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M. Emmet Walsh, character actor of ‘Blade Runner’ fame, dead at 88

Lionel Hahn/Abaca/Sipa/AP

M. Emmet Walsh, a celebrated character actor with credits including “Blade Runner,” “Blood Simple” and “Knives Out,” has died. He was 88.

The news was confirmed by Walsh’s manger Sandra L. Joseph, who said the actor died Tuesday at a hospital in Vermont after suffering cardiac arrest.

Walsh’s career spanned six decades and saw the actor perform on screens large and small – amassing more than 230 credits on IMDb – as well as in theater.

Among many standout film roles, the actor will be remembered for playing father to the groom in the late-90s Julia Roberts caper “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” and as the local sheriff in 1980s B-movie horror comedy “Critters.” His role as the stern LAPD boss to Harrison Ford’s operative in 1982’s Ridley Scott classic “Blade Runner” helped give the sci-fi film its unmistakable noir edge.

On television, Walsh appeared in a plethora of beloved sitcoms and dramas including “Frasier,” “The X-Files,” “NYPD Blue,” “Damages,” “The Twilight Zone” and “The Bob Newhart Show.”

Born in March 1935 in Ogdensburg, New York and raised in Vermont, Walsh graduated from the Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York in 1961, according to an obituary provided by his manager.

He moved to Los Angeles in 1970 to appear in the films “Little Big Man,” “What’s Up, Doc?” and later “Airport 77,” among many others, establishing himself as a working actor in Hollywood.

Walsh quickly gained a reputation for being a talented character actor with an unforgettable face, appearing in films like “The Jerk” opposite Steve Martin, 1981 best picture Oscar-winner “Ordinary People,” “Reds” and “Fletch.”

In 1985, Walsh won the first-ever Independent Spirit Award for best male lead for the Coen Brothers movie “Blood Simple,” going on to appear in the pair’s 1987 caper “Raising Arizona.”

More recent credits from Walsh included “The Righteous Gemstones” and “American Gigolo.”

In 2018, Walsh was presented with the Carney Life Achievement Award by his “Blade Runner” costar Harrison Ford at the annual Carney Awards, also known as the Character Actors Hall of Fame.

“I approach each job thinking it might be my last so it better be the best work possible,” Walsh once said when asked about his career, according to the obituary provided by Joseph. “I want to be remembered as a working actor. I’m being paid for what I’d do for nothing.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

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