'The Thing' Star Donald Moffat Dead at 87

Donald Moffat, the prolific character actor whose credits include Clear and Present Danger, The Thing and The Right Stuff, died Thursday at age 87.

His daughter, Lynn Moffat, told the New York Times the cause of death was complications from a recent stroke. He died in Sleepy Hollow, New York and is survived by his second wife, Gwen Arner. He is also survived by his two children from his first marriage, Kathleen and Gabriel Moffat; and his two daughters from his second, Lynn and Catherine Railton; 10 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Moffat was born in the U.K. and trained as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He made his stage debut with a Old Vic Theatre Company production of MacBeth in 1954 in London. Two years later, he moved to the U.S. and settled in Oregon, the home state of his first wife, Anne Murray Ellsperman. After a brief break from acting, he returned to the craft and made his Broadway debut in a 1957 production of Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood.

His daughter told the Times it was always a dream of her father's to move to the U.S. after meeting American soldiers.

"One reason he was anxious to leave England was the class system. He hated it. And he loved Americans," Lynn told the Times. "He met many American G.I.s in Totnes, in Devonshire, where he lived as a boy. It was in the American sector for the D-Day invasions. He also met many Americans after the war at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, where he studied, including his first wife, Anne Murray."

Moffat soon began switching between stage, television and film roles easily and eventually lost his English accent. He racked up 220 credits in the U.S. between stage plays, movies and TV shows, but rarely ever got top billing.

In 1967, Moffat was nominated for the Best Actor Tony for his roles in two revivals that year, Henrick Ibsen's The Wild Duck and Pirandello's Right You Are If You Think You Are. He also earned Drama Desk Awards nominations for Play Memory (1984) and The Iceman Cometh (1986), and won an Obie Award for Painting Churches.

Moffat's best-known movie roles were as President Bennett in the Harrison Ford Jack Ryan movie Clear and Present Danger (1994), The Taxman in Popeye (1980), President Lyndon B. Johnson in The Right Stuff (1983) and Garry in The Thing (1982). His last film was 1999's Cookie's Fortune and his final TV appearance came as a judge in an episode of Law & Order: Trial By Jury.


The actor continued appearing on stage into the early 2000s. One of his final appearances came during an Off-Broadway production of John Guare's A Few Stout Individuals, in which he played Ulysses S. Grant during the former president's last days.

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