American prolific actor and comedian, Fred Willard, known for his roles in movies including “Best in Show” and “This is Spinal Tap” and TV sitcoms “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Modern Family,” has died at the age of 86.
Willard’s rep Glenn Schwartz confirmed his death to Rolling Stone, adding that the cause of death was natural causes.
Jamie Lee Curtis, wife of Willard’s longtime director Christopher Guest, first shared news of the actor’s death.
“How lucky that we all got to enjoy Fred Willard’s gifts,” Curtis tweeted. “He is with his missed Mary now. Thanks for the deep belly laughs Mr. Willard.” Willard’s wife of 40 years, Mary, died in 2018.
“A four-time Emmy nominee radiated a unique charm that established him as one of our generation’s most gifted comic actors,” Willard’s rep wrote in a tribute. “A master of sketch comedy, Fred was most heralded for his quick wit and improvisational expertise, which he demonstrated in hundreds of appearances on stage, on the big screen, and on a wide range of television shows.”
Willard’s daughter Hope Mulbarger said in a statement, “My father passed away very peacefully last night (Friday) at the fantastic age of 86 years old. 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 also known for his work in Guest’s comedies — Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, For Your Consideration and A Mighty Wind — as well as scene-stealing moments in This Is Spinal Tap, Anchorman, Austin Powers and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.
With hundreds of credits over an acting career that spanned over 50 years, he will appear posthumously in the upcoming Netflix satirical series Space Force.
His colleagues and friends have taken to their respective social media account to share their condolences.
Steve Carell, Willard’s castmate in Anchorman and Space Force, tweeted Saturday, “Fred Willard was the funniest person that I’ve ever worked with. He was a sweet, wonderful man.”