depressed as it made me, I can only imagine how it impacted you, to whom he was a friend and colleague. Hugs and condolences, Fr.

  2. MarieYOTZ says:

    Rygel couldn’t have been better voiced. Not by anyone in the world. Truly sorry i never got to meet meet mr. Hardy, i suspect i would have enjoyed him immensely.

  3. Scott R says:

    May he find safe passage to the hallowed realm of his choice. And as my Irish grandmother said, May you be in heaven an hour before the devil knows you’ve passed.

  4. stlhood says:

    The first time I saw a photo of Rygel — back before the show first aired — I was honestly skeptical that the character would be believable. And then I saw the premiere, saw him move, and heard THAT VOICE. And that was that. Rygel was instantly real to me, and fully alive. He remains one of my all-time favorite characters, and one of the highlights of my all-time favorite show. Thank you, Mr. Hardy.

  5. GinAA says:

    A wonderful tribute and fitting audio. I have read so much in tribute to Jonathan Hardy today. He was truly loved and respected. I never met him and wish I had found Farscape Fandom sooner. Thanks Ricky……beautiful.

  6. Mary Wood says:

    Thank you Froon. I know you and others are hurting from the loss of such a dear man and dear friend. I also know that all of us who have been graced with Jonathan’s presence, wit and wisdom are richer human beings for having crossed paths with him.

  7. Jean G says:

    Thanks, Froon for such a wonderful story about Jonathan. He was truly a great man and I can imagine no one else doing Rygel’s voice. He was perfectly cast. I attended a couple of cons where he appeared and he truly loved the fans and interacting with us. It was a great experience being in his presence and he will be missed. Thanks for closing with Rygel’s eulogy to John. Great touch.

  8. Jenny Bonney-Millett says:

    Thanks, Ricky. That was certainly a perfect picture of Jonathan and a lovely tribute. He was always happy to sit and chat with Scapers and tell the remarkable stories of his remarkable life. And he absolutely gave life to Dominar Rygel XVl. No one could have done it better. Vale, Jonathan.

  9. SunKrux aka SunAeryn says:

    I got something in my eye while reading that. *sniff* Thank you for such a wonderful tribute to Jonathan. He is greatly missed.

  10. Jana says:

    Great tribute! I was lucky to have attended 8 Farscape conventions in Burbank/LA and seeing JH was always such a great treat. I remember he rode in the elevator with me and my Scaper friends one evening and he was just talking away. He so loved talking with the fans! It stopped on his floor he stepped out but he held the door open and kept talking until the alarm went off and then some:). My Scaper friends and I will never forget that time. I just loved JH and he will be missed by many! Fly Safe JH “Rygel” and thank you!

  11. Dabee says:

    I am so very sorry for the loss of your friend. We loved him dearly, and Rygel the Sixteenth will always be one of the most irritating and beloved of our Farscape family…Jonathan himself was one of the most unique and truly funny men I have ever met, and I think that the world is greatly diminished by his passing. He shared with us such a love and respect for his county and its varied and diverse peoples. Our lives are richer for him having done that. We are going to miss him. :) Dabee

  12. cofax says:

    Such a sad loss. He was a hella funny man, and so talented.

  13. Soo says:

    Hey Ricky – thanks for the kind words about Jonathan. You and he will always be extra special to us – we have so many special memories and I’m glad we all understood how special it was at the time. J always made the effort to come and see us and last January, even though he hadn’t been well, was no exception. He always had time for a chat, and because he’d done so much, every time we saw him we learned a little more. He always called a spade a @#**ing shovel and left you in no doubt as to where his sympathies lay on any subject. He certainly had no problem pointing out the error of our ways, and was openly scathing if we got all ‘fan-y’ on him. He challenged us, entertained us and was unfailingly kind every time we got together. He is a sad loss to the acting, directing, teaching and writing community in Oz, and we will miss him greatly.

  14. Zahncrelnik says:

    Hi Ricky,
    Thank you for your heartfelt and entertaining words about Jonathan. He was such a talented, sweet, funny man. He will be missed by us all. The Farscape universe is just a little smaller, a little bit darker without him.

