First Blood and Tommy Boy Actor Brian Dennehy Passes Away, Age 81

At the age of 81, veteran actor Brian Dennehy, whose career spanned nearly a half-century and included work on television, in film, and on stage, passed away Wednesday night, TMZ is reporting based on law enforcement sources. Dennehy's passing was due to natural causes, with the actor survived by his wife, Jennifer, and five children: Elizabeth, Kathleen, Dierdre, Cormac, and Sarah. In the '70s, Dennehy became a familiar face on a number of influential and groundbreaking series by showing a unique knack for both drama and comedy. Just some of the series he guest-starred in include Kojak, M*A*S*H, Lou Grant, and Dallas before making his movie debut in Burt Reynolds comedy Semi-Tough and landing a recurring role on ABC's nighttime soap opera Dynasty in 1981.

Brian Dennehy has passed away, age 81. Image courtesy Sam Aronov and Shutterstock.com.
Brian Dennehy has passed away, age 81. Image courtesy Sam Aronov and Shutterstock.com.

One year later, Dennehy would land the role of Sheriff Teasle in Sylvester Stallone's First Blood. The first (and what many consider to be the best by a mile) of the "Rambo" franchise, Dennehy found a way to convey complexity and well-roundedness to Teasle, transcending the character beyond that of being "just a big bad." Throughout the '80s and '90s, the actor would become a fixture on film screens. From western Silverado to sci-fi drama Cocoon to mystery-thriller Presumed Innocent and neo-Shakespearean tale Romeo + Juliet, Dennehy showed the level of versatility and range that kept him out of the embrace of stereotyping. Perhaps no better example of that is one of his most beloved roles, that of Big Tom Callahan in the late Chris Farley comedy Tommy Boy.

Dennehy's work in the theater would earn him two Tony Awards for Best Actor: for his 1999 portrayal of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman (prior to his television performance), and for his 2003 portrayal of Tyrone in Long Day's Journey Into Night. In recent years, he voiced Django in Ratatouille, appeared as a KGB agent on NBC's The Blacklist, had a recurring role as an Irish mob boss on Public Morals, and a sheriff on Hap and Leonard. Dennehy's ends his career with nearly 200 film and television credits, winning the 2001 Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor for the televised version of Salesman.

About Ray Flook

Serving as Television Editor since 2018, Ray began five years earlier as a contributing writer/photographer before being brought onto the core BC team in 2017.