American actor Brian Dennehy, star of stage and screen, has died at the age of 81, of natural causes (unrelated to COVID-19). Theater fans will remember him for his Tony Award-winning performances in Death of a Salesman in 1999 and Long Day’s Journey Into Night in 2003. SCIFI.radio fans may remember him for his roles as Walter in Cocoon, Teasle in First Blood, and the voice of Django in Disney’s Ratatouille.
In a career spanning decades, it is difficult for this writer to choose a favorite role. He described himself: “Eventually, I was an overnight success — after 15 years.” He spent years in community theater before breaking into television and movie roles. The stage was always his first love, though – he often returned to to live theater, and appeared on Broadway in his sixties. He performed several times in Canada’s prestigious Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
Brian Dennehy was born July 9, 1938 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He died April 15, 2020 of natural causes (cardiac arrest resulting from sepsis); his death was unrelated to the Covid-19 pandemic. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, he was married twice, first to Judith Scheff from 1960 – 1974, then remarried to Jennifer Arnott in 1988. He is survived by his wife Jennifer,his daughters from first marriage, Elizabeth, Kathleen and Deirdre, two children from his second marriage, Cormac and Sarah, and several grandchildren.
At the time of his death, he had two projects in post-production, Son of the South and Long Day Journey. He had also been cast in the Angela Lansbury (Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast. Nancy in Gaslight, Daisy Werthan in Driving Miss Daisy) movie The Adventures of Buddy Thunder, which is currently in pre-production.
In addition to his many roles on stage, he had nearly 200 roles on TV and in films, ranging from Ted Montague in the ’96 Romeo + Juliet to Detective Jack Reed in a series of made-for TV movies which he starred in and also directed and co-wrote, to Dominic Wilkinson in The Blacklist, to Kublai Khan in Marco Polo. He voiced Babe Ruth in the animated feature Everyone’s Hero. He voiced Aaron Burr in the documentary American Experience.
Dennehy directed six TV movies, including four of the Jack Reed movies, and one TV show. He wrote or co-wrote four made-for-TV movies, the four Jack Reed mysteries and Shadow of a Doubt, costarring Fairuza Balk of The Craft and Return to Oz. He himself starred in all the movies he directed or wrote.
In addition to his two Tony Awards, Dennehy won one Golden Globe Award, and was nominated for five Primetime Emmy Awards.
We say goodbye to a veteran, a gentleman and a scholar, an actor’s actor.
Dennehy had a slightly more humble reflection on his body of work in an interview with the Daily Actor in 2018.”I’m now 80 and I’m just another actor and that’s fine with me. I’ve had a hell of a ride,” he said. “I have a nice house. I haven’t got a palace, a mansion, but a pretty nice, comfortable home. I’ve raised a bunch of kids and sent them all to school, and they’re all doing well. All the people that are close to me are reasonably healthy and happy. Listen, that’s as much as anybody can hope for in life.”