Brian Dennehy, ‘Tommy Boy’ and ‘First Blood’ Star, Dies at 81

Brian Dennehy, ‘Tommy Boy’ and ‘First Blood’ Star, Dies at 81

By Carmel Dagan22

Brian Dennehy Dead
Carolyn Contino/BEI/Shutterstock

Brian Dennehy, the winner of two Tonys in a career that also spanned films including “Tommy Boy,” “First Blood” and “Cocoon,” and television roles including “Dynasty” and “Death of a Salesman,” died on Wednesday night in New Haven, Conn. He was 81.

“It is with heavy hearts we announce that our father, Brian passed away last night from natural causes, not Covid-related. 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,” his daughter, actress Elizabeth Dennehy, tweeted on Thursday.

His agency ICM also confirmed the news.

In the 1995 comedy “Tommy Boy,” Dennehy was Big Tom, the father of Chris Farley’s character Tom, who takes over the family’s auto parts business with David Spade after his father dies. In Ron Howard’s 1995 hit “Cocoon,” Dennehy played the leader of the alien Antareans who leave lifeforce-giving cocoons in a a swimming pool near a retirement home.

The imposingly tall, barrel-chested Dennehy won his first Tony for his performance as Willy Loman in a revival of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” in 1999 and his second Tony for his turn as James Tyrone in a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” in 2003.  TOP ARTICLES3/5READ MORETV Ratings: ‘Chicago Fire’ Season Finale ScoresSeries High 9.3 Million Viewers

The actor made his TV and feature debut in 1977 — a year in which he made appearances in at least 10 series or telepics, including “Kojak,” “MASH” and “”Lou Grant,” and the films “Looking for Mr. Goodbar” and “Semi-Tough.” From that point he maintained a heavy work load for decades.

In 1982 his profile increased significantly thanks to his effective performance in the role of Teasle, the sadistic small-town police chief who is Sylvester Stallone’s lead adversary in “First Blood.”

In addition to “Cocoon,” he had significant roles in the 1983 thriller “Gorky Park” and in “Silverado.” He was second-billed, after Bryan Brown, in the well-constructed 1986 thriller “F/X,” in which he played a cop not part of the conspiracy, and in the 1991 sequel. He was fourth-billed in “Legal Eagles,” after the star trio of Robert Redford, 


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