RIP Brian Dennehy: 'Larger Than Life' Actor Dead at 81

Actor Brian Dennehy died Wednesday, April 15, at the age of 81 in Connecticut.

According to TMZ, law enforcement reported that the actor died of natural causes. He's survived by his wife and five children, including actress Elizabeth Dennehy.

Dennehy's career dates to the late 1970s with his first appearance being on an episode of the show Kojak. He also made appearances on classic TV shows like M*A*S*H, and he had a recurring role in Dynasty.

After appearing in many small roles and in TV movies, the actor went on to starring roles in films like Walter in Ron Howard's 1985 sci-fi drama Cocoon and Ted Montague in Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet. One of Dennehy's most popular roles came in 1995 when he performed as Big Tom Callahan in the Chris Farley–starring comedy classic Tommy Boy. He continued working on projects throughout the 2000s and 2010s notably lending his voice to Django in Pixar's Ratatouille and most recently portrayed Dominic Wilkinson in the NBC series The Blacklist.

In addition to his film and television work, Dennehy was also an acclaimed stage actor, winning two Tony Awards: one for his 2003 performance in Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night and for his performance as Willy Loman in the 1999 revival of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, He also received a Primetime Emmy nomination and won a Golden Globe for Salesman's TV movie adaptation.

Actors memorialized Dennehy on Twitter. A few wrote about the times they'd worked with Dennehy. Actor James Woods reflected on the times the two acted together in Split Image and Best Seller, calling Dennehy a "sweetheart." Desperate Housewives and China Beach actress Dana Delany tweeted about Dennehy's adoration for working in theater. "They [sic] is no one i [sic] enjoyed working with more. And there are few friends as valued in my life," his Love Letters co-star Mia Farrow wrote.

I’m just devastated to hear we lost my beloved friend and colleague, #BrianDennehy. We were partners on two of my favorite films, Split Image and Best Seller. I’ve never laughed so hard as we did every day on the set or off. For a big “tough guy,” he was a sweetheart. #RIPBrian pic.twitter.com/EjsxMvqlxw

— James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) April 16, 2020

I met Brian in a bar, acted in a movie with him but the stage was what he loved. In rehearsal he said, “This is it, kid.” He was a fellow nutmegger, mick and a Marine. They don’t make his kind anymore. ❤️to his family. https://t.co/0TLeo2MAyt

— Dana Delany (@DanaDelany) April 16, 2020

Just devastated to learn that the magnificent Brian Dennehy has died. They is no one i enjoyed working with more. And there are few friends as valued in my life. I took this photo backstage when we were in Love Letters. He loved my pup Bowie. pic.twitter.com/s55Cc37lFy

— Mia Farrow (@MiaFarrow) April 16, 2020

Others praised Dennehy's classic performances including producer Jonathan Sothcott, who called the actor's performance in First Blood a "masterclass in very human big screen villainy." Hamilton creator Lin Manuel Miranda wrote about the times he saw Dennehy onstage in A.R.Gurney's Love Letters and Death of a Salesman.

#BrianDennehy was one of those brilliant character actors whose faces and performances gave substance & gravity to so many big American films in the last 40 years or so. Absolutely top drawer: his First Blood sheriff is a masterclass in very human big screen villainy pic.twitter.com/Fk1d4lBYmg

— JONATHAN SOTHCOTT (@sothcott) April 16, 2020

Was lucky enough to see Brian Dennehy twice on stage, masterful in Love Letters, and monumentally heartbreaking in Death Of A Salesman. A colossus. What a loss.

— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) April 16, 2020

Comedian Patton Oswalt, who performed alongside Dennehy in Ratatouille, tweeted a photo of their animated counterparts and referenced one of his jokes from his 2007 album Werewolves and Lollipops about meeting the actor. "You were the best rat-dad a little chef could ask for," he wrote. "Miss you, man."

#RIPBrianDennehy “Character actors! Who gives a fuck if we’re fat?” You were the best rat-dad a little chef could ask for. Miss you, man. pic.twitter.com/wTJpc3IHGB

— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) April 16, 2020
brian dennehy
Actor Brian Dennehy attend the premiere of "The Seagull" during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC Tribeca PAC on April 21, 2018 in New York City. Dennehy was also an acclaimed stage actor, winning two Tony Awards Jim Spellman/WireImage/Getty