Wilford Brimley, best known for starring in the movies Cocoon and The Firm, has died aged 85.
His death was confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter by his manager Lynda Bensky, who said the actor died on Saturday morning (August 1) in Utah.
Brimley had been on dialysis and had other medical issues and was in the intensive care unit in St. George, Utah ahead of his death. He is survived by his wife Beverly and three sons.
“Wilford Brimley was a man you could trust,” Bensky said in a statement. “He said what he meant and he meant what he said. He had a tough exterior and a tender heart. I’m sad that I will no longer get to hear my friend’s wonderful stories. He was one of a kind.”
Anthony Wilford Brimley was born in 1934, and moved with his family to Santa Monica when he was six years old. He enlisted in the US Marine Corps during high school, and before becoming an actor he worked a series of jobs, including blacksmith, wrangler, rodeo rider and a bodyguard for business mogul Howard Hughes.
He started his career in film as an extra at a time when there was a demand for people who could ride horses. He worked on shows as Gunsmoke and Bonanza.
“We used to saddle up, and they’d give us a breechcloth and Indian wig, rub some body makeup all over us, and we’d be Indians fleeing over the hills from the soldiers,” Brimley once said. “Then we’d change into soldier uniforms and go back and chase ourselves over the same roads.”
He was encouraged to develop his acting skills by Robert Duvall and after getting his SAG card landed his first speaking role on the CBS Western Lancer.
He would go on to star in the Sydney Pollack movies The Electric Horseman (1979), Absence Of Malice (1981), and The Firm (1983), in which he starred as a sinister security chief who kept tabs on Tom Cruise’s character, lawyer Mitch McDeere.
Brimley starred in the 1986-88 NBC family drama Our House as a retired widower, and he had a recurring role on the legendary series The Waltons as the soft-spoken Walton’s Mountain resident Horace Brimley.
His most memorable roles were as New York Knights manager Pop Fisher in Barry Levinson’s The Natural (1984), where he worked alongside his friend Duvall, and as Sunny Shores retirement home resident Ben Luckett in the 185 Ron Howard movie Cocoon.
His film resume also included: The China Syndrome (1979), Borderline (1980), The Thing (1982), High Road To China (1983), Harry & Son (1983), Tender Mercies (1983), Country (1984), The Stone Boy (1984), End Of The Line (1987), Cocoon: The Return (1988) and 1993’s Hard Target alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme.
One of his most recent films saw him star as the ornery owner of the only restaurant in a Wyoming town in 2009’s Did You Hear About the Morgans?, starring Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker.
He was also the face of Quaker Oats porridge, starring in numerous commercials over the years.
Brimley’s talent agent Dominic Mancini remembered his client, writing: “He was a wonderful man, a joy to be around, and his dry sense of humour and iconic voice left an ever lasting impression on every person he met. I was lucky to call him a friend. To know Wilford, was to love Wilford. He had an amazing career, and sliced through the screen with his dry wit, stoic stature, and powerful conveyance. His unique blend of unexpected comedy and indelible storytelling will always remain unmatched.”
A number of tributes for the actor have poured in on social media.
“I was very sad to hear that actor Wilford Brimley passed away today,” tweeted Piper Perabo. “His beautiful, humble, and fierce characters in ‘The China Syndrome’ and ‘The Natural’ are two performances I love. What an amazing actor, Rest In Peace sir.”
I was very sad to hear that actor Wilford Brimley passed away today. 🕊 His beautiful, humble, and fierce characters in ‘The China Syndrome’ and ‘The Natural’ are two performances I love. What an amazing actor, Rest In Peace sir ♥️ pic.twitter.com/OR1SHsBKfs
— Piper Perabo #StayHome (@PiperPerabo) August 2, 2020
Stephen Colbert paid tribute, sharing a clip of Brimley singing the Kermit the Frog song ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’: “RIP Wilford Brimley – so many great performances, but I’ll never forget seeing him sing this surprisingly tender ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’.”
RIP Wilford Brimley – so many great performances, but I’ll never forget seeing him sing this surprisingly tender "It's Not Easy Being Green" https://t.co/xdvh9qGhMj
— Stephen Colbert (@StephenAtHome) August 2, 2020
Filmmaker Duncan Jones said: “This is how epic Wilford Brimley was… here he is playing an old retiree in Cocoon… in 1985!! He was my age now!”
This is how epic Wilford Brimley was… here he is playing an old retiree in Cocoon… in 1985!!
He was my age now! pic.twitter.com/BVJeSBypm9
— Duncan Jones (@ManMadeMoon) August 2, 2020
See more tributes below:
R.I.P. to the great Wilford Brimley, and go track down and watch Absence of Malice if you want him to steal an entire movie out from under an in their prime Paul Newman and Sally Field. pic.twitter.com/OyaW8lA707
— Zack Stentz (@MuseZack) August 2, 2020
Wilford Brimley will always be the manager of the New York Knights in “The Natural.” I don’t care that the movie is a feel good retelling of the book. I loved it when I was six years old. pic.twitter.com/zInMy7quPz
— Rob Hart (@RobHartWBBM) August 2, 2020
Please don’t remember Wilford Brimley for the way he said “Diabeetus.” Watch “The Natural,” watch “Cocoon.” I’d argue no actor under 50 played an old man in those films better than he did. pic.twitter.com/Vg3amzdP7a
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) August 2, 2020
Wilford Brimley was a wonderful man and actor.
I had the great pleasure of working with him. He always made me laugh. https://t.co/kkWWr6FAYx
— Barbara Hershey (@BarbaraHershey8) August 2, 2020
Wilford Brimley going out with the best final tweet. RIP. https://t.co/C9G2T217zN
— Brandon Bird (@Brandon_Bird) August 2, 2020
Wilford Brimley, after having a long life and amazing career as an actor, has died at the age of 85.
His performance as "Blair," (Senior Biologist of the U.S. Outpost 31), in my favorite sci-fi film, John Carpenter's: The Thing, will always stand out for me.
Rest easy, sir. pic.twitter.com/V7ZanopxRj
— Eddie McClintock (@EddieMcClintock) August 2, 2020
RIP Wilford Brimley… icon of both oatmeal and diabetes.
— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) August 2, 2020
Very sad to hear that actor Wilford Brimley passed away. I loved his roles in everything from The Firm to Cocoon to Seinfeld. One of the weird, cool things about Twitter was getting to “know” him here. A great and positive personality, who’ll be missed by all. RIP, @RealWilfordB. pic.twitter.com/URnm7b1ceR
— Ajit Pai (@AjitPaiFCC) August 2, 2020
Rest In Peace Wilford Brimley. You were the cool grandpa to my entire generation whether you wanted to be or not. You will be missed. pic.twitter.com/uUy7EkyCe9
— Eric Vespe (@EricVespe) August 2, 2020
Wilford Brimley will always be Uncle Douvee to me and I got to tell him that exactly one year ago today at Scares That Care as he signed my HARD TARGET Blu-ray. Godspeed to one of the best. pic.twitter.com/gGmnIxDHve
— Matt Serafini (@MattFini) August 2, 2020