Brian Dennehy, star of 'First Blood' and 'Cocoon', dies aged 81

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Hollywood actor Brian Dennehy has died at the age of 81, his daughter said.

The actor, known for film roles including First Blood and Cocoon, died on Wednesday due to natural causes.

He was a two-time Tony Award winner whose portrayal of Willy Loman in Death Of A Salesman also earned him a Golden Globe.

LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 2: The movie "First Blood", directed by Ted Kotcheff. (Alternatively referred to as Rambo: First Blood).  Based on David Morrell's novel of the same name.  Seen here from left, Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo, and Brian Dennehy as Sheriff Will Teasle.  He confronts Rambo.  Initial theatrical release October 2, 1982. Screen capture. Paramount Pictures. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo, and Brian Dennehy as Sheriff Will Teasle in First Blood. (CBS via Getty Images)

His daughter Elizabeth announced his death on Twitter. She said: "It is with heavy hearts we announce that our father Brian passed away last night from natural causes, not Covid-related.

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"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."

Dennehy was known for his bulky build and no-nonsense approach to acting.

He played the sheriff pursuing Sylvester Stallone's Vietnam veteran John Rambo in 1982's First Blood, and the friendly alien leader Walter in 1985's Cocoon.

Dennehy also played Chris Farley's father in 1995 comedy Tommy Boy. His TV roles included Dynasty and Miami Vice.

Brian Dennehy (as Willy Loman) in the production Death of a Salesman at the Lyric Theater in London. Written by Arthur Miller. (Photo by robbie jack/Corbis via Getty Images)
Brian Dennehy (as Willy Loman) in the production Death of a Salesman at the Lyric Theater in London. Written by Arthur Miller. (Photo by robbie jack/Corbis via Getty Images)

In 2000, Dennehy won the Golden Globe for best actor in a miniseries or television film for the TV adaptation of Death Of A Salesman. The role of Willy Loman had won him the first of two Tony Awards in 1999, with the second, for Long Day's Journey Into Night, coming in 2003.

His Rambo co-star Sylvester Stallone called Dennehy “a great actor” and credited him with helping the build the character of his Vietnam veteran.

Star Trek actor William Shatner was among those paying tribute.

He tweeted: "Condolences to the family of Brian Dennehy. A wonderfully talented actor."

Mia Farrow starred alongside Dennehy in Broadway play Love Letters.

She said she is "just devastated" by his death.

She tweeted: "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."

James Woods starred alongside Dennehy in Split Image and Best Seller.

Writing on Twitter, Woods said despite his bulky frame, Dennehy was a "sweetheart".

He said: "I'm just devastated to hear we lost my beloved friend and colleague, #BrianDennehy. We were partners on two of my favourite 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."

Better Call Saul star Michael McKean also paid tribute.

He said: "RIP Brian Dennehy. Brilliant and versatile, a powerhouse actor and a very nice man as well."

Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin tweeted: "He was truly a tremendous actor and his passing is such a terrible loss. Sending condolences to his daughter Elizabeth and the entire family. RIP."