M. Emmet Walsh Dies: Prolific Actor In ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Ordinary People’, Coen Brothers Pics & Hundreds More Was 88

M. Emmet Walsh Dies: Prolific Actor In ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Ordinary People’, Coen Brothers Pics & Hundreds More Was 88

M. Emmet Walsh, the familiar character actor in Blade Runner, Blood Simple, Best Picture Oscar winner Ordinary People, Knives Out, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Slap Shot and more than 200 other films and TV shows spanning a half-century, died Tuesday, his rep said. He was 88.

Manager Sandy Joseph told Deadline that Walsh died of cardiac arrest at Kerbs Memorial Hospital in St. Albans, VT.

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His most recent roles included Knives Out, The Righteous Gemstones and Sneaky Pete.

Knives Out writer-director Rian Johnson remembered the actor on social media today, writing: “Emmet came to set with 2 things: a copy of his credits, which was a small-type single-spaced double column list of modern classics that filled a whole page, & two-dollar bills which he passed out to the entire crew. ‘Don’t spend it and you’ll never be broke.’ Absolute legend.”

Walsh himself is quoted as saying: “I approach each job thinking it might be my last, so it better be the best work possible. I want to be remembered as a working actor. I’m being paid for what I’d do for nothing.”

Born on March 22, 1935, in Ogdensburg, NY, Walsh was raised in rural Vermont. He began his screen career guesting on late-1960s TV series before landing bit parts in films including Alice’s Restaurant, Little Big Man and Escape from the Planet of the Apes. He continued to guest-star in episodes of popular 1960s and ’70s series including Bonanza, All in the Family, Ironside, The Bob Newhart Show, McMillan & Wife, The Rockford Files, The Waltons, Starsky and Hutch, James at 16, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and many more.

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He also appeared on the big screen in such ’70s hits as Serpico, The Jerk, They Might Be Giants, Straight Time, What’s Up, Doc? and Slap Shot, in which he played sportswriter Dickie Dunn, who was “Just trying to capture the spirit of the thing.”

He continued to work regularly into the 1980s up to the 2020s, appearing in popular pics including the Coen brothers’ 1984 debut Blood Simple, for which won the inaugural Independent Spirit Award, and their sophomore feature Raising Arizona (1987). He also appeared in the Robert Redford prison drama Brubaker (1980), Academy Award winner Ordinary People (1980), Best Picture Oscar nominee Reds (1981), Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic Blade Runner (1982), Chevy Chase comedy Fletch (1985), horror pic Critters (1986) and more.

His 1990s films included A Time to Kill (1996), My Best Friend’s Wedding (1996), Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Wild West West (1999).

M. Emmet Walsh dead
From left: M. Emmet Walsh in ‘Blade Runner,’ ‘Blood Simple’ and ‘The Jerk’

All the while, Walsh continued to land guest spots on top-rated TV shows including Little House on the Prairie, Frasier, Home Improvement, The X-Files, NYPD Blue, Tracey Takes On…, Gideon’s Crossing, Army Wives, The Mind of the Married Man and Damages.

He also had voice roles on such films and series The Iron Robot, Adventure Time, Big Guy and Rusty the Robot, Pound Puppies and The Wild Thornberrys, along with narrating multiple characters in Ken Burns’ epic 1990 miniseries The Civil War and the documentarian’s 1994 PBS series Baseball.

Walsh also appeared in a pair of Broadway shows — Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie (1969), opposite Al Pacino and Hal Holbrook, and That Championship Season (1973) — and a slew of region theater productions.

In 1979, he established the Blarney Fund Education Trust, which provides scholarships to Vermont students.

He is survived by his niece Meagan Walsh; nephew Kevin Walsh (Renee); and grandnephews Emmet and Elliot.


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