Rest in peace. Comic Fred Willard has died at 86 years old. The actor was best known for his roles in Everybody Loves Raymond, Anchorman and Best in Show. His daughter, Hope Willard, confirmed the news via social media.
“It is with a heavy heart that I share the news my father passed away very peacefully last night at the fantastic age of 86 years old,” Hope, 51, wrote on Twitter. “He kept moving, working and making us happy until the very end. We loved him so very much! We will miss him forever.”
Actress Jamie Lee Curtis, who is married to Willard’s longtime director Christopher Guest, took to social media to share a tribute. “A fond farewell to Mr. Fred Willard,” Jamie, 51, wrote on Instagram. “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.”
Willard’s death comes just two years after his wife, Mary Willard, passed away at 71. The couple tied the knot in 1968 and share one daughter, Hope.
The actor was born on September 18, 1933, in Shaker Heights, Ohio. He got his start in show business after he moved to New York City in the 1950s. He made his onscreen acting debut in 1966 in the TV series Pistols ‘n’ Petticoats and Hey, Landlord. He would go on to earn roles in various TV shows throughout his nearly 60-year career like Sirota’s Court (1976), Fernwood Tonight (1977) and This Is Spinal Tap (1984). Willard also starred in films like Teenage Mother (1967), Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999) and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004).
Most recently, Willard played Frank Dunphy on Modern Family. He starred in 14 episodes over the show’s 11 seasons as the father of Phil Dunphy (played bt Ty Burrell). Willard earned an Emmy nomination in 2010 for outstanding guest actor in a comedy series. His character died in an episode that aired in January 2020.
In 2016, Willard reflected on his career in an interview with L.A. Weekly and explained why he preferred sketch comedy over other forms of comedy. “Because if the audience doesn’t like something, it’s over in four or five minutes and you go on to something new,” he told the outlet at the time. “You know how you go to a theater and after 10 minutes you say, ‘Oh, I don’t like this thing,’ but you don’t want to get up and leave? At a sketch show, it’s always something new every few minutes.”