Clarence Gilyard Jr: 'Die Hard' and 'Top Gun' actor dies at 66 after 30-year Hollywood career
NEVADA, LAS VEGAS: Veteran actor Clarence Gilyard Jr of 'Top Gun' and 'Die Hard' fame has reportedly died at the age of 66 after battling a long illness. His cause of death is currently unknown.
With a stellar acting career spanning three decades, Gilyard was best known for playing the computer hacker Theo in the blockbuster movie 'Die Hard'. He also played the naval flight officer Marcus “Sundown” Williams in the 1986 hit 'Top Gun'. The performer also garnered praise for his role as Conrad McMasters, attorney Ben Matlock's right-hand man, in the hit drama 'Matlock' between 1989 and 1993. Gilyard also appeared in the 1990s crime series 'Walker Texas Ranger' and had been working as a theater professor at the University of Nevada before his demise.
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Tributes to Gilyard poured in from fans across the globe following the news of his death.
😢 Décès de Clarence Gilyard, 66 ans. pic.twitter.com/D7n4Uhmrh4— 🔰Lesmeilleurescenes®️ 🎥 (@meilleurescenes) November 29, 2022
Actor Christopher Reed branded Gilyard "a legendary screen presence."
"Thank you for teaching me how to 'live,'" actor TC Fontaine wrote. "Forever my acting teacher/colleague."
"Actor Clarence Gilyard solidified his place in film history as Theo in DIE HARD (which he revived in a ‘21 Super Bowl ad) & in TV as Conrad McMasters in MATLOCK," film critic Courtney Howard chimed in. "But he also made an innumerable impact in real life as a film studies professor at UNLV. May he Rest In Peace."
Film producer Ben Trebilcook offered, "Sad to learn of the passing of Professor Clarence Gilyard. A terrific actor, too, who of course played Theo in #DieHard, a surviving character I brought back in my Die Hard 6. Sending Thoughts and prayers to his family at this time."
Radio host Jason Smith gushed, "I still run Clarence Gilyard's 'Die Hard' and 'Top Gun' lines in my house all the time. I even ran one today getting ready to run errands and my wife asked me if I was ready to go and I said 'You didn't bring me along for my charming personality.' R.I.P."
Clarence Gilyard has passed away.— chris reed (@Chrisreed619) November 29, 2022
RIP to a legendary screen presence. pic.twitter.com/3QSYib0qD3
Thank you for teaching me how to "live". Forever my acting teacher/colleague 🙏🏾❤🕊 #ClarenceGilyard #ClarenceGilyardJr pic.twitter.com/My5WOVhZD0— 🏁 T.C. Fontaine 🏁 (@TCFontaine) November 29, 2022
Actor Clarence Gilyard solidified his place in film history as Theo in DIE HARD (which he revived in a ‘21 Super Bowl ad) & in TV as Conrad McMasters in MATLOCK. But he also made an innumerable impact in real life as a film studies professor at UNLV. May he Rest In Peace. #RIP pic.twitter.com/DT595TAlbz— Courtney Howard (@Lulamaybelle) November 29, 2022
“His generosity of spirit was boundless — he was always ready to contribute to projects and performances however possible," UNLV College of Fine Arts Dean Nancy Uscher told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Film chair Heather Addison added, "Professor Gilyard was a beacon of light and strength for everyone around him. Whenever we asked him how he was, he would cheerfully declare that he was ‘Blessed!’ But we are truly the ones who were blessed to be his colleagues and students for so many years. We love you and will miss you dearly, Professor G!”
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Born in Washington in 1955, Gilyard enrolled at the US Air Force Academy and left after a year. He reportedly also played football in Kansas before attending California State University in Long Beach where he signed up for acting class. Speaking to the Review-Journal in 2017, the actor said he had been "blessed" in his career. "There are actors who are better looking, more talented, but at that time, the directors who were after me, they said, 'This kid needs to be in my movie,'" Gilyard said at the time. He also insisted that he was "wired to teach," adding, "I'm a professional, but the profession has to feed the classroom. It's what stimulates my characters because I'm in touch with people's lives in the 21st century. I work best as an artist when I'm in a fertile arena. That means creative and imaginative. Being with all those millennials - I don't understand what they're saying but I'm siphoning off their energy."
We're heartbroken to learn that Clarence Gilyard Jr has passed away.— Showmasters (@Showmasters) November 29, 2022
Clarence appeared in some of the 80s top movies & TV shows. We were fortunate to host Clarence at #LFCC earlier this year and enjoyed hearing his tales from set. Our thoughts go out to his friends & family. pic.twitter.com/5QEtrEXkSY
Gilyard's recent projects included the short film 'Legacy Of A Spy' in 2021, and the films 'Christmas On The Coast' and 'The Perfect Race'. He also reprised his role of Theo alongside Bruce Willis's character John McClaine for a battery advertisement in 2020, per Sky News.