Fred Willard, the comic actor who carved out an irreplaceable position as a king of mockumentaries through his work with director Christopher Guest, died on Friday. He was 86 years old. His publicist, Glenn Schwartz, confirmed to Rolling Stone that the cause of death was natural causes. Actress Jamie Lee Curtis, Guest's wife, was the first person to break the news in a tweet Saturday.
Willard's agent, Michael Eisenstadt, also released a statement from Willard's daughter, Hope. "My father passed away very peacefully last night 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," she said. "We will miss him forever."
Eisenstadt called Willard one of the "busiest comic actors during his career," and noted that Willard has a recurring role in the upcoming Steve Carell Netflix sitcom Space Force. Willard also had a recurring role on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. "Fred truly enjoyed each role and gave each performance his own special spin. He was truly a comedic genius," Eisenstadt wrote.
Curtis broke the news of Willard's death before media outlets confirmed the sad news. She shared a clip from Best In Show, one of his best films with Guest. "How lucky that we all got to enjoy Fred Willard's gifts," Curtis wrote. "He is with his missed Mary now. Thanks for the deep belly laughs Mr. Willard."
Calling Willard "prolific" is an understatement. The actor's career in Hollywood stretches back to the mid-1960s. He had more than 300 credits to his name and earned Emmy nominations for his guest role as Hank during later seasons of Everybody Loves Raymond. He also had a recurring role as Ty Burrell's on-screen father on Modern Family, a role he was perfectly cast for. The part earned him his fourth and final Emmy nomination in 2010.
For many though, he was best known for his roles in Guest's mockumentaries Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, For Your Consideration and Mascots. He also starred in Rob Reiner's This Is Spinal Tap, which was co-written by Guest. Willard became so well-recognized for his performance as a dog show announcer in Best In Show that he actually "announced" competitions in three episodes of The Bachelor.
Willard's last appearances came in Modern Family, The Loud House, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and I Think You Should Leave. He also appeared in The Second City Presents: The Last Show Left on Earth, as he was one of The Second City's best-known alumnus. Willard filmed 10 episodes of Space Force, which debuts on Netflix on May 29.