Wilford Brimley, who went from a film stuntman to an indelible actor who brought rude and sometimes threatening charm to a series of films that included “Cocoon”, “The Natural” and “The Firm”, died. He was 85 years old.
Brimley’s manager Lynda Bensky said the actor died on Saturday morning at a Utah hospital. He was on dialysis and had several medical conditions, she said.
The Brimley mustache was a familiar face for several roles, often playing characters like his gray-haired baseball manager in “The Natural”, alongside Robert Redford’s bad luck phenomenon. He also worked with Redford on “Brubaker” and “The Electric Horseman”.
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Brimley’s best-known work was in “Cocoon”, in which he was part of a group of elderly people who discover an alien group that rejuvenates them. Ron Howard’s 1985 film won two Oscars, including a tribute to the supporting actor by Don Ameche.
Brimley also starred in “Cocoon: The Return”, a 1988 sequel.
For years, he was a pitcher for Quaker Oats and, in recent years, appeared in a series of diabetes spots that turned him into a social media sensation.
“Wilford Brimley was a man you could trust,” said Bensky in a statement. “He said what he meant and he meant what he said. He had a tough exterior and a tender heart. I am sad that I can no longer hear my friend’s wonderful stories. He was unique.
Wilford Brimley attends the “You heard about the Morgans” premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York, December 14, 2009. (Associated Press)
Barbara Hershey, who met Brimley in 1995’s “Last of the Dogmen”, called him “a wonderful man and actor. … He always made me laugh.
Although he was never nominated for an Oscar or Emmy, Brimley has amassed an impressive list of credits. In John Grisham’s 1993 adaptation of “The Firm,” Brimley starred alongside Tom Cruise as a hard-nosed investigator who adopted relentless tactics to keep the secrets of his law firm safe.
John Woo, who directed Brimley as Uncle Douvee in 1993’s “Hard Target”, told The Hollywood Reporter in 2018 that the role was “the main good thing about the film. I was very happy to do these scenes and especially to work with Wilford. Brimley. ”
A Utah native who grew up around horses, Brimley spent two decades traveling west and working on farms and race tracks. He started working in cinema during the 1960s, editing films like “True Grit” and appearing on TV series like “Gunsmoke”.
He forged a friendship with Robert Duvall, who encouraged him to seek out 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 winning an important role as a nuclear plant engineer in “The China Syndrome”.
“Training? I never went to drama classes, but I had 50 years of training,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press in 1984. “My years as extras were a good background for learning about camera techniques and so on. I had lucky to have had that experience; many newbies don’t. “
“Basically, my method is to be honest,” Brimley told the AP. “The camera photographs the truth – not what I want it to see, but what it sees. The truth.”
Brimley had a recurring role as a blacksmith in “The Waltons” and in the 1980s prime time series “Our House”.
Another side of the actor was his love for jazz. As a vocalist, he made albums including “This Time the Dream’s On Me” and “Wilford Brimley with Jeff Hamilton Trio”.
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In 1998, he opposed a referendum in Arizona to ban cockfighting, saying he was “trying to protect a lifestyle of freedom and choice for my grandchildren”.
In recent years, Brimley’s argument for Liberty Mutual has made him an Internet sensation for his prolonged pronunciation of diabetes as “diabeetus”. He had the pronunciation in a tweet that attracted hundreds of thousands of likes earlier this year.
Brimley leaves his wife Beverly and three children.