"Did someone say my name?" "Who are you?"
April 16, 2020 11:41 AM   Subscribe

Brian Dennehy, known for roles in First Blood, Cocoon, and Silverado, has died of natural causes at age 81.
posted by hanov3r (68 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
posted by telophase at 11:43 AM on April 16

He does such a wonderful job playing the close-minded & shitty cop Sheriff Teasle in First Blood. You really hate what he does to John Rambo and are rooting against the Sheriff right from the get go. He wasn't quite "that guy" but was pretty close.

posted by Fizz at 11:48 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]

Always enjoyed seeing him show up on screen; he could be mean or affable, menacing or gentle. An acting career that goes back to 1977, with two films in post-production right now and another in pre-production, according to IMDB.

posted by nubs at 11:50 AM on April 16 [6 favorites]

He probably won't be back on The Blacklist again then.

posted by cgc373 at 11:54 AM on April 16

He was America's answer to Otm Shank.

posted by Faint of Butt at 12:06 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]

posted by jquinby at 12:09 PM on April 16

Belly of an Architect Is weird and wonderful. Quite a shift from his usual roles.
posted by waving at 12:11 PM on April 16 [8 favorites]

Patton Oswalt spoke glowingly of his encounter with Brian Dennehy. YT Video with profanity.
posted by JDC8 at 12:17 PM on April 16 [19 favorites]

Dennehy would have been perfect to play an older Bruce Wayne if they ever made The Dark Knight into a movie.

posted by Gelatin at 12:18 PM on April 16 [12 favorites]

A few years ago, I saw him in a Tennessee Williams play in Chicago at the Goodman Theater. Even on stage, this man had a big, big presence. He was great and certainly didn't try to overshadow the other actors. A great actor. RIP.
posted by SoberHighland at 12:21 PM on April 16 [4 favorites]

posted by eclectist at 12:26 PM on April 16

posted by Splunge at 12:27 PM on April 16

I have a friend who's been a film industry sound guy for many years, preferring to just be the boom man because it keeps him closer to the action, the actual people. He once commented that the two noisiest actors he ever had to work with (ie: loud breathing, sighs, grunts etc) were Gary Busey and Brian Dennehy ... "But Dennehy at least was sane."
posted by philip-random at 12:27 PM on April 16 [15 favorites]


His performance as Willy Lowman on Broadway was absolutely incredible - what a talent to be able to do that night after night!
posted by Otherwise at 12:30 PM on April 16 [6 favorites]

"Belly of an Architect Is weird and wonderful. Quite a shift from his usual roles."

He said it was the role he's most proud of. It's my second-favorite Greenaway film after Drowning by Numbers.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:33 PM on April 16 [4 favorites]

Also Darius Jedburgh in the original, BBC, Edge of Darkness:

"This future nuclear state will be an absolute state, whose authority will derive not from the people but from the possession of plutonium. And just to make sure we all know what we're talking about here, I brought some of the stuff along with me today. [mixed reaction from audience as he pulls out briefcase]"
posted by thatwhichfalls at 12:36 PM on April 16


"Welcome to Heaven."
posted by The Bellman at 12:43 PM on April 16

He went to my high school (Chaminade in Mineola, NY) and was one of the more famous alumni.
posted by tommasz at 12:44 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]

I thought he was great in everything. I was just planning to watch Never Cry Wolf again - he was absolutely perfect in his small role as the bush pilot.

posted by Caxton1476 at 12:46 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]

posted by Thorzdad at 12:52 PM on April 16

posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 12:53 PM on April 16

posted by blob at 12:54 PM on April 16

posted by bondcliff at 1:06 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]

I just found out that he lived in my county, a couple towns over from mine. Said he chose to live there because the biggest celebrity in town was the guy who played Big Bird.
posted by dlugoczaj at 1:12 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]

The first time I ever visited New York, I saw Dennehy in Death of a Salesman. In all the years since, I've never seen an actor just loom so damned large on the stage. He seemed nine feet tall, a pure force of nature. Literally breath-taking.

