Beloved character actor and titan of Broadway Brian Dennehy died yesterday at 81 from natural causes. I watched him on TV and film for the last 40+ years and, whether it was a cameo or he was #1 on the call sheet, Dennehy always left an impression with his work.
Dennehy didn't become well-known to movie audiences until he was in his forties. After several bit movie parts (love FOUL PLAY) and guest appearances on TV shows, it was FIRST BLOOD that really put him on the map for movie fans. That's because he absolutely nailed his role as the dickhead sheriff Teasle who pushed PTSD-ridden Vietnam Veteran John Rambo over the edge.
It also put him on the map with producers and casting directors as he began to appear in more and more Hollywood features. Between just 1983 and 1986, he turned in stellar work in NEVER CRY WOLF, GORKY PARK, COCOON, SILVERADO, AND F/X. The diversity of those films speaks to the versatility that Dennehy brought to his work. Charismatic bad guy. Gruff but honest cop. Mysterious fella who might be an alien. Dennehy could play seemingly anything and play it very well.
More roles follwed. BEST SELLER. PRESUMED INNOCENT. F/X 2 (a quality sequel to a fun original). GLADIATOR (1992). TOMMY BOY. ROMEO + JULIET (the Leo one). RATATOUILLE. He also continued doing steady work on TV shows/movies, racking up five Emmy noms and a Globe win (for his Willy Loman in "Death of a Salesman").
When he wasn't working on sets, the two-time Tony winner was doing amazing work on his true love, the stage. His interpretation of Loman on stage is said to be one of the best peformances ever done (The Chicago Tribune goes more in-depth on his theater career in their obit).
May the road rise to meet you, Brian. You did a hell of a job.
(Here's a cool Random Roles segment he did two years ago.)
(Disney+, please make NEVER CRY WOLF available on your streaming service. Not sure why it's not there already.)
(If you haven't seen FIRST BLOOD recently or at all, it's not the bullets-and-bloodfest that you associate with the name Rambo but rather a sad tale about a damaged vet who rightfully feels that his country has turned its back on him after his psyche-scarring tour in Vietnam.)