Actor Ben Gazzara dies aged 81

Character actor appeared in 'The Big Lebowski', 'Summer Of Sam' and 'Buffalo 66'

Actor Ben Gazzara has died aged 81.

The New York-born performer, known for his portrayal of brooding tough guys, was suffering from pancreatic cancer, and passed away on Friday (February 3) at Bellevue Hospital Centre, New York, with members of his family at his side.

His career began on stage in the 1950s, and went on to include numerous TV and film roles. He was part of a group of influential actors, which also included Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger, who studied thesping technique with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio.

He was known for his close work with director John Cassavetes, most notably Husbands, The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie and Opening Night. He won an Emmy for 2002 HBO production Hysterical Blindness.

Gazzara also directed two mid-1970s episodes of his friend Peter Falk’s long-running drama Columbo, while in 2004, he revealed having been in a relationship with sometime co-star Audrey Hepburn in the late 1970s.

Gazzara’s other notable film roles included Anatomy Of A Murder, Capone, Saint Jack, Road House, The Big Lebowski, Buffalo 66 and Summer Of Sam.

Gazzara was married three times, with his first two marriages ending in divorce. He is survived by his third wife, Elke, and daughter Elizabeth.