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Assi Dayan, trailblazing Israeli filmmaker and son of former war hero, dies at 68

FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2009 file photo, actor and director Assi Dayan speaks during the Ophir Prize ceremony for life time achievement award in Haifa, Israel. Dayan, an Israeli cultural icon who was known for both his trailblazing films and troubled personal life, died Thursday in his Tel Aviv home. He was 68. (AP Photo/Tomer Neuberg) ISRAEL OUT

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FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2009 file photo, actor and director Assi Dayan speaks during the Ophir Prize ceremony for life time achievement award in Haifa, Israel. Dayan, an Israeli cultural icon who was known for both his trailblazing films and troubled personal life, died Thursday in his Tel Aviv home. He was 68. (AP Photo/Tomer Neuberg) ISRAEL OUT

JERUSALEM - Actor and director Assi Dayan, an Israeli cultural icon who was known for both his trailblazing films and troubled personal life, died on Thursday in his Tel Aviv home. He was 68.

No cause of death was given but Dayan had suffered from several illnesses in recent years. Word of his death immediately became the top news item in Israel.

A scion to one of Israel's most prominent families, Dayan was the youngest son of famed military chief and defence minister Moshe Dayan. His sister Yael was also a former politician.

"My baby is gone and this is not the age when you expect the anchor to fall," his 97-year-old mother Ruth said, speaking to reporters outside his home.

Despite his lineage, Dayan was somewhat of a counterculture hero. He often lashed out at the state and angrily confronted his father over his military views, his marital infidelities and his reputation for plundering antiquities' sites.

Dayan acted in 50 films and TV shows and directed 16 movies. He played the lead role in the acclaimed TV drama Betipul, which was adapted into the HBO series "In Treatment," with Gabriel Byrne playing Dayan's role. Dayan won many awards for his filmmaking prowess. In 1998, he received a lifetime achievement award at the Jerusalem International Film Festival.

He was also a popular newspaper columnist who did not shy away from sharing confessions about his own demons.

Dayan, who had four children from three marriages, had a tumultuous personal life. He was open about his bouts of drug and alcohol abuse and a series of attempted suicides.

"Today we lost one of our greatest artists, not just in film but in all culture," actress Gila Almagor told the YNet news site. "Assi was a guiding light, a multifaceted genius."

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