Brian Dennehy, one of our best character actors, with credits that include First Blood, Silverado, the F/X films, Tommy Boy, Ratatouille, and so much more, has died. Dennehy began acting in the 1970s, but it was role as the sheriff in First Blood, the first Rambo movie, that launched him to prominence. A larger-than-life actor who always made his presence known, Dennehy was 81-years-old.
R.I.P. Brian Dennehy, an absolute acting legend. During his long career, Dennehy scored two Tony Awards, six Emmys, and a Golden Globe, with numerous credits on stage and screen. Dennehy began acting in the mid-1970s, mostly in TV roles, including Kojack and M*A*S*H. In 1978 he appeared with Sylvester Stallone in the film F.I.S.T., and would reunite with Stallone again in 1982’s First Blood. It was Dennehy’s role as the cruel Sheriff Teasle, who targets Vietnam vet John Rambo, that helped launch him to prominence.
Some of Dennehy’s other notable roles include Gorky Park, Cocoon, Silverado, the two F/X films, Presumed Innocent, Tommy Boy, Romeo + Juliet, and Ratatouille. He had a memorable, and mostly silent, turn as Christian Bale’s abusive father in Terrence Malick’s 2015 Knight of Cups, and currently has three unreleased films in post-production.
One of Dennehy’s most acclaimed stage roles was a 1998 production of Death of a Salesman, which won him one of this two Tony Awards (the second was for a 2003 production of Long Day’s Journey into Night).
“Back when I was in my mid-30s, I had done a lot of theater, so I knew how to act,” Dennehy said in a 2018 interview. “And I knew how to get these emotions where they needed to be so that people either could see them in an audience or a camera could pick it up. So that wasn’t a problem. The problem was you just got to do it fast, no matter how many times. Bang. They’d put me on the set. A very quick rehearsal; a guy puts a camera a certain place. “We’re going to do this, this, and this.” Then shoot, and you get the hell out of there because he’s got to do that now 15 different ways all day long with different scenes and different actors. And that’s the way it is. You’ve got 12 hours, 14 hours maybe on some days. And you’re part of a machine that has to move, and hopefully it moves well. Hopefully it moves creatively, but it has to move. Period. It has to move. And you learn how to do that.”
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