Brian Dennehy Dies @ 81

Veteran stage and screen actor Brian Dennehy died Wednesday, April 15, at his home in Connecticut, his daughter announced on social media:

It is with heavy hearts we announce that our father, Brian passed away last night from natural causes, not Covid-related. Larger than life, generous to a fault, a proud and devoted father and grandfather, he will be missed by his wife Jennifer, family and many friends.

The two-time Tony winner's death is from "natural causes," and no autopsy will be performed.

Born July 9, 1938, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the barrel-chested Dennehy received a football scholarship to Columbia in NYC. He studied acting at Yale, served as a Marine (though was later forced to admit his stories of having served in Vietnam were fabricated) and supported himself as a stockbroker prior to breaking into TV and film in 1977 with a slew of episodic TV parts and in a small role in Looking for Mr. Goodbar.

Other early film roles include Semi-Tough (1977), F.I.S.T. (1978), Foul Play (1978), 10 (1979) and Little Miss Marker (1980).

Drawing Blood (GIF via GIPHY)

After working steadily for five years, he seemed to break through as Teasle in First Blood (1982), the runaway hit for Sylvester Stallone (b. 1946) that established Rambo as a cinematic icon.

By 1995, Dennehy was a familiar face, and in the comedy Tommy Boy, he achieved his biggest success — even if he was always more closely identified with drama. Bo Derek (b. 1956) played his wife in the movie, a wink at their past work together in 10.

Mom and Pop (Image via Paramount)

He remained busy in the '80s in such fare as Split Image (1982), Cocoon (1985), Legal Eagles (1986) and Best Seller (1987), and was especially proud of the Peter Greenaway (b. 1942) drama The Belly of an Architect (1987). Other films on his extensive résumé include Presumed Innocent (1990), Gladiator (1992), Romeo + Juliet (1996), Ratatouille (2007; as Django), and the films Son of the South, Long Day Journey and The Adventures of Buddy Thunder, all apparently in post-production.

On TV, Dennehy was Jake Dunham on Dynasty (1981), and racked up six Emmy nominations for his work in a variety of acclaimed TV movies, including for playing gay serial killer John Wayne Gacy (1942-1994) in To Catch a Killer (1992) and as Willy Loman in a 2000 presentation of Death of a Salesman, a Tony-winning performance he was repeating from the 1999 Broadway revival. He lost the Emmy, but his televised Willy Loman brought him a Golden Globe.

Active in theater his entire career, his other Tony was for Long Day's Journey Into Night (2003). He did not restrict his appearances to the Great White Way and off-Broadway, also working extensively in Chicago, in Canada and in England. For his work in the medium, Dennehy was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame 10 years before his death.

Married twice, Dennehy is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and by five children, among them actress Elizabeth Dennehy (b. 1960).

Dennehy was immediately memorialized on social media by friends and peers:

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