Ben Gazzara

February has kicked off on a sad note this year, as respected and beloved character actor Ben Gazzara has passed way at the age of 81 from pancreatic cancer.

Gazzara first earned notice for this role on the NBC series "Run For Your Life" in the 1960s, a part that would earn him three Golden Globe nominations, however, it was his work with John Cassavetes would mark the most memorable and influential of his career. As part of the director's regular retinue, he starred in "Husbands," "The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie" and "Opening Night." And as actors they both appeared together in "If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium" and "Capone."

The actor also found a fan in Peter Bogdanovich, who directed him in the cult favorite "Saint Jack" and the infamous "They All Laughed." "I don't think they make actors like Ben anymore. I'm going to miss him a lot," the director told IndieWire.

Thoughout the '80s the actor continued to work, earning an Emmy nomination for "An Early Frost," but a new generation of filmmakers, influenced and inspired by '70s cinema, would give him a string of roles that would bring his talents to a new generation of movie fans. Working with a wide array of talent ranging from the Coen Brothers (playing Jackie Treehorn in "The Big Lebowski"), Lars Von Trier ("Dogville"), Vincent Gallo ("Buffalo '66"), Spike Lee ("Summer Of Sam"), Todd Solondz ("Happiness") and David Mamet ("The Spanish Prisoner"), Gazzara found fresh and vital work in the latter part of his career.

Whether it was roughing it up with Patrick Swayze in "Road House" or working with Otto Preminger in "Anatomy Of A Murder," Gazzara moved fluidly from the big to small screen, in projects ranging from arthouse pictures to indie dramas to just plain old popcorn entertainment, and he did it with ease. His presence in a film was always one to look forward to, a consummate professional, peerless actor and always a joy to watch. He will be missed. [THR/LA Times]