DANISH film director Gabriel Axel, the first Dane to win an Oscar for best foreign film “Babette’s Feast”, died Sunday, February 9, at the age of 95.
News about his death was announced by his daughter, Karin Moerch, in a statement. She said her father died “quietly and peacefully after a long and eventful life.” She did not say where he died or give the cause of death.
Born April 18, 1918, in Denmark’s second city Aarhus, Axel divided his time between his homeland and France. He grew up in Paris where his father owned a factory and at age 18 he returned to Denmark to work as a carpenter making furniture.
But the theater drew him, and he enrolled in the Danish Royal Theater Actors’ School, graduating in 1945.
Axel was born Gabriel Axel Moerch but he dropped his last name when he joined the theater troupe of French film and stage artist Louis Jouvet in Paris. Axel directed several large projects for French television, then returned to Denmark to produce series for Denmark’s public broadcaster and direct several films in the 1950s and 1960s. He also acted in films.
His international breakthrough came in 1987 with “Babette’s Feast,” based on a novel by Danish writer Karen Blixen. The movie is about a 19th century Parisian woman, played by French actress Stephan Audran, who finds shelter in a remote, puritanical Danish village, living with two sisters who maintain a strict religious philosophy.
Axel’s works include “Prince of Jutland,” a 1994 film that tells the story of Amled, the Danish prince whose life inspired Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”
In 2003, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Copenhagen International Film Festival.
Axel’s wife of nearly 50 years, Lucie Axel Moerch, died in 1996. He is survived by their four children and eight grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements were not announced. (with reports from Associated Press)