Advertisement

Blood Simple and Blade Runner star M Emmet Walsh dies aged 88

M Emmet Walsh, the acclaimed American character actor who appeared in 119 films including Blade Runner, The Jerk and Knives Out, has died. He was 88.

His notable roles included private detective Loren Visser in the Coen Brothers’ first film, 1984’s Blood Simple, for which Walsh won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead.

Walsh’s death was confirmed by his longtime manager, Sandy Joseph, who told the New York Post that the actor had died on Tuesday (19 March) of cardiac arrest at Northwestern Medical Center in St Albans, Vermont.

In a statement, Joseph quoted Walsh as saying: “I approach each job thinking it might be my last so it better be the best work possible. I want to be remembered as a working actor. I’m being paid for what I’d do for nothing.”

Michael Emmet Walsh was born on 22 March 1935 in Ogdensburg, New York, before being raised in rural Vermont.

He made his film debut in 1969 in the comedy Alice’s Restaurant and had a small role as a bus passenger in Midnight Cowboy that same year.

In the early Seventies, he appeared in supporting roles in such classics as Peter Bogdanovich’s screwball comedy What's Up, Doc? and Sidney Lumet’s crime drama Serpico.

Walsh won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead for his performance in the Coen Brothers’ ‘Blood Simple’ (1984) (Getty Images)
Walsh won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead for his performance in the Coen Brothers’ ‘Blood Simple’ (1984) (Getty Images)

He made his breakthrough to more substantial roles