The Tony and Golden Globe winner died of natural causes.

By Nick Romano
April 16, 2020 at 02:16 PM EDT
Credit: Robbie Jack/Corbis via Getty Images

Brian Dennehy — a beloved veteran actor known widely for such roles as D.A. Jake Dunham in the television show Dynasty, Big Tom Callahan in the 1995 Chris Farley film Tommy Boy, and Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman on stage and screen  — died Wednesday of natural causes, his daughter Elizabeth Dennehy revealed in a statement on social media. He was 81.

"It is with heavy hearts we announce that our father, Brian passed away last night from natural causes, not Covid-related," she wrote. "Larger than life, generous to a fault, a proud and devoted father and grandfather, he will be missed by his wife Jennifer, family and many friends."

According to a separate obituary provided to EW by Dennehy's reps at ICM Partners, the actor passed away in New Haven, Conn. "with his wife Jennifer [Arnott] and son Cormac by his side." 

TMZ was the first to report the news.

Born in Bridgeport, Conn. in 1938, Dennehy acted for five decades, notably breaking through with his role in the 1982 Sylvester Stallone film First Blood, for which he played Sheriff Will Teasle. While his Hollywood résumé expanded with parts across Silverado (1985), Cocoon (1985), Presumed Innocent (1990), Romeo + Juliet (1996), Righteous Kill (2008), and The Next Three Days (2010), his achievements extended to TV and theater. 

He received six Primetime Emmy nominations for 1990's A Killing in a Small Town, 1992's The Burden of Proof and To Catch a Killer, 1993's Murder in the Heartland, 2000's Death of a Salesman TV film, and 2005's Our Fathers.

Death of a Salesman, based on the acclaimed Arthur Miller play, also earned Dennehy a Golden Globe win. His stage performance garnered one of his two Tony Award wins for Lead Actor, also earning a Laurence Olivier Award for the show's London run. His other Tony recognition came for starring as James Tyrone in Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night in 2003. Dennehy often frequented productions of O'Neill's works. In more recent years, he appeared with Carla Gugino in the 2009 revival of the playwright's Desire Under the Elms.

Dennehy debuted on Broadway in 1995 in a production of Brian Friel's Translations, but performed frequently in the Chicago theater scene. In 2007, he returned to the New York Broadway stage to star opposite Christopher Plummer in Inherit the Wind. He was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2010. 

Dennehy most recently starred on NBC'S The Blacklist as Elizabeth Keen's grandfather.

Dennehy is survived by Arnott; his children Elizabeth, Kathleen, Deirdre, Cormac, and Sarah; and grandchildren Jack, William, Clementine, Hannah, Molly, Olivia, and Lucy.

Related content: