Charlton Heston, who won the 1959 best actor Oscar as the chariot-racing "Ben-Hur" and portrayed Moses, Michelangelo, El Cid and other heroic figures in movie epics of the '50s and '60s, has died. He was 84. The actor died Saturday night at his home in Beverly Hills with his wife Lydia at his side, family spokesman Bill Powers said. Powers declined to comment on the cause of death or provide further details. Heston revealed in 2002 that he had symptoms consistent with Alzheimer's disease, saying, "I must reconcile courage and surrender in equal measure." With his large, muscular build, well-boned face and sonorous voice, Heston proved the ideal star during the period when Hollywood was filling movie screens with panoramas depicting the religious and historical past. "I have a face that belongs in another century," he often remarked. The actor assumed the role of leader offscreen as well. He served as president of the Screen Actors Guild and chairman of the American Film Institute and marched in the civil rights movement of the 1950s. With age, he grew more conservative and campaigned for conservative candidates. In June 1998, Heston was elected president of the National Rifle Association, for which he had posed for ads holding a rifle. He delivered a jab at then-President Bill Clinton, saying, "America doesn't trust you with our 21-year-old daughters, and we sure, Lord, don't trust you with our guns." Heston stepped down as NRA president in April 2003, telling members his five years in office were "quite a ride. ... I loved every minute of it." That same year, Heston was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. "The largeness of character that comes across the screen has also been seen throughout his life," President George W. Bush said at the time. He engaged in a lengthy feud with liberal Ed Asner during the latter's tenure as president of the Screen Actors Guild. His latter-day activism almost overshadowed his achievements as an actor, which were considerable.