John Mahon, 'The Exorcist' and 'LA Confidential' Actor, Dead at 82

John Mahon, the actor, director, and writer best known for his roles in The Exorcist and L.A. Confidential, has died at the age of 82. Mahon passed away of natural causes at his Los Angeles home on May 3, Deadline reports. His son, Joseph Mahon, confirmed his death.

Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1938, Mahon got his start in acting in the '70s. After portraying Father Hanley in Jason Miller's off Broadway production Nobody Hears a Broken Drum, a role that earned him a best actor nomination by the New York Drama Critics, Mahon went on to land a role in Miller's breakthrough film The Exorcist. Mahon took on the small but pivotal role as the language laboratory director who identifies Regan MacNeil's speech as backwards English. During that same decade, he directed That Championship Season as well as a production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Mahon's other credits include roles in a number of big-screen titles, including Armageddon (as Karl), L.A. Confidential (as a police chief), Zodiac (he portrayed a Riverside Captain), and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (as NATO Colonel). On TV, he portrayed parts on The Rockford Files, Hill Street Blues, MacGyver, Knots Landing, Hunter, St. Elsewhere, The X-Files, Frasier, Cold Case, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Mahon also had a number of Broadway credits, such as The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and various characters in a 1979 production of King Richard III, among others.

News of Mahon's death has notably shaken social media. After reports of his passing surfaced, many fans flocked to Twitter to react and pay tribute, expressing their sadness while reflecting on his work. In one such tribute, a fan praised character actors as a whole, writing that "they shine like diamonds even when they're supposed to flank the scene and let the stars do the shining" and stating that it was "hard to find a show" that Mahon wasn't on.


Prior to his career in the entertainment business, Mahon had attended the University of Scranton where he studied classical languages and English literature. Writing about his career in his 2014 memoir, A Life of Make Believe: From Paralysis to Hollywood, Mahon had reflected on his battle with poliomyelitis, or infantile paralysis, which left him paralyzed for nine months when he was 12. He never regained full use of his left arm and went on to become a mentor to other actors with disabilities.