(LOS ANGELES) — Comedic actor and improv legend Fred Willard, known for his roles in Best in Show, This Is Spinal Tap and Modern Family, has died at the age of 86.
KABC Los Angeles confirms the actor passed away in his sleep Friday night.
His daughter Hope Mulbarger tells KABC in a statement, “He kept moving, working and making us happy until the very end. We loved him so very much. We will miss him forever.”
Willard’s career spanned 50 years of stage, TV and film appearances. He established himself as a master of the mockumentary in numerous Christopher Guest films, including Best in Show, For Your Consideration and A Mighty Wind. He also appeared in memorable roles in This Is Spinal Tap, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.
Willard’s TV roles garnered him four Emmy nominations. He was nominated three times for his guest role on Everybody Loves Raymond and once for his role as Phil Dunphy’s father Frank on Modern Family. His death comes just months after an episode of Modern Family where his character died of natural causes.
Willard also starred opposite Steve Carell in the upcoming Netflix series Space Force, which is set to begin streaming on May 29. Carell tweeted Saturday, “Fred Willard was the funniest person that I’ve ever worked with. He was a sweet, wonderful man.”
Other celebrities paying tribute include Jamie Lee Curtis, whose husband is Christopher Guest. She wrote on Instagram, “A fond farewell to Mr. Fred Willard. How lucky we all are that we got to witness his great gifts. Thanks for the deep belly laughs. You are now with Mary. Home safe.” Mary is Willard’s wife of 50 years, who died in July 2018.
Willard’s Modern Family co-star Jesse Tyler Ferguson wrote on Twitter, “Rest In Peace sweet @Fred_Willard. You will always be a true original and I am so honored that our lives intersected. No one will ever come close to replacing your genius.”
Writer/director Judd Apatow also tweeted praise of Willard, declaring, “Fred Willard could not have been funnier. He was pure joy. And the sweetest person you could ever meet.“
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