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Legendary Actor Confirmed Dead

M Emmet Walsh, the character actor who appeared in more than 220 film and television roles including Blade Runner, Knives Out and the Coen brothers’ films Blood Simple and Raising Arizona, has died aged 88....CONTINUE READING

Walsh’s manager, Sandy Joseph, confirmed to the industry publication Variety that he had died Tuesday in Vermont.

Born in New York in 1935 and raised in Vermont, Walsh landed his first uncredited film role – an extra in Midnight Cowboy – and his first credited film role in Alice’s Restaurant, both in 1969.

He played a sportswriter in the Paul Newman sports comedy Slap Shot (1977), Dustin Hoffman’s parole officer in Straight Time (1978), the sniper hunting down Steve Martin in The Jerk (1979), and the LAPD boss who brings Harrison Ford out of retirement in Blade Runner (1982).

Walsh told the Hollywood Reporter in 2017 that Blade Runner was the film he was asked about the most, saying that after he saw the finished product: “We didn’t know what to say or to think or do! We didn’t know what in the hell we had done! The only one who seemed to get it was Ridley.”

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With his dry delivery and hangdog face, he was known for his ability to take on both menacing and comedic roles – and sometimes both at the same time, such as Loren Visser, the double-crossing private detective in the Coen brothers’ 1984 feature debut, Blood Simple.

The famed film critic Roger Ebert praised Walsh as a “poet of sleaze” for his performance and came up with the “Stanton-Walsh Rule”: “no movie featuring either Harry Dean Stanton or M Emmet Walsh in a supporting role can be altogether bad”.

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“Every time, you try to figure something individual that works for the character. If you’re playing a villain, you don’t play villain,” Walsh told the Guardian about Blood Simple in 2017, adding: “Visser doesn’t think of himself as particularly bad or evil. He’s on the edge of what’s legal, but he’s having a lot of fun with all that.”

He also played small roles in Fletch (1985) and the horror flick Critters (1986), as well as Nicolas Cage’s chatty co-worker in Raising Arizona (1987), John Lithgow’s father in Harry and the Hendersons (1987), and Michael Keaton’s sponsor in Clean and Sober (1988). He also appeared in Romeo + Juliet (1996), My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997), The Iron Giant (1999), Calvary (2014) and Knives Out (2019).

“I have more fun playing 10 different people than I do playing the same person 10 different times,” he once told the Houston Chronicle. “One time it’s a garbage collector, and the next time it’s the president of Princeton.”

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His final role was in the 2024 western Outlaw Posse alongside Whoopi Goldberg and Cedric the Entertainer.

Over seven decades of television, Walsh appeared in shows including Starsky and Hutch, Frasier, The Twilight Zone, The X-Files, Home Improvement and Adventure Time. One of his last roles was as Grandaddy Roy in The Righteous Gemstones.

“It’s a good life being a character actor,” he once told the Orange County Register. “I’ve been around stardom. I’ve been around Redford and Hoffman, and it’s scary. That drive for stardom is like the greyhounds chasing the mechanical rabbit. By the time he catches him, he’s too tired to run anymore, and you’ve got to shoot him.”