Brian Dennehy Dead: ‘Tommy Boy’ Actor Dies at 81

Brian Dennehy

Getty Brian Dennehy in 2014.

Veteran actor Brian Dennehy, who had a career on the screen and the stage of over five decades, died on Wednesday night, April 15, at the age of 81. The actor died of natural causes, and his family clarified that his death was not related to COVID-19. His daughter Elizabeth confirmed his death on Twitter, posting the following statement:

She wrote: “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.”

The actor is survived by his wife and five children.

1. Dennehy Had a Long Career in Film, TV & on Stage & Won Numerous Awards

Dennehy’s career took off after he played the role of Sheriff Will Teasle in 1982’s First Blood, alongside Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo. He played a lot of supporting roles in his first years but became a true leading man after his role in the thriller Best Seller in 1987, which co-starred James Woods.

His most notable role was arguably Big Tom Callahan in the 1995 comedy Tommy Boy. He was also well-known for his television roles, including his roles in To Catch a Killer, and Death of a Salesman. Dennehy most recently appeared in the NBC crime thriller series The Blacklist, playing the recurring role of Dominic Wilkinson between 2016 and 2019.

He also appeared on stage in Chicago, Dublin and on Broadway. He was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2010.

2. The Actor Was Nominated for Numerous Awards & Won a Golden Globe & 2 Tony Awards

During his career, the talented actor won a series of awards and nominations. He most notably took home a Golden Globe, for the Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film for his role in Death of a Salesman, and two Tony Awards for Best Actor in a Play, one for his role in Long Day’s Journey Into Night in 2003 and the other for Death of a Salesman in 1999.

He was also nominated for six Primetime Emmy Awards between 1990 and 2005 for playing either an outstanding lead actor or supporting actor.

3. Dennehy Was Born in Connecticut in 1938 to Irish-American Parents

Dennehy was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut on July 9, 1938, to Hannah and Edward Dennehy. His parents were children of Irish immigrants who moved to America in the late 1890s and settled in Connecticut. In an interview with an Irish publication, Dennehy said: “My grandfather had a really bitter childhood.”

He continued, “He went to America to lose himself. He hated being reminded of Ireland and hated everything Irish: Irish music, everything. And maybe that wasn’t an unusual reaction for the first generation – all they remembered was poverty and oppression. But my own father, he became a typical Irish-American, a typical sentimentalist. Me, third generation, I fell in love with Ireland when I first visited, but I am no idealist; I know the good and the bad points – the joy and the craziness – but at the same time it all works for me.”

4. Dennehy Has Been Married Twice & Has 5 Children

He married Judith Scheff in 1959 and the two had three children together: Elizabeth, Kathleen and Deirdre. The two divorced in 1974. In 1988, he married Jennifer Arnott and they had two children together: Cormack and Sarah. Jennifer and Brian remained together until his death.

His daughter Elizabeth Dennehy became an actress herself, appearing in TV series like Guiding Light, Seinfeld and Charmed.

5. Fans & Fellow Actors Have Been Posting Condolences & Tributes Online

Condolences have been pouring in following news of the actor’s death, who was incredibly popular and well-loved. William Shatner posted on Twitter:

He wrote: “Condolences to the family of Brian Dennehy. A wonderfully talented actor.”

Producer John Cohen posted:

He wrote: “Brian Dennehy was one of the greats. I was lucky to see him in Death of a Salesman on Broadway – such a wonderful performance. RIP.”

Michael McKean posted on Twitter:

His post reads: “RIP Brian Dennehy. Brilliant and versatile, a powerhouse actor and a very nice man as well.”

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