Sage and screen actor Brian Dennehy has passed away from natural causes at age 81.
Dennehy was known largely for his roles in Rambo: First Blood, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, and even the voice of Django, the patriarch of the rat clan in Ratatouille. Dennehy also had two Tony awards to his name, for his performances in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman in 1999 (the latter of which he also won an Olivier).
Dennehy, born in 1938 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, earned a sports scholarship at Columbia University, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in History, played football and rugby, and joined the Sigma Chi fraternity. Despite his talent for football, Dennehy passed up the opportunity to captain a team by dropping out of school and joining the Marines from 1958 to 1963. Before starting his acting career, he was a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch in Manhattan in the 1970’s.
Dennehy began acting by taking small roles on TV like Kojak and Dynasty, but his breakout role was Sheriff Will Teasle in First Blood, whose antagonistic behavior toward John Rambo causes the ex-Vietnam veteran to launch a one-man retaliation against Teasle’s abusive law enforcement. Dennehy was largely a character actor but he also shone on stage, taking parts in many plays in his life. At the 2011 Stratford Shakespeare Festival, he played Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night. He was an inductee in the American Theater Hall of Fame.
Dennehy married twice, and had five children, including actress Elizabeth Dennehy. He is survived by his wife Jennifer Arnott, his children Elizabeth, Kathleen, Deirdre, Cormac, and Sarah, and his grandchildren.