RIP Actor Ben Gazzara, Dead at 81

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The New York Times is reporting that legendary actor Ben Gazzara lost his battle with pancreatic cancer at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City earlier today. He was 81 years old.

The New York-based, classically-trained actor, born Biagio Anthony Gazzara, is best known for his work with the late John Cassavetes, a pioneer in independent filmmaking with pioneering films like The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) and Opening Night (1977). He followed those pivotal films by working with other prominent directors, such as Peter Bogdanovich (Saint Jack, They All Laughed), David Mamet (The Spanish Prisoner), Spike Lee (Summer of Sam) and Lars von Trier (Dogville).

Although Gazzara never received an Oscar nomination for his film work, he received four Emmy nominations before winning one in 2003 for his supporting role in HBO’s “Hysterical Blindness” opposite his earlier co-star (and Cassavetes’ widow) Gena Rowlands. Having been a regular presence on screen since the early ’50s, Gazzara continued to work in his later years with his most recent appearance being in the thriller 13.

You can read an extensive biography of the late actor over at the New York Times.

(Photo credit: WENN)