Character Actor Brian Dennehy Dies, Aged 81

Brian Dennehy

by James White |
Published on

A burly regular character actor, a man who could play both angry menace, gruff displeasure and gentle reassurance, has died. Brian Dennehy was 81.

Born in Brooklyn's Red Hook in 1938, Dennehy was initially more focused on American football, both at New York's Chaminade High School (where he recalls a coach telling him, "as a football player, you'd make a great actor") before attending Columbia University and then the US Marine Corps.

Dennehy's interest in performing grew from drama classes in school, and he would start his career, like so many others, in regional theatre, supporting his craft with a variety of jobs, including stockbroker and meat truck driver. His big stage break was in an off-Broadway play called Streamers about the Vietnam War.

A run of TV guest spots followed, including on shows such as Kojak, M.A.S.H. and Cagney & Lacey, and even when his film work took off, he continued to show up on the small screen, most recently on The Blacklist.

The actor's film debut was as a surgeon in Looking For Mr. Goodbar, and he broke out in movies including Semi-Tough and F.I.S.T. He's most recognizable from films such as First Blood, Cocoon, F/X, Tommy Boy and 1996's Romeo + Juliet. In a career that spanned more than 40 years, he won two Tony awards, an Olivier and a Golden Globe.

"It is with heavy hearts we announce that our father, Brian passed away last night from natural causes, not Covid-related," Dennehy's daughter Elizabeth wrote on Twitter. "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."

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us