Brian Dennehy, veteran actor of stage and screen, dead at 81

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NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 13: Actor Brian Dennehy speaks onstage during The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center Honors Nathan Lane With 15th Annual Monte Cristo Award – Inside on April 13, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center)

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Brian Dennehy, a versatile character actor whose career spanned five decades, has died at the age of 81, his talent agency confirmed.

Dennehy, a two-time Tony Award winner who co-starred in a wide range of films, often in tough-guy roles, died of natural causes in Connecticut on Wednesday night, ICM Partners announced in a statement.

In a tweet, his daughter described him as “larger than life” and “generous to a fault.”

Dennehy co-starred in a long list of popular movies, including “First Blood” (as the local sheriff who clashes with Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo), the western “Silverado,” and the science-fiction classic “Cocoon.” He played Chris Farley’s dad in the comedy “Tommy Boy,” and portrayed basketball coach Bobby Knight in a made-for-TV movie.

A former college football player at Columbia University, Dennehy appeared in a number of TV shows before making his movie debut in the Burt Reynolds movie “Semi-Tough” as a football player. He quickly went on to roles in the movies “10,” “F.I.S.T.” He also had a regular part in the series “Dynasty.”

“Just devastated to learn that the magnificent Brian Dennehy has died,” actress Mia Farrow wrote on Twitter. “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.”

Dennehy won a Tony for his role in “Death of a Salesman,” later playing the part in a TV production of the play. He received another for “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”

Dennehy had continued to work recently in such series as “Hap and Leonard” and NBC’s “The Blacklist.”

Fellow actors mourned Dennehy on Thursday.

Michael McKean called Dennehy a “brilliant and versatile” and “a powerhouse actor.”

Marlee Matlin said “his passing is a terrible loss.”

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.”

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