posted by /\/\/\/ at 1:19 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]

I also saw him on Broadway in Death of a Salesman. He seemed enormous, and such a wonderful actor.
posted by ceejaytee at 1:35 PM on April 16

Back in my pickup hoops days there was a court on Hudson Street where they called me Dennehy

posted by Lyme Drop at 1:37 PM on April 16

Maybe my favorite scene in First Blood doesn't even have Stallone in it; it's Dennehy's sheriff vs. Richard Crenna's Green Beret colonel, arguing whether or not they should try to bring Rambo in alive. Two titans from the days of old, now both gone.

posted by Halloween Jack at 1:48 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]

"Jesus Christ, Boris, what kind of diet are you on?"

(possibly misquoted slightly, I couldn't find a cite)

also: "Jesus. Herbert. CHRIST!" from the so bad it's good 80s slapstick comedy Finders Keepers. Be curious to know if anyone but me remembers that one.

Loved him in everything he was ever in, sorry I never saw him at Stratford.

posted by hearthpig at 1:50 PM on April 16

posted by koucha at 1:50 PM on April 16

posted by droplet at 1:56 PM on April 16

Brian Dennehy was also well-known for his role of Big Tom Callahan in the movie Tommy Boy.

Relevant quote from that movie after Big Tom dies: "There's not much more we can say, really. We've lost someone we loved, and it hurts. Even though Tom is gone, he'll remain in our lives forever. Comforting us, making us laugh... and watching over us."
posted by Rob Rockets at 1:58 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]

posted by From Bklyn at 2:07 PM on April 16


Favorite actor, Dennehy; favorite drink, O'Douls; Bears, Hawks, Sox, Bulls.
posted by captain afab at 2:33 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]

I remember Dennehy in many roles, mostly dramatic. But the exception would be his occasional appearance on the old sitcom Just Shoot Me, as Finch's fireman dad, Red. The "Pass the Salt" episode, where he is convinced that Finch is gay, was hilarious. Red picked the wrong son.
posted by Ber at 2:43 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]

posted by bcd at 3:00 PM on April 16

posted by Big Al 8000 at 3:06 PM on April 16

posted by evilDoug at 3:15 PM on April 16

posted by dannyboybell at 3:31 PM on April 16

I feel like a lot of actors who've played truly evil characters tend to send little ameliorating signals to the audience to the effect of 'I'm really not like this'.

But Dennehy did not do that; his portrayal of the main character in a little throwaway made for TV movie about John Wayne Gacy gave off waves of cold menace that can still chill me God knows how many years now since I saw it.
posted by jamjam at 3:44 PM on April 16 [4 favorites]

I remember being so used to Dennehy being the bad guy that when I first saw Cocoon, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop for pretty much the whole movie. My little kid brain just couldn't process that this guy who was, to me, genuinely scary because of the roles I'd seen him in up to that point, could possibly be not evil. If I'm being honest, I think I had that reaction to any role he appeared on well through my 30s. I'll miss his presence in movies.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:19 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]

Shed his human suit for the last time and floated back to the mother ship. You don’t get all those roles without being exceptional to work with.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:24 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]

posted by double bubble at 4:27 PM on April 16

Brian Dennehy spoke at my college graduation 20 years ago. He showed up wearing dark sunglasses because, by his own admission, he was hungover. He then admonished the person who introduced him as class '60 since he actually dropped out for a time before graduating with the class of '65, mildly insulted the salutatorian for going to law school, and then gave what could best be described as an amazing eulogy for his mother.

