Six of Fred Willard's best roles: from Bob Hookstratten to Frank Dunphy

The comedic actor, who starred in 'This is Spinal Tap' and 'Modern Family', died on Friday, May 15 aged 86

Fred Willard, who has appeared in films such as 'Anchorman' and 'Best in Show', has died at the age of 86. AP
Fred Willard, who has appeared in films such as 'Anchorman' and 'Best in Show', has died at the age of 86. AP

Fred Willard, the actor who made generations laugh thanks to his natural likeability and pitch perfect deadpan delivery, has died aged 86. He worked on numerous films and TV shows across five decades

The star of Best in Show and A Mighty Wind passed away due to natural causes on Friday, May 15 according to his spokesperson.

News of his death was first shared by actress Jamie Lee Curtis, whose husband, Christopher Guest, was a frequent collaborator with Willard.

"How lucky that we all got to enjoy Fred Willard’s gifts. He is with his missed Mary now," Curtis wrote on Twitter, referring to Willard's late wife, who was a playwright and died in 2018.

"Thanks for the deep belly laughs Mr. Willard."

Tributes to the actor, who made hundreds of loveable cameos on both the big and small screen over the years, also flowed from the likes of Steve Carell, Christina Applegate and Jimmy Kimmel.

"Fred Willard was the funniest person that I've ever worked with. He was a sweet, wonderful man," tweeted Carrell, who worked with the actor on Anchorman.

Willard, who made his film debut in 1967's Teenage Mother, leaves behind daughter Hope Mulbarger, who said she will "miss him forever".

“My father passed away very peacefully last night at the fantastic age of 86 years old," Mulbarger said in a statement on Saturday. "He kept moving, working and making us happy until the very end. We loved him so very much! We will miss him forever.”

Willard is expected to make his last on-screen appearance in Space Force, a Netflix comedy series featuring Carell and John Malkovich, which will premiere on Friday, May 29.

Ahead of its debut, we take a look back at Willard's filmography, to uncover his most enduring roles to rewatch in his memory.

Six things to watch in memory of Fred Willard

'Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy' (2004)

The actor starred as harried TV station manager Ed Harken in this cult comedy, produced by Judd Apatow. With Will Ferrell – who also co-penned the script – in the titular role, the film is set around a US TV channel in the 1970s, where a chauvinistic news reader is dismayed to find out his new anchorman is a, well, anchorwoman. Willard's character is constantly pulled between the two sparring broadcasters in a series of witty scenes in the comedy, which spawned a sequel in 2013.

'Modern Family' (2009-2020)

Willard starred in a number of episodes of this family sitcom as Frank Dunphy, the father of the show's patriarch, Phil Dunphy. The actor's natural effervescence and charm lends itself perfectly to the role, in which he dotes on his son and grandchildren whenever he comes to visit – as well as indulging in a prank or two. Willard was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series at the 2010 awards for his work on the show.

'This is Spinal Tap' (1984)

This seminal Rob Reiner mockumentary, which follows a fictional British heavy metal band on a US tour, introduced Willard to a wider audience at the time. The actor played Lt Bob Hookstratten, who met the band ahead of their performance at an Air Force base. During his tour of the venue, Willard drops a trail of zingy one-liners, such as: "I better not get too close. People will think I'm part of the band."

'The Bold and the Beautiful' (2014-2015)

Willard made a number of appearances on this long-running soap opera as John Forrester, the brother of show regular Eric Forrester, a fashion designer. He only cameoed in seven episodes, but his performance netted him a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Performer in a Drama Series.

'Everybody Loves Raymond' (2003-2005)

Willard made recurring appearances on this long-running sitcom series. The star played Hank MacDougall in a total of 13 episodes, the father of the titular character's sister-in-law. Willard was subsequently nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his performance.

'Waiting for Guffman' (1996)

Willard starred among the ensemble cast in Christopher Guest's mockumentary comedy, playing a travel agent who signs up to star in a stage musical with his wife. The film, which also stars Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara and Parker Posey shows the lead-up to and the performance of a community theatre production, put on to celebrate the 150th anniversary of a fictional small town in the US.

Updated: May 17, 2020 01:45 PM


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