As if 2020 hasn’t turned out to be terrible enough, word is coming in today that legendary actor and famous funnyman Fred Willard has passed away. A veteran of the big and small screens with dozens of highly memorable and hilarious roles to his name, Willard has fans across the world left very saddened by the news of his passing. According to his agent, Michael Eisenstadt, Willard died on Friday night in Los Angeles due to “natural causes” at the age of 86. “He kept moving, working and making us happy until the very end. We loved him so very much! We will miss him forever,” Willard’s daughter Hope adds, noting that the actor died “very peacefully.”
A Shaker Heights, Ohio native, Willard was born on Sept. 18, 1933. He’d later graduate from the Kentucky Military Institute in 1951 before serving for the United States Army in Germany in the early ’50s. With a calling for performing, however, Willard had moved to New York shortly thereafter to begin his career as an entertainer, teaming up with Vic Grecco to perform comedy acts under the name Willard & Greco. Their act came to be so well-received by audiences that the duo made appearances on The Tonight Show and The Dean Martin Show.
Though he continued to perform on stage, Willard sought roles on the big screen, making his movie debut in the 1967 exploitation movie Teenage Mother. This began a career with several dozen movie roles to come in the following years. Some of Willard’s most memorable movie work includes his collaborations with director Christopher Guest, which includes roles in A Mighty Wind, This Is Spinal Tap, and For Your Consideration. Willard also appeared in cult classic comdies like How High, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy along with its sequel Anchorman 2.
Willard is also very acclaimed for his television work, during the course of which he had received three Emmy nominations for his role on Ray Romano’s comedy series Everybody Loves Raymond and again more recently for the popular sitcom Modern Family. He has appeared in numerous other television shows over the years, such as A Minute with Stan Hooper, Roseanne, Maybe It’s Me, Family Guy, Friends, Sister, Sister, and dozens upon dozens more, also making special appearances as himself on many occasions. Posthumously, Willard can be seen in the upcoming Netflix series Space Force alongside Steve Carell and John Malkovich, with the role serving as Willard’s final acting performance.
Willard is preceded in death by his wife, Mary Willard, who passed away in 2018 after 50 years of marriage. His survivors include their daughter, Hope, and a grandson, Freddie. Our condolences go out to them at this time. Through his many performances, Willard will always be remembered and very badly missed. Perhaps fellow screen legend Jamie Lee Curtis said it best with her response to the news: “How lucky that we all got to enjoy Fred Willard’s gifts. He is with his missed Mary now. Thanks for the deep belly laughs Mr. Willard.” We couldn’t have said it any better. May he rest in peace. This news comes to us from The Hollywood Reporter.