Ron Lester has died on Friday, with the Varsity Blues actor passing away shortly after being moved to hospice care.
The 45-year-old actor had been hospitalized since February after suffering kidney and liver failure. On Friday, reports emerged that he was in dire health and had been moved from an intensive care unit to a hospice.
Variety reported in the early morning hours on Saturday that Lester had died.
Lester’s most famous role came in 1999, when he played the fun-loving offensive lineman Billy Bob in Varsity Blues. Lester, who later played a parody of his Billy Bob character in Not Another Teen Movie, said working on Varsity Blues was a life-changing experience.
“I had the same feelings that my character had,” he told Movieweb earlier this year. “Jon Voight is like a father figure to me, and after doing this movie, he’s just the greatest mentor I had. There were times, like in those scenes where he was chewing me out, I allowed the emotion to come out, because it was real.”
Lester famously struggled with his weight, topping the scale at more than 500 pounds at his heaviest. In an interview with BodyBuilding.com, Lester said his eating habits grew out of control.
“Typically I would start the day with 3 big bowls of cereal. That — looking back — would have been at least 5 glasses of whole milk. Maybe some toast and butter, about 4 slices.
“Go to work, on which ever show I was on that week, and grab a Bagel; load it up with cream cheese, leeks, tomatoes and red onion. Two cans of cokes. Or… If I had to work right away, once I got on the set… I would wait. Then when I had a break, there was a Mickey D’s near and because they would have started serving lunch by this point I would order, 2 Big Macs, super-size fries, super size Coke, and a fish sandwich.”
But in 2000, just one year after his career-making role in Varsity Blues, Ron Lester decided to have gastric bypass surgery and began losing weight quickly.
Lester eventually lost more than 300 pounds, but said the transformation was bittersweet as it led to something of a loss of identity. Lester told BodyBuilding.com that he was once something of a “walking billboard” who fans could recognize instantly, but the weight loss took away some of his fame and some of his acting appeal.
“The difference is that I am no longer the ‘funny fat guy,'” Lester said. “I sold my ‘niche’ for my chance to live. … I would never trade the life I have now with… the endless opportunities I have in store for me, with my old life.”
Ron Lester also said his early success in acting allowed him to take a few years away from acting when his mother was dying of cancer. After her death, Lester returned to the acting world and was producing the action movie Racing Legacy at the time of his death.
Lester’s death prompted an outpouring of condolences from fans, many of whom took to Twitter to share pictures and scenes from Varsity Blues in remembrance.
A native of Georgia, Lester first appeared in a television ad for 409, Variety noted. He moved to Hollywood to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, first with a stand-up comedy routine and then as an actor. His first major role was in the Nickelodeon-produced movie, Good Burger.
Ron Lester’s agent, Dave Bradley, said the actor passed away peacefully with his fiance by his side.
[Image via Facebook/Ron Lester]