Character actor David Huddleston, whose most iconic role was the titular character in cult classic “The Big Lebowski,” has died. He was 85.
Huddleston’s wife, Sarah Koeppe, confirmed her husband’s passing, telling the Los Angeles Times that Huddleston had died Tuesday in Santa Fe, New Mexico of advanced heart and kidney disease. The pair had been married for 32 years.
After serving in the Air Force and attending drama school on the G.I. Bill, Huddleston began a prolific career as a character actor on stage, on television, and in movies, though his biggest break came late in his career, with 1998’s “Lebowski.” Though he only had a handful of scenes in the flick, Huddleston made the part count, especially in his interactions with Jeff Bridges’s The Dude. “Lebowski” was a bit of a flop when it first debuted, but has become a revered comedy in the years since, cementing Huddleston’s place in Hollywood history.
In addition to that iconic flick, Huddleston also appeared in films including comedy classic “Blazing Saddles” (which he once said was “probably the most fun I have ever had on a set”), “Capricorn One,” the titular role in 1985’s “Santa Claus: The Movie,” and 2005’s “The Producers.” His stage credits include “1776” (his “crowning achievement,” according to his wife), “The Music Man,” and “Mame.”
His television work featured roles on series such as “The Wonder Years” (for which he earned an Emmy nomination for his recurring role as the grandfather), “Walker, Texas Ranger,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “The West Wing” (in which he played a Republican senator), “Gilmore Girls” (playing Stars Hollow mayor Harry Porter), “The Wild Thornberrys,” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (a memorable appearance in the 2009 Christmas special, playing Frank’s former business partner who gets even with the gang).
Huddleston served on the national board of the Screen Actors Guild for more than 10 years, and the organization honored his passing with a statement.
“David Huddleston was a uniquely gifted actor and a proud unionist,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris. “He will be forever remembered for his service to our union and the countless characters he brought to life on screen. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and loved ones.”
“Things were not important to him — people were,” Koeppe told the Los Angeles Times of her husband. “He loved entertaining and would rather sit down and talk with someone over dinner.”
[via: Los Angeles Times, h/t Variety]
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