August Schellenberg, who played Randolph Johnson in all three Free Willy films, died Thursday in Texas after a long battle with cancer. He was 77 years old.
Schellenberg’s family said he died peacefully surrounded by loved ones.
A Canadian-born Metis, August Schellenberg was of Mohawk and Swiss-German descent. He was born in Montreal on July 25, 1936, and moved to Toronto in 1967. He then moved to Texas in 1995 with his wife, actress Joan Karasevuch. He was trained at the National Theater School of Canada, and often portrayed Native Americans in his films.
His character in Free Willy is a Haida native who is Willy’s keeper and eventually becomes a mentor to Jesse (Jason James Richter). He helps Jesse devise a plan to, well, free Willy, using equipment at the amusement park to load him onto a trailer.
Schellenberg also played Chief Sitting Bull in Crazy Horse, a role he has been quoted as saying was his favorite. He reprised the role in the TV movie adaptation of Dee Brown’s best-selling novel, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. He was nominated for an Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie for the latter.
Some of Schellenberg’s other credits include Powhatan in The New World, Chomina in Black Robe, and Ben Montour in the TV series North of 60. He also played Yaozu in Stargate Universe in 2011.
His last film role was Samuel Booker in the ominously titled The Last Movie in 2012.
In 2012, August Schellenberg played the lead in an all-aboriginal production of William Shakespeare’s King Lear at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.
NAC communications officer Sean Fitzpatrick tweeted shortly after news of Schellenberg’s death broke, “Words cannot explain how much you will be missed.” The NAC will lower its flag in Schellenberg’s honor.
We here at The Inquisitr extend our condolences to August Schellenberg’s family and friends.