Disney's 'Miracle' Actor Michael Mantenuto Dead At 35 From Apparent Suicide

Michael Mantenuto, the actor best known for portraying Jack O'Callahan in Disney's sports docudrama, Miracle, died from apparent suicide on Monday, April 24, in Washington State, at just 35 years old, according to a statement by the U.S. Army's 1st Special Forces Group. The former actor apparently shot and killed himself in his car, according to Des Moines Police Department. Police officers reportedly found him dead in his car on Monday afternoon with a gunshot wound to his dead.

The King County medical examiner's office in Seattle, Washington, also said he appeared to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to People magazine.

His death has been ruled officially as suicide, according to TMZ. The website also reported that the coroner said Mantenuto appeared to have committed suicide while sitting in his car by shooting himself in the head.

Col. Guillaume "Will" Beaurpere, the group commander of the U.S. Army's 1st Special Forces Group, Mantenuto's army unit, confirmed in a release on Thursday, April 27, that Mantenuto was found dead in his car by officers of the Des Moines Police Department, Hollywood Life reports.

The former University of Maine hockey player joined the military after he left the entertainment industry. Colonel Guillaume "Will" Beaurpere who officially announced his death was the commander of his army unit.

"Those of you that knew Mike will remember him for his passionate love for his family and his commitment to the health of the force," Colonel Guillaume Beaurpere said in a press release, according to WCVB-TV.

News of the former actor's death shocked thousands of sports fans across the world who recalled his performance in the 2004 Disney hockey film, Miracle. Miracle is a sports docudrama about the 1980 U.S. men's hockey team led by coach Herb Brooks. The team won the gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics after defeating the highly-rated Soviet team in the finals.

Mantenuto portrayed Jack O'Callahan, a defenseman for the team. Despite having sustained a knee injury in a previous game, O'Callahan came back in the finals to help the U.S. team defeat the Soviet Union team in a major upset.

According to Hollywood Life, Mantenuto caught the attention of director Gavin O'Connor after he got into a fight with another actor during the audition. He apologized for his behavior and O'Connor decided to cast him in the film, saying he was the right person to play the role of O'Callahan.

Michael was a skilled hockey player, who had played the game most of his life before his role in Miracle. He landed a role in the Disney docudrama alongside Kurt Russell -- who portrayed coach Herb Brooks -- due partly to his hockey experience and skills. His father was the hockey coach at his high school where he played hockey. He had played three years for the Eastern Junior Hockey League before he was recruited by the University of Maine. Boston University and the University of New Hampshire had also shown interest in him, according to Hollywood Life.

After Miracle, Michael landed a role in the TV movie Dirtbags (2006). He played Shafe in Dirtbags and later played a small role in the comedy Surfer, Dude (2008). He eventually left the entertainment industry and joined the army.

He recalled in an interview that at the time he was cast in Miracle, he was working on a fishing boat. He said that getting cast in the movie felt at the time like "stepping off a boat into a dream."

"I was working on this fishing boat trapping eels before I got cast in this movie," he said after he started filming Miracle, "so I felt like I was stepping off a boat and into a dream."

[Featured Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]