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Clark Middleton Had Rheumatoid Arthritis since He Was 4 — inside His Health Struggles

Manuela Cardiga
Oct 08, 2020
07:30 A.M.
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Clark Middleton, best known for his iconic performances in "The Blacklist," "Kill Bill: Vol. 2," "Sin City," and "Snowpiercer" had been battling a painful chronic condition from the age of four.


On October 4, 2020, Hollywood mourned the loss of one of its most talented and exceptional character actors, Clark Middleton. Middleton passed away at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center from complications of the West Nile virus.

Middleton was just 63 and succumbed to an incurable disease that is transmitted by an infected mosquito. But West Nile Virus was only the most recent health problem the actor dealt with. Since the age of four, Middleton had been battling rheumatoid arthritis.

Clark Middleton at "The Path" premiere in Hollywood in 2015 | Source: Getty Images



Middleton was just four years old when he was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Just like adult-onset arthritis, the condition causes swelling and inflammation of the joints and a great deal of pain. He revealed:

“I have lived with the disease since I was 4. As a kid, it was a very rocky road. I was lucky to have had a magnificent father who helped me (...) turn lemons into lemonade.”



Over the years, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis has affected several areas of his body, leading to numerous surgical interventions -- Middleton had ten joints replaced and 14 surgeries. He revealed:

“At first it distorted my hands. (...)  At 8, I lost movement in my neck. When I was 15, my hip snapped. After an operation, I had to be on crutches and(...) I broke my leg falling over my dog, on canes.”



But the agony he suffered through as a child and a growing boy crystalized Middleton's determination to live a normal life, no matter what limitations his body placed on him. He said:

"I work in a business where one’s appearance matters, at first, perhaps more than anything else. However, people get to know you, your character, and confidence."


Throughout his childhood, Middleton spent many months in recovery, and couldn't go to school. His comfort was watching movies, and his love for the cinema led him to sign up for drama classes.

It was his character, his determination, and confidence that led him to become one of Hollywood's most successful and sought-after character actors, with parts in some of the most successful shows and movies.

The actor created a support group, The Young Mels, which helps children and teens with juvenile arthritis to make their dreams come true


Among Middleton's many TV credits are the hit series "Blacklist," "Law & Order," "Fringe," "Gotham," "The Path," and "Twin Peaks;" and he acted in movies like "Kill Bill: Volume 2," "Sin City," "Snowpiercer," and the Academy Award-winning "Birdman."

With director Quentin Tarantino's encouragement, Middleton turned to directing, and he wrote the critically acclaimed one-man play "Miracle Mile" about a man dealing with crippling arthritis.



Following his beloved father's advice, Middleton "made lemonade" and he has used his celebrity status to reach out to juvenile arthritis sufferers, which total nearly 300,000 children and teenagers under 16 in the US alone.

The actor created a support group, The Young Mels, which helps children and teens with juvenile arthritis to make their dreams come true. He named the group after his father, Mel Middleton, the man who helped him make his own dreams come true.



Middleton was married in 2006 to fellow actress, author, producer, and director Elissa Middleton whom he met in 2002 while making a short film. The couple became friends, and the friendship turned into love. 

It was Elissa who announced to the world that Middleton had passed away in a heartbroken post on Middleton's Twitter account, and thanked the fans for their outpouring of love and support.


Clark Middleton leaves us all with a rich legacy of incredible accomplishments as a playwright, an actor, and a director, and above all as a man who refused to allow his physical limitations to determine his life, or deny him his dreams. 

In his honor, the Arthritis Foundation has announced the creation of the Clark Middleton Memorial Fund, which will continue to help and support arthritis sufferers to live full and fulfilling lives.


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