ENTERTAINMENT
17/05/2020 10:38 AM AEST

Fred Willard, Prolific Comic Actor, Dead At 86

The actor, who was famous for mastering deadpan comedy, died of natural causes.

Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP
Fred Willard poses in the press room at the 42nd annual Daytime Emmy Awards at Warner Bros. Studios on April 26, 2015, in Burbank, California.

Fred Willard, the comedic actor who appeared in “This Is Spinal Tap,” “Best In Show” and “Everybody Loves Raymond,” died of natural causes on Friday night. He was 86.

Willard’s representatives confirmed his death to Rolling Stone and The Hollywood Reporter on Saturday.

“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,” Willard’s daughter Hope Mulbarger said in a statement to People magazine. “We loved him so very much!”

Actor Jamie Lee Curtis payed homage to her friend by sharing a clip from “Best in Show.”

“Thanks for the deep belly laughs Mr. Willard,” she tweeted.

Willard’s wife, playwright Mary Willard, died in 2018 at the age of 71. 

Over his long career, Willard earned four Emmy nominations, including one nod for his guest-starring work on the ABC series “Modern Family.” Willard’s character, Frank Dunphy, died earlier this year. The actor appeared on 14 episodes of the show.

Born in Shaker Heights, Ohio, Willard appeared in a number of films in the 1960s and ’70s including, “Teenage Mother,” “Jenny,” “Silver Streak” and “Fun With Dick and Jane,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

He later memorably appeared in movies “Anchorman” and “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.”

Steve Carell, who played Brick Tamland in “Anchorman,” mourned Willard on Twitter Saturday, writing that the comedian was “the funniest person that I’ve ever worked with.”

“He was a sweet, wonderful man,” he added.

Willard was celebrated for his improv-style acting and made frequent visits to late night shows, including Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” 

Last year, host Kimmel told the Los Angeles Times about Willard that “people here are always happy to see him.”

“We genuinely love Fred, not just because he’s funny, but because he’s such a sweet man,” Kimmel added.

On Saturday, Kimmel tweeted, “There was no man sweeter or funnier. We were so lucky to know Fred Willard and will miss his many visits.”

Other celebrities took to Twitter to pay homage to Willard: