Jack Kehler, a veteran character actor best known for his brief but memorable role as the Dude’s landlord in the Coen Brothers film “The Big Lebowski,” and who played Jaheel in the “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” episode, “Babel,” has died at the age of 75, his son, Eddie Kehler, confirmed to Deadline. According to Eddie Kehler, his father died Saturday, May 7, 2022, succumbing to complications of leukemia at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.
Kehler, according to Deadline, was born on May 22, 1946, in Philadelphia, studied acting with Sanford Meisner and Wynn Handman, and was a member of The Actors Studio for most of his professional life. According to an interview with Kehler in the trade paper Backstage, he was waiting tables in New York at the age of 24 and decided on a career change. “I made a list of four things I liked and felt connected to, even though I didn’t know how to do them. One was theatre,” he said, while the other three were writing, playing guitar, and woodworking. “At times I thought I was starting too late to have a real career,” he said, “but then I realized Vincent van Gogh didn’t pick up a paintbrush until he was 27.”
Variety reported that Kehler’s first film credit after arriving in Los Angeles to pursue an acting career was in the 1983 science-fiction film “Strange Invaders,” which, according to the Internet Movie Database also featured such future “Star Trek” guest stars as Thomas Kopache, Dey Young, Kenneth Tobey, Wallace Shawn, and Louise Fletcher.
The ‘Babel’ Trailer
IMDB lists 171 film and television appearances logged by Kehler, who worked as recently as 2021. His many credits include “Hill Street Blues,” “I Love You to Death,” “Tales from the Crypt,” “The John Larroquette Show,” “Wyatt Earp,” “Waterworld,” “Babylon 5,” “The Invaders” (with Scott Bakula), “Sliders” (with Jerry O’Connell and John Rhys Davies), “Murder One,” “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me,” “Fever Pitch,” “Lost Highway,” “Men in Black II,” “Monk,” “Mad Men,” “The Man in the High Castle” (in the recurring role of Harlan Wyndam-Matson), “The Magicians” (an episode written by “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” showrunner Henry Alonso Myers and directed by “Strange New Worlds” producer-director Chris Fisher), and “Love, Victor,” which coincidentally cast him as a landlord. He also acted in numerous stage productions.
Kehler made arguably his biggest mark on pop culture history with his role as Marty, the nervous landlord who, in “The Big Lebowski,” bugs The Dude (Jeff Bridges) to pay his rent but also invites him to his dance recital. Later in the movie, The Dude abides and attends the recital. “I was at a Bob Dylan concert recently, and a young man approached me and asked if I was in the film,” Kehler told Backstage. “When I said yes, he started screaming, ‘Oh, my God. This and Bob Dylan in the same night.’ It was very cute; he knew all my lines and everything.” Backstage noted that at another time a young woman approached Kehler at a café and told him that her friends had frequent screenings of the movie, at which they’d act out the parts. “She wanted to know if I was interested in coming to watch it with them one night,” Kehler said. “It’s kind of a little phenomenon for me because the movie didn’t do so well even though I think it’s really terrific.”
Kehler in ‘The Big Lebowski’
Kehler made his one and only visit to the “Star Trek” universe in “Babel,” which aired on January 24, 1993, as the fifth episode of the first season of “Deep Space Nine.” According to Memory Alpha, Jaheel was a Boslic freighter captain who docked at Deep Space 9 in 2369 and was transporting a shipment of Tamen Sasheer to Largo V. Memory Alpha expanded on details about the appearance, noting that, “After waiting two days for his antimatter flow converter to be readjusted on his ship, Jaheel asked Miles O’Brien (Colm Meaney) to fix it and was told he’d have to wait even longer. This, combined with the perishable nature of his cargo, put Jaheel in an irritable mood. His attitude was later exacerbated when the entire station was placed under quarantine due to an outbreak of the aphasia virus. Jaheel himself became infected and nearly crippled the station when he tried to depart with his cargo, breaking the quarantine, even though he was still attached to the station through its mooring clamps. Jaheel’s ship was destroyed, but he survived.”
According to Variety, Kehler is survived by his wife, Shawn Casey; his son, Eddie Kehler; his daughter-in-law, Mari-Anne; and his grandson, Liam.