Sad news broke yesterday, as it was announced that the character actor Brian Dennehy had passed away of natural causes at the age of 81. Dennehy is best-known for his work in a wide range of different movies but especially the 1995 adventure comedy Tommy Boy, the sci-fi drama Cocoon, and the war thriller First Blood which introduced action superstar Sylvester Stallone as one of his most iconic characters, John Rambo. Following the tragic news, Stallone has now paid tribute to Dennehy via social media, calling him a “brilliant performer” and attributing the successful portrayal of Rambo as a Vietnam Veteran to Dennehy’s own experiences and input.
“The great actor Brian Dennehy has passed away. He simply was A brilliant performer … He also was a Vietnam vet that helped me very much building the character of RAMBO The world has lost a great artist. #First Blood.”
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First Blood introduces audiences to Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo, a former US soldier who has been left traumatized by his expereince of the Vietnam War. Rambo quickly gets into trouble when an incident with a small-town sheriff triggers his violent side. The movie, of course, led to the Rambo action movie franchise that supposedly wrapped up with last year’s Rambo: Last Blood.
To this day First Blood remains the best movie in the series, thanks in large part to the performance of Dennehy as Sheriff William “Will” Teasle, the man that sets things into motion. As the main antagonist, Dennehy plays the vindictive, classist and rancorously jealous small-town Sheriff with aplomb, giving audiences one of the quintessential characters that you just love to hate. No doubt there will be many in Hollywood paying tribute to the actor in the comings days.
Dennehy reflected on his work in First Blood a few years ago, revealing an interesting anecdote from the movie based around the alternative ending in which Rambo is killed in the finale of the movie, and how the change hugely affected Stallone’s Hollywood career.
“The funny thing about First Blood is-people forget this now-but Stallone, who had been a sensation of course in Rocky, his career had begun to dim a little bit when we did First Blood. The original script, which I read and was working on, had Stallone getting killed at the end of the picture. His character, Rambo-I can’t even remember how he died in it…About three weeks into the shoot, they had one of these film markets in L.A.”
“The producers and the director and everybody flew down to L.A. for the weekend and showed a piece of the film. The response, of course, was sensational, both to what Ted directed and what Stallone had done with the character. They came back and said, ‘By the way, you’re not dying. We’re going to keep you alive,’ because they were already thinking in terms of the sequel, which turned into, what? Five sequels? All of the sudden, they realized what Stallone was. He was so loved by the audience that you can put him in the same parts a little bit later.”
Brian Dennehy’s daughter Elizabeth confirmed the actor’s death yesterday on social media, writing, “It is with heavy hearts we announce that our father, Brian passed away last night from natural causes, not [Covid]-related. 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 is survived by his wife Jennifer Arnott and five children, Elizabeth, Cormack, Kathleen, Deirdre, and Sarah. This comes to us from Sylvester Stallone’s official instagram.