Celebrated comedic actor Fred Willard dies at 86: Report

The comedy world suffered a major loss this week when veteran funnyman Fred Willard passed away on Friday at the age of 86.

Music magazine Rolling Stone broke the news Saturday. The outlet published a statement from Willard’s daughter, actress Hope Mulbarger.

“My father passed away very peacefully last night at the fantastic age of 86 years old,” the publication quoted Mulbarger as saying. “He kept moving, working, and making us happy until the very end. We loved him so very much! We will miss him forever.”

Hollywood mourns

Willard’s publicist, Glenn Schwartz, spoke to Rolling Stone as well. According to the report, Schwartz referred to his client as “a four-time Emmy nominee [who] radiated a unique charm that established him as one of our generation’s most gifted comic actors.”

“A master of sketch comedy, Fred was most heralded for his quick wit and improvisational expertise, which he demonstrated in hundreds of appearances on stage, on the big screen, and on a wide range of television shows,” Schwartz added. In addition to numerous memorable film roles, Willard was known for scene-stealing turns in popular television series including Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family, according to NBC News.

Actor Ed Begley Jr., who co-starred in a number of films with Willard, told Rolling Stone that the star’s death is “a deep and unabiding loss.”

“Having spent countless hours onstage, on camera and in the home of this friend and genius, I won’t adjust to this loss any time soon. See you on the backlot, Fred. Sorry for all the jokes I stole,” Begley Jr. added.

Parker Posey, another of Willard’s frequent co-stars, also reminisced about their time together. “Acting with someone so brilliantly funny was exhilarating and we all revered and loved him,” she said, according to Rolling Stone.

Lasting legacy

Willard was known for his history of working with comedy director Christopher Guest, a collaboration that stretched back over decades.

The list of Guest-directed films in which Willard appeared includes Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, For Your Consideration, and A Mighty Wind, along with the classic rock and roll mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap.

Guest, who is married to movie star Jamie Lee Curtis, put out a tweet marking Willard’s passing while making reference to his late wife, television writer Mary Willard.

“How lucky that we all got to enjoy Fred Willard’s gifts,” she stated.  “He is with his missed Mary now. Thanks for the deep belly laughs Mr. Willard.”

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