Oscar winning actor Charlton Heston has died at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 84.

Heston's family have said a private memorial service will be held for the star who revealed that he had been diagnosed with symptoms similar to those linked with Alzheimer's disease in 2002. No announcement has been made about the cause of the actor's death.

Heston first gained fame through his role as a ringmaster in the film The Greatest Show on Earth in 1952. He was seen as one of the leading stars of an era in which Hollywood made grand epics based on historical and biblical stories.

Two of his most famous roles were as Moses in The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur, a film set in Roman times in which he played a Jewish prince sent to the gallows after being betrayed by his friend. Ben-Hur went on to win 11 Oscars including the best actor prize for Heston, who played the lead in the film.

In a statement, his family said: "To his loving friends, colleagues and fans, we appreciate your heartfelt prayers and support.

"Charlton Heston was seen by the world as larger than life. No one could ask for a fuller life than his. No man could have given more to his family, to his profession, and to his country.

"In his own words, 'I have lived such a wonderful life. I've lived enough for two people'."

In his cinema career, Heston has also played the roles of Michelangelo and El Cid but was also well known for being the head of America's pro-gun organisation, the National Rifle Association, for five years.

Heston is survived by his wife Lydia and his two children Frank and Holly.

06/04/2008 10:12:59