Very sad news to report today as actor Fred Willard has died at the age of 86. In a statement [via Rolling Stone], Willard’s daughter Hope Mulbarger said, “My father passed away very peacefully last night at the fantastic age of 86 years old. He kept moving, working and making us happy until the very end. We loved him so very much! We will miss him forever.”
“A four-time Emmy nominee radiated a unique charm that established him as one of our generation’s most gifted comic actors,” Willard’s rep wrote in a tribute. “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.”
Willard was always a welcome presence in any movie or TV show in which he appeared. His career on stage and screen spanned more than 50 years and included over a hundred credits. He’s arguably best known for his contributions to Christopher Guest comedies such as A Mighty Wind and Best in Show. His knack for improvisation always made him one of the best elements of any work in which he appeared. Any movie or TV show was made stronger simply by his presence, which exuded gentle warmth that could then knock you on your ass with a surprising one-liner. Watching him, you knew he had material for days and you couldn’t wait to hear what he said next.
His co-star and friend Michael McKean tweeted the following:
Willard will be greatly missed. Our deepest condolences to his family and friends.