Fred Willard, Best in Show & Anchorman star, dies at 86
ComingSoon.net is saddened to bring the news that Fred Willard, beloved comedian and star of the acclaimed 2000 mockumentary Best in Show and Anchorman franchise, has died from natural causes at the age of 86, with Jamie Lee Curtis (Knives Out), wife of frequent Willard collaborator Christopher Guest, taking to Twitter as the first to announce the news.
How lucky that we all got to enjoy Fred Willard’s gifts. He is with his missed Mary now. Thanks for the deep belly laughs Mr. Willard. Best in Show (7/11) Movie CLIP – Judging the Hounds (2000) HD https://t.co/wPrbk9VjWI via @YouTube
— Jamie Lee Curtis (@jamieleecurtis) May 16, 2020
Willard worked as an actor for 61 years, beginning in 1959 and working all the way up through his passing on Friday, with some of his earliest roles including the first hit pairing of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in the buddy comedy Silver Streak and going on to have supporting roles in Fun With Dick and Jane and First Family, as well as key roles in the Norman Lear sitcom Fernwood 2 Night, miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and reality series Real People, which ran from 1979-84.
He would start to find success on the big screen in his first collaboration with Guest, This Is Spinal Tap, on which Curtis’ husband was the co-writer and star with Rob Reiner directing, and would continue his partnership with Guest in the 1996 mockumentary Waiting For Guffman and the similarly genred 2000 smash hit Best In Show. Willard would continue his success in the comedic big screen realm with roles in 2001 and 2004 stoner comedies How High and Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, as well as the Will Ferrell-starring Anchorman franchise.
Willard also made appearances in recurring roles on various TV shows over the years including Everybody Loves Raymond, for which he was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series, Back to You, Modern Family, for which he earned his second Emmy nomination as the father to Ty Burrell’s Phil Dunphy, and will be seen in his final appearance on the forthcoming Netflix series Space Force starring Steve Carell, which premieres on May 29.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Many fans and collaborators took to Twitter to mourn Willard’s death, some of which include:
I’m at a loss for words, a state Fred Willard never found himself in. My friend for 40+ years, a great comic actor who had no competition because there was only one of him. We were all so lucky. Goodbye, Fred.
— Michael McKean (@MJMcKean) May 16, 2020
My heart is heavy at the news of #FredWillard’s passing. What a kind man and what a glorious talent. There was no one funnier on earth. My family was lucky to be welcomed into his orbit. He and his wife Mary were superb hosts—generous to a fault. Can’t believe they’re both gone. pic.twitter.com/C0pGXgX4ms
— Leonard Maltin (@leonardmaltin) May 16, 2020
— Ken Jeong (@kenjeong) May 16, 2020
Easily one of the funniest, nicest people I’ve ever met. Thank you for decades of laughter Fred.https://t.co/PcwoB8B7sn
— Adam McKay (@GhostPanther) May 16, 2020
Fred Willard. The dear hilarious kind man we just lost. Here am I with he and Martin Mull while shooting a documentary about Martin. Seeing them having fun together reminiscent of the Fernwood days was truly a joy. Rest In Peace dear Fred. pic.twitter.com/mnYHzhlxLQ
— bob saget (@bobsaget) May 16, 2020
So sad to hear about Fred Willard. He was a brilliant satirist. Made you laugh from your gut. And the kindest of souls.
— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) May 16, 2020
Devastated to learn that the great Fred Willard has died. I was honored to have called him a friend. One of the funniest, nicest, sweetest, purest souls I have ever had the privilege to know. He was my hero from Fernwood Tonight when I was a kid. He was never not funny. RIP Fred.
— Paul Feig (@paulfeig) May 16, 2020
One of my favorite lines in a movie ever was delivered by Fred Willard in BEST IN SHOW, after a naughty dog went after the judge: “He went after her like she was made of ham.” This man was so brilliant and he elevated the flicks and TV shows in which he popped up. RIP, Funny Man! https://t.co/jEmDS0T9n8
— KevinSmith (@ThatKevinSmith) May 16, 2020
Fred Willard was one of the first actors I got the chance to work with. I was 17 and it was on Roseanne and I was in awe of him. He steals every scene he’s in. I will be rewatching This is Spinal Tap and Best in Show tonight…RIP pic.twitter.com/hwTLFjveYJ
— Sarah Chalke (@sarahchalke) May 16, 2020