Brian Dennehy, a Tony- and Golden Globe-winning character actor known for his roles in the movie “Tommy Boy” and the TV movie “Death of a Salesman,” has died at 81.
Dennehy died Wednesday in New Haven, Connecticut, with his wife Jennifer and son Cormac by his side, his representative Brad Turrell confirmed to USA TODAY in a statement on Thursday.
Dennehy racked up more than 180 acting credits in his lengthy career, including roles as Chris Farley’s father Thomas “Big Tom” Callahan Jr. in the 1995 comedy “Tommy Boy” and D.A. Jake Dunham in “Dynasty,” as well as his more recent role as Dominic Wilkinson in NBC’s “The Blacklist.”
The veteran actor earned a Tony Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Golden Globe for his turn as Willy Loman in “Salesman” onscreen and on Broadway. He earned a second Tony Award for best actor in a play for “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” opposite Vanessa Redgrave, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Robert Sean Leonard. He was nominated six times for a Primetime Emmy for his work in “A Killing in a Small Town” and “The Burden of Proof,” among others.
Celebrities took to social media to mourn Dennehy’s death.
Mia Farrow shared her heartbreak on Twitter Thursday with a photo of the late actor.
“Just devastated to learn that the magnificent Brian Dennehy has died,” Farrow wrote in a tweet, adding there is “no one i enjoyed working with more. And there are few friends as valued in my life. I took this photo backstage when we were in Love Letters. He loved my pup Bowie.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted that he “was lucky enough to see Brian Dennehy twice on stage, masterful in Love Letters, and monumentally heartbreaking in Death Of A Salesman. A colossus. What a loss.”
William Shatner offered his condolences to Dennehy’s family in a tweet, calling him “a wonderfully talented actor.”
James Woods shared a photo with Dennehy. “I’m just devastated to hear we lost my beloved friend and colleague,” Woods wrote on Twitter. “We were partners on two of my favorite films, Split Image and Best Seller. I’ve never laughed so hard as we did every day on the set or off. For a big “tough guy,” he was a sweetheart.
The 6-foot-3-inch Dennehy went to Hollywood for his first movie, “Semi-Tough” starring Burt Reynolds and Kris Kristofferson. He was paid $10,000 a week for 10 weeks’ work, which he thought “looked like it was all the money in the world.”
Among his 40-odd films, Dennehy played a sheriff who jailed Rambo in “First Blood,” a serial killer in “To Catch a Killer,” and a corrupt sheriff gunned down by Kevin Kline in “Silverado.” He also had some benign roles: the bartender who consoles Dudley Moore in “10” and the levelheaded leader of aliens in “Cocoon” and its sequel.
His movies also included “Looking for Mr. Goodbar,” “Foul Play,” “Little Miss Marker,” “Split Image,” “Gorky Park,” “Legal Eagles,” “Miles from Home,” “Return to Snowy River,” “Presumed Innocent,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “Assault on Precinct 13.”
He played serial murderer John Wayne Gacy in the 1991 TV movie “To Catch a Killer” and union leader Jackie Presser in the HBO special “Teamster Boss” a year later. “I try to play villains as if they’re good guys and good guys as if they’re villains,” he said in 1992.
He worked deep into his 70s, in such projects as SundanceTV’s “Hap and Leonard,” the film “The Seagull” with Elisabeth Moss and Annette Bening and the play “Endgame” by Samuel Beckett at the Long Wharf Theatre. His last foray on Broadway was in “Love Letters” opposite Mia Farrow in 2014.
Dennehy is survived by his wife Jennifer and children Cormac, Sarah, Elizabeth, Kathleen and Deirdre.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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