Ben Gazzara, The Big Lebowski Actor, Dies at 81

Actor Ben Gazzara died of pancreatic cancer at New York’s Bellevue Hospital Center Friday, the NY Times has reported. He was 81.

In its obituary, the Times describes Gazzara as “an intense actor whose long career included playing Brick in the original Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on Broadway, roles in influential films by John Cassavetes (Husbands, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Opening Night) and work with several generations of top Hollywood directors.”

Gazzara’s other popular big-screen roles included porn-peddler Jackie Treehorn in the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski, and the nefarious Brad Wesley, a local business magnate and town ruffian who pushed Patrick Swayze to the limit in the cult classic, Roadhouse.

In the small screen world, Ben was remembered for playing a terminally ill man trying to get the most out of the last two years of his life on NBC’s 1965-68 “Run for Your Life”.

Besides acting, Gazzara also worked as an occasional television director. According to Wikipedia, his directorial credits include the Columbo episodes “A Friend in Deed” (1974) and “Troubled Waters” (1975).

Ben is survived by his third wife, the former Elke Stuckmann, and his daughter Elizabeth from a previous marriage, as well as Danja, his wife’s daughter, whom Gazzara adopted, the Times said.

Gazzara is also survived by a brother, Anthony.

RIP Ben Gazzara.