Acclaimed character actor M. Emmet Walsh, of 'The Jerk' and 'Bladerunner' fame, dies

 March 21, 2024

The iconic character actor M. Emmet Walsh, known for movies like Blade Runner and The Jerk, has died. He was 88. 

His longtime manager confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that he died of cardiac arrest at his home in Vermont.

Walsh was known for his often-gritty supporting roles in over 200 movies and TV shows, with a creative range spanning from moody noir to screwball comedy.

M. Emmet Walsh dies

He had a memorable role in the Steve Martin comedy The Jerk as an unhinged sniper who randomly ambushes Martin's character after picking his name out of a phonebook.

He also had a famous role as Captain Bryant in the sci-fi classic Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford. More recently, Walsh had a small part as a security guard in the popular whodunit Knives Out.

Film critic Rogert Ebert called Walsh a "poet of sleaze" owing to his seedy characters, including the devilish private detective Loren Visser in the Coen brothers' debut Blood Simple.

“Every time, you [have to] try to figure something individual that works for the character,” Walsh told The Guardian in 2017 of his role as Visser.

“If you’re playing a villain, you don’t play villain. … Visser doesn’t think of himself as particularly bad or evil. He’s on the edge of what’s legal, but he’s having a lot of fun with all that. He’s a simple fella trying to make an extra buck and going a little further than he’d normally go in his business enterprises."

Versatile character actor

Over the course of a prolific career, Walsh appeared in a diverse range of movies, including Serpico, Christmas With The Kranks, Raising Arizona, My Best Friend's Wedding, and Little Big Man.

The Ogdensburg, New York native got his film debut in the notoriously edgy Midnight Cowboy as an uncredited extra. The actor took pride in his versatility.

“I don’t want you to see an M. Emmet Walsh. I want you to see a garbage collector or a president of Princeton or whatever. … I do everyman. And also I play hard," he told L.A. Weekly in 2011.

Walsh is being mourned by fellow actors including James Woods, who called him "a spectacular character actor and a delight to work with."

A lifelong bachelor, Walsh is survived by his two nephews.

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