By Lynn Elber, The Associated Press on August 2, 2020.
LOS ANGELES – Wilford Brimley, who worked his way up from movie stunt rider to an indelible character actor who brought gruff charm, and sometimes menace, to a range of films that included â€œCocoon,â€ â€œThe Naturalâ€ and â€œThe Firm,â€ has died. He was 85.
Brimleyâ€™s manager Lynda Bensky said the actor died Saturday morning in a Utah hospital. He was on dialysis and had several medical ailments, she said.
The moustached Brimley was a familiar face for a number of roles, often playing characters like his grizzled baseball manager in â€œThe Naturalâ€ opposite Robert Redford’s bad-luck phenomenon. He also worked with Redford in â€œBrubakerâ€ and â€œThe Electric Horseman.â€
Brimley’s best-known work was in â€œCocoon,â€ in which he was part of a group of seniors who discover an alien pod that rejuvenates them. The 1985 Ron Howard film won two Oscars, including a supporting actor honour for Don Ameche.
Brimley also starred in â€œCocoon: The Return,â€ a 1988 sequel.
For years he was pitchman for Quaker Oats and in recent years appeared in a series of diabetes spots that turned him at one point into a social media sensation.
â€œWilford Brimley was a man you could trust,â€ Bensky said in a statement. â€œHe said what he meant and he meant what he said. He had a tough exterior and a tender heart. Iâ€™m sad that I will no longer get to hear my friendâ€™s wonderful stories. He was one of a kind.â€
Barbara Hershey, who met Brimley on 1995’s â€œLast of the Dogmen,â€ called him â€œa wonderful man and actor. … He always made me laugh.â€
Though never nominated for an Oscar or Emmy Award, Brimley amassed an impressive list of credits. In 1993â€™s John Grisham adaptation â€œThe Firm,â€ Brimley starred opposite Tom Cruise as a tough-nosed investigator who deployed ruthless tactics to keep his law firmâ€™s secrets safe.
John Woo, who directed Brimley as Uncle Douvee in 1993’s â€œHard Target,â€ told The Hollywood Reporter in 2018 that the part was â€œthe main great thing from the film. I was overjoyed making those scenes and especially working with Wilford Brimley.â€
A Utah native who grew up around horses, Brimley spent two decades travelling around the West and working at ranches and race tracks. He drifted into movie work during the 1960s, riding in such films as â€œTrue Grit,â€ and appearing in TV series such as â€œGunsmoke.”
He forged a friendship with Robert Duvall, who encouraged him to seek more prominent acting roles, according to a biography prepared by Turner Classic Movies.
Brimley, who never trained as an actor, saw his career take off after he won an important role as a nuclear power plant engineer in â€œThe China Syndrome.â€
â€œTraining? Iâ€™ve never been to acting classes, but Iâ€™ve had 50 years of training,â€ he said in a 1984 Associated Press interview. â€œMy years as an extra were good background for learning about camera techniques and so forth. I was lucky to have had that experience; a lot of newcomers donâ€™t.”
â€œBasically my method is to be honest,â€ Brimley said told AP. â€œThe camera photographs the truth – not what I want it to see, but what it sees. The truth.â€
Brimley had a recurring role as a blacksmith on â€œThe Waltonsâ€ and the 1980s prime-time series â€œOur House.â€
Another side of the actor was his love of jazz. As a vocalist, he made albums including â€œThis Time the Dreamâ€™s On Meâ€ and â€œWilford Brimley with the Jeff Hamilton Trio.â€
In 1998, he opposed an Arizona referendum to ban cockfighting, saying that he was “trying to protect a lifestyle of freedom and choice for my grandchildren.â€
In recent years, Brimleyâ€™s pitchwork for Liberty Mutual had turned him into an internet sensation for his drawn out pronunciation of diabetes as â€œdiabeetus.â€ He owned the pronunciation in a tweet that drew hundreds of thousands of likes earlier this year.
Brimley is survived by his wife Beverly and three sons.
AP Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this report.
You must be logged in to post a comment.