  15. TBZF - Linda says:

    Gosh he could make me laugh :-) and he was truly interested in where you were from Then proceed tell you an little ribald story of when he last visited your town I will remember his stories about my Montreal with a twinkle in my eye. Thanks Ricky – you summed him up perfectly.

  16. Mreen says:

    Jonathan will be greatly missed. I remember how much time he took to be with his fans, driving thru fires to join them in a pub in Sydney, and at regular conventions, sitting down in the lobby just to chat with folks. He was always full of fun tales, ribald jokes, and a sense of humor, and never let anyone get away with too ‘fannish’ behavior on his watch.

    Thanks for putting together this remembrance, Ricky, and sharing the tale of how Jonathan was cast. It puts an added spin to Jonathon’s version, where he talked about how he barely started working with the character when he was confronted by DK, asking him for his take on Rygel.

    Jonathan said, (slightly paraphrased) “I hadn’t really had time to study the character, so I said what I always say in such situations – ‘I see him as Hamlet.'” *he paused here, for us to absorb the dramatic import of the statement and more importantly, his impressive delivery under pressure* “- and you should have seen his eyes light up, as Kemper thought ‘Wow, I’ve recreated Shakespeare’s greatest character in my story’, and from then on, I knew the part was mine.”

  17. Bob Hutchinson says:

    Hi Ricky,

    That was a great story about the failed Rygels. I always saw Rygel as being a short Charles DeGaulle, who Jonathan did perfectly. Best of all, Jonathan really liked being with us, as so many of the Farscape people seem to. Does that say something good about us, or are they…Oh, never mind. Of course all Scapers are wonderful.

  18. njak says:

    So sad. I sure hope it’s a long, long time before we lose anyone else.

  19. Jeanie says:

    Jonathan will be sorely missed by all. Only he could have brought our Dominar to life. Can’t imagine anyone more suited to voice Rygel (my husband’s favorite character!) I remember how much he enjoyed talking to the lot of us. So many wonderful stories to share.

  20. […] more, including a fascinating account of how Jonathan came to be cast as Rygel, from Richard Manning, a […]

  21. Kathyk_au says:

    Thank you your kind words. He will be missed. I had the genuine pleasure to sit with him once for an hour at a Farscape convention. So many people can tell a story, but he has for many years been my definition of a raconteur. Thankyou.

  22. CB2001 says:

    It’s CB2001 from the old “Farscape” IRC chat. I’m sad to hear that Jonathan Hardy passed away. I’m sorry I never got the chance to see him in person, but I am thankful for his performances, including providing the voice of Rygel. He will be missed. :*(

  23. Scorpious says:

    I have just visited my local library to print some paperwork for a job interview. While I was there, I also perused the Syfy.com website and accessed the forum section to look up any Farscape news. For some reason my laptop at home can access the Syfy.com website but not the forum section. Anyway, to my utter dismay I have just read the incredibly sad news that Jonathan Hardy has passed away…as a huge United Kingdom fan of Farscape who owns a box set of every episode ever made, plus the Peacekeeper wars, I send my heartfelt condolences to Jonathan’s life partner and to the rest of his family. A truly talented man, never has voice casting been so spot on. And boy, did Jonathan know how to bring depth with his voiceover to what could have been a one-dimensional character. Although I never had the pleasure of meeting him, I had the privilege of communicating with Jonathan via his Facebook account when I also had a Farscape Facebook account. A wonderfully generous man, he offered support to my Farscape Facebook account, sent me a birthday greet with ‘blessings from Hyneria’, commented on my photos and gave his hope and opinions of a Farscape revival. Unlike some other people associated with the Farscape show who never replied to my messages, Jonathan was generous with his time and always replied back to me. For this, he has a special place in my heart. So now it is my turn to send you blessings Jonathan Hardy, wherever your soul may be. If I had the money to bring Farscape back as a tv film, webisodes or mini-series then I would dedicate it in your memory. And also anyone else associated with the show who may have sadly passed on now. Oh, I also love Rygel’s Hynerian Ceremony of Passage recording. Great article, Ricky and thank you for allowing us ‘scapers to express how we feel. Mr Jonathan Hardy, you will be sorely missed. RIP Dominar :(

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