Actor Fred Willard's death was announced by a surprising source on Saturday, actress Jamie Lee Curtis. Before any media outlet shared the sad news, the Halloween star surprised movie fans with her message about Willard. Curtis and Willard never made a movie together, but they do share one major connection, writer-director Christopher Guest. The Best in Show filmmaker directed Willard on several occasions and has been married to Curtis since 1982.
On Saturday, Curtis shared a clip from Best in Show. "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," she added on Twitter, referencing Willard's late wife Mary. Curtis also shared a still from the same Best in Show clip on Instagram, alongside a very similar message.
For several minutes, Curtis' tweet caused confusion, as no other outlet reported on Willard's death. Unfortunately, a few moments later, his agent Michael Eisenstadt released a statement from Willard's daughter Hope, confirming the news. "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."
Willard had a long professional relationship with Guest, dating back to This Is Spinal Tap, which Guest starred in and co-wrote. When Guest began directing mockumentaries himself, he called on Willard for memorable roles. Willard appeared in Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, For Your Consideration and Mascots. Willard also had a guest role on HBO's Family Tree, which Guest co-created with Jim Paddock, the British actor who famously played Willard's co-host during the dog show scenes in Best in Show. The only project Curtis and Willard both appeared in was A Spinal Tap Reunion: The 25th Anniversary London Sell-Out, a 1992 special featuring live Spinal Tap performances.
In a 2016 interview with Collider, Willard revealed there are both good and bad things about working with Guest. "The bad thing is that you don't have a script that you can sit and memorize," Willard said at the time. "I like to do a lot of homework. If you get nervous, you can sit down and memorize your lines. But with this, the good part is that you create your own character. You can't say, 'I wouldn't say that line,' 'cause you would. If you say it, you say it. You just have to stay true to your character."
Curtis and Guest married in 1984 and are parents to two adopted children, Annie and Thomas. Curtis first saw Guest in a picture in Rolling Stone when This Is Spinal Tap came out. She told her friend and Halloween co-writer Debra Hill she would marry the man in the photo who wore a plaid shirt, Curtis wrote in a 2004 O Magazine essay. Hill got Curtis Guest's number, but it was not until a chance meeting at a restaurant that they finally met. The two married just a few months after meeting.