Veteran Actor Brian Dennehy, ‘First Blood’ & ‘Cocoon’ Star, Dies At 81
Stage and screen actor Brian Dennehy, who was best known for his Tony winning performance in Death of a Salesman and starring against Sylvester Stallone in First Blood, died on Wednesday. He was 81.
The actor died of natural causes, unrelated to COVID-19, according to his agency. His agent, Brian Mann, told the Chicago Tribune that he died of cardiac arrest.
Dennehy started out as a star football player at Columbia University, who dropped out in 1959 before his senior year to join the Marines. He eventually finished his bachelors degree, but didn’t find acting until a little later in life. He was discovered by an agent in 1976 after performing in Long Island theaters. He went on to play numerous roles, mostly as characters who were big and tough, but with lots of deeper emotions.
His first movie role was in Burt Reynolds’ Semi-Tough, and he had starred in many other movies like the Western, Silverado, the science fiction flick, Cocoon, the comedy Tommy Boy and the thriller, To Catch A Killer.
Dennehy had won two Tony awards, one for playing Willy Loman in the 1999 revival of Death of a Salesman, and one for playing James Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey Into Night in 2003. Playbill labeled the actor as a “masterful interpreter of Eugene O’Neill, Samuel Beckett, and Arthur Miller.”
He also won a Golden Globe, an Olivier award, and had six Emmy nominations.
His costars, friends, and fans remembered him on social media:
Just devastated to learn that the magnificent Brian Dennehy has died. They 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. pic.twitter.com/s55Cc37lFy
— Mia Farrow (@MiaFarrow) April 16, 2020
RIP Brian Dennehy. Brilliant and versatile, a powerhouse actor and a very nice man as well.
— Michael McKean (@MJMcKean) April 16, 2020
Condolences to the family of Brian Dennehy. 😞 A wonderfully talented actor.
— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) April 16, 2020
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.
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) April 16, 2020