Character actor Donald Moffat died Thursday in Sleepy Hollow, New York, at the age of 87. The veteran film and stage actor’s career spanned five decades, and he starred in such hit films as John Carpenter’s The Thing, Clear and Present Danger, and The Right Stuff. Mr. Moffat (pronounced MAHF-at) died just six days shy of his 88th birthday, and his daughter Lynn Moffat said that he died from complications of a stroke.
The actor’s career slowed down after 2005, but by then he had performed roles in approximately 70 Hollywood and television movies, 80 stage plays, 60 television productions, and more.
Moffat was hardly ever given top billing, and many fans hearing about his death will likely not remember his name at first. After seeing an image of him with his trademark bushy eyebrows and long face, though, they will probably remember him in at least one of his many distinguished roles.
The talented thespian was almost always employed, especially at the height of his career in the ’70s and ’80s. The prolific actor crammed several roles a year in movies, plays, and television during that time period.
The star’s fans may be surprised to know that Mr. Moffat was, per the New York Times, “a naturalized, thoroughly Americanized Englishman who in the early 1950s had been a player with the Old Vic theater company, the London crucible of many of Britain’s most ambitious performing arts.” Donald Moffat ventured across the pond when he was 26-years old, and he had lost his British accent a long time ago. His daughter said during a TV interview that moving to the United States had been “the realization of a dream” for him.
“One reason he was anxious to leave England was the class system. He hated it. And he loved Americans. He met many American G.I.s in Totnes, in Devonshire, where he lived as a boy. It was in the American sector for the D-Day invasions. He also met many Americans after the war at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, where he studied, including his first wife, Anne Murray.”
Critics in the United States also spoke about Mr. Moffat.
“[A] consummate pro who could play any supporting role from Shakespeare, O’Neill, Ibsen, Beckett, Pinter or Shaw, as well as the lawyers, doctors, husbands and tough guys who are the stock in trade of movies and television — characters that make the stars shine and place the accomplishments of the ensemble above personal glory.”
Four hundred something words barely scratch the surface of Donald Moffat’s achievements, so here are just a few of many fans on social media recalling their favorite characters he played.
Donald Moffat was excellent in everything, but I always think first of his LBJ in THE RIGHT STUFF. RIP pic.twitter.com/slZEvTeJra— Matt Blankman (@blankemon) December 20, 2018
Donald Moffat, the stage, screen and television actor, died Dec. 20 in Sleepy Hollow, NY. He was 87. New York Times obit:https://t.co/7PVjcYQe33— Andy Bass (@AndyBassNY) December 21, 2018
Here he is in ON THE NICKEL, a 1980 feature film written, produced by, and co-starring Ralph Waite.#RIPDonaldMoffat #DonaldMoffat pic.twitter.com/FScD9n5Wo6
RIP Donald Moffat— Tom Reagan’s Hat (@andymannion77) December 21, 2018
Excellent character actor & particularly good as the morally compromised President Bennett in Clear & President Danger. pic.twitter.com/zX0Oygo9cg