The point he was trying to make was to live life to the fullest. He made that point in the speech, and it seems like he did just that in life.

posted by NormieP at 4:34 PM on April 16 [8 favorites]

I was privileged to see him live some years back in Castlebar, Ireland in a production of "The Field". He was magnificent - and he didn't try to 'do' an Irish accent; after the first five minutes I didn't even notice.
posted by dbmcd at 4:49 PM on April 16

posted by theora55 at 4:56 PM on April 16

He was a member of Steppenwolf, so he drank at the neighborhood: O'Rourke's (used to be on North Ave), the Earl of Old Town, Old Town Ale House (still on North?) -- he was quite the character in real life. He was okay with me when I was bartending, but he was cranky, grumpy, and didn't suffer fools lightly. Glad I got to see him in the O'Neill plays when Chicago theatre was affordable. Damn.
posted by lemon_icing at 5:14 PM on April 16 [5 favorites]


I have a certain fondness for his performance as Bob Knight.
posted by SisterHavana at 5:26 PM on April 16

I will also throw a spotlight on "Belly of an Architect." While the most mainstream film Peter Greenaway made, this did not remotely make it an easy film to absorb, by any means. It was a tour de force leading role for any actor. And I cannot imagine anyone other than Dennehy pulling it off, with a singular, almost decadent physicality that defined the film.

posted by buffalo at 5:32 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]

posted by Ickster at 6:27 PM on April 16

posted by hippybear at 6:58 PM on April 16

posted by northtwilight at 7:55 PM on April 16

"Goodbye, Cobb."

posted by bryon at 12:27 AM on April 17

posted by filtergik at 3:35 AM on April 17

I'll always remember him being referred to playing "the toughest man in Detroit"
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 5:25 AM on April 17

posted by Mitheral at 7:49 AM on April 17

lemon_icing: He was a member of Steppenwolf

... and now I'm imagining him singing "Born to be Wild".
posted by hanov3r at 8:53 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]

I saw him in a movie with Joanne Woodward, playing a 'typical American tourist' visiting the UK. Off all the things I have seen him in; for some reason that movie sticks out. What a performance.

posted by indianbadger1 at 9:15 AM on April 17

posted by Token Meme at 9:17 AM on April 17

He probably won't be back on The Blacklist again then.

He will be, one last time. They are working on finishing the 19th and final episode of this season using old and new footage and his character, Dom, is in it.

posted by prolific at 10:05 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]

My friend and I complained every year on our annual trip to Los Angeles that we never saw any celebrities. Then one year, I looked in the snazzy car next to ours on the freeway and yelped, "Brian Dennehy is in the car next to us!!" And of course she went "Who?" Grar--I liked him so much, and I couldn't believe she didn't know his name. I knew she had seen Silverado, at least, so I was able to finally get the image in her head, and then she started remembering other roles and was jealous that she'd missed him. I think he was good luck--we started seeing more celebs in the subsequent years.

I will really miss him.

posted by kitten kaboodle at 3:37 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]

posted by daybeforetheday at 5:34 PM on April 17

posted by Dumsnill at 12:04 AM on April 18

I really liked Brian Dennehy in a bunch of movies—First Blood, Gorky Park, F/X, Presumed Innocent—pretty much everything I saw him in. But I loved him in Silverado.

"We're gonna give you a fair trial, followed by a first class hanging."
posted by kirkaracha at 12:13 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]

posted by detachd at 2:19 PM on April 18

posted by Ignorantsavage at 4:07 PM on April 18

I wandered into Gorky Park last night late, and suddenly remembered his passing. What a wall of a man! The buddy dynamic in this film is great, and Dennehy was well filmed and at his best. Finding his badge hidden in a bowl of peanuts, so good. The others in this film were all so convincing, the costuming, the set decoration and the feel of the film was spare, minimalist, yet the touches, the wallpapers, and curtains, nick nacks and all, were so well coordinated. I have seen this film a few times, and the ensemble cast, whoa, Lee Marvin, Willian Hurt, even the tooth makeup all so good. I know it is an American parody of another culture, and I think it was well done. Dennehy, fare forward!
posted by Oyéah at 10:47 AM on April 22

« Older "But we've lacked the political will to do so."   |   COVID-19 vaccine lead Kizzmekia Corbett - Not your... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments