The director reflects on the actor's happy demeanor, and his hidden talent for comedy

By Gillian Telling
Updated June 25, 2015 at 04:43 PM EDT
Everett Collection; Dan Steinberg/Invision/AP

As the Hollywood tributes poured in earlier this week for Dick Van Patten, who died on Tuesday morning at age 86 due to complications from diabetes, most friends and colleagues remembered Van Patten as a kind, contagiously happy family man.

But the actor, who was best known for playing the father Tom Bradford on the show Eight is Enough, also had a hidden talent, according to his friend and occasional colleague, director Mel Brooks:

“He could do drama, comedy, and had a talent for the rarest of gifts—satire,” Brooks said in a statement to EW. “I loved working with Dick Van Patten.”

Brooks and Van Patten teamed up on several films together, including Brooks’ 1986 Star Wars spoof Space Balls, in which Van Patten played King Roland.

In 1993, Van Patten also made an appearance in Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men in Tights, playing the Abbot.

“Had he been a baseball player he would have been a great utility infielder,” Brooks says. “He could play any position, and if you needed it he could pitch a shutout. It was a happy day for me when I knew he would be on set.”

Throughout his career, Van Patten appeared in nearly 30 Broadway shows and had countless roles on TV and in film, though for many, his most lasting legacy was his upbeat, happy demeanor.

“His sweet, cheerful disposition made everything better,” Brooks says. “I will miss him very much.”