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Fred Willard, Scene Stealer Extraordinaire, Dies At 86
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Fred Willard, Scene Stealer 
Extraordinaire, Dies At 86

May 16, 20204:40 PM ET

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Fred Willard, seen at a film premiere in Los Angeles in 2017, 
has died at the age of 86.

Chris Pizzello/Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

The big screen has lost one of its most prolific scene stealers.

Fred Willard, the comic actor best known for his roles in 
mockumentaries including This Is Spinal Tap
Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show, has died at 
the age of 86. His daughter Hope Mulbarger confirmed 
Willard's death in a statement sent to NPR by his media 
representative Glenn Schwartz.

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

Schwartz said his death came of "natural causes.

Across a career that spanned roughly half a century, Willard appeared 
in scores of films and television shows, often dropping in as an 
interloper whose deadpanned lines could flip a scene on its head — and 
throw other characters for a loop. He cut his teeth on improv, starting 
with Chicago's Second City comedy troupe, but quickly became a 
familiar face in comedy films, as well.

Few roles embodied his knack for drawing a double take better 
than Buck Laughlin, the color announcer in Best in Show who 
found himself out of his depth working a national dog 
show — but no less affably confident for all his incompetence.

"Just an idea off the top of my head: Why don't they put the 
bloodhound — put on one of those Sherlock Holmes hats and 
put a little pipe in his mouth?" Willard's Laughlin asked his 
uncomfortable counterpart at the announcing table. 
"Are they ever allowed to do anything like that, 
dress up a dog in a funny way?"

Many of those quips and quick witticisms came not from a 
script, but rather from Willard himself, as he and his co-stars 
riffed on a given topic. When he was working with director 
Christopher Guest, in particular — with whom he filmed not 
only Best in Show, but also Waiting for Guffman and 
A Mighty Wind, among others — much of his dialogue 
was improvised.

"It's got to be in character. Also, it's preparation," he explained 
in a 2012 interview with the Archive of American Television. 
"And then just say something. If you have nothing to say, 
just start talking."

In addition to his work in film, Willard also won a daytime Emmy 
in 2015 for his guest appearance on The Bold and the Beautiful.
He earned four Emmy nominations for his recurring guest roles 
on Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family, as well.

Willard is survived by Mulbarger, her husband, Mitch Mulbarger, 
and his grandson Freddie.

"How lucky that we all got to enjoy Fred Willard's gifts," actress 
Jamie Lee Curtis, the wife of Guest, said Saturday on Twitter
"He is with his missed [wife] Mary now. Thanks for the 
deep belly laughs Mr. Willard."

Another great one gone... 
R.I.P. Mr. Willard ... It was fun

A True Friend
Freely Advises,
Justly Assists Readily,
Adventures Boldly,
Takes all Patiently,
Defends Courageously
Continues a Friend Unchangeably.

William Penn

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