David Huddleston, actor who played The Big Lebowski, dies at 85

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Screen veteran most recognised for the cult Coens comedy, had also starred in Santa Claus: The Movie, Blazing Saddles and Frantic

David Huddleston, actor who played The Big Lebowski, dies at 85
David Huddleston in The Big Lebowski. Photograph: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

David Huddleston, best known for playing the title role in The Big Lebowski, has died at the age of 85.

The actor, who amassed more than 100 screen credits since the 1960s, died of advanced heart and kidney disease.

Huddleston’s role as the cranky millionaire in the Coen brothers’ cult classic was small but remains his most recognisable work. He also gained fame for playing the titular character in 1985 family film Santa Claus: The Movie alongside Dudley Moore and John Lithgow, as well as for roles in the 2005 remake of The Producers, Smokey and the Bandit II and Roman Polanski’s Frantic.

He also appeared in the Mel Brooks comedy Blazing Saddles, an experience he referred to as “probably the most fun I have ever had on a set”.

“It was a great privilege to work with David Huddleston on Blazing Saddles,” Brooks said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter. “His performance was sublime. He helped make all those Johnsons of Rock Ridge immortal. He was one of a kind and will be greatly missed.”

Huddleston also worked on stage and the small screen, with roles in The West Wing, The Wonder Years, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Ironside.

“Things were not important to him – people were,” Sarah Koeppe, his wife and partner of 32 years, told the Los Angeles Times. “He loved entertaining and would rather sit down and talk with someone over dinner.”

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