Prolific character actor Jon Polito, who rose to fame as a frequent collaborator of the Coen brothers, and as a guest star on shows ranging from Seinfeld to Modern Family, died Friday at the age of 65.
The news came via director John McNaughton, who worked with Polito on the early-1990s TV series Homicide: Life On The Street. The cause of the actor’s death has yet to be confirmed, but he had been diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer in 2008 and had contracted an infection from a recent surgery, according to TMZ. He was placed on life support Sunday, and was taken off it on Thursday night.
Polito, known best for his raspy-voiced portrayal of gangster-types, appeared in more than 100 films, on Broadway, and in countless television series over the course of his 35-year career, earning numerous awards and industry acclaim in the process.
Important roles in Polito’s career included work on such Coen brothers’ classics as The Big Lebowski, Barton Fink, and Miller’s Crossing, as well as appearances in films from other famed directors, such as Tim Burton’s Big Eyes and Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers. In addition to film roles, he appeared on popular shows like Gilmore Girls, American Dad, and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.
Tributes to the late actor have began to appear online, including one from comedian Scott Aukerman, who recently had Polito guest star on his popular series Comedy Bang Bang!.
“One of the coolest days on Bang Bang recently was when Jon Polito guest-starred on our You Made Your Bed, Now Lie In It sketch. As a big fan, I was nervous about how he would feel about being in such a stupid sketch, but the minute he saw me, he laughed and said, ‘I’ve been watching your show, and you’re a sick twist!’” Aukerman wrote in a post on Instagram, “He spent all day delightfully regaling us with stories about ‘Miller’s Crossing,’ ‘Barton Fink,’ and ‘Death of a Salesman.’ Then, when the cameras turned on, he slipped into his classic hard-boiled character. A great actor and cool dude! RIP.”
The character actor worked until the day he died, and had recently secured a role in The Maestro. Polito is survived by his husband, Darryl Armbruster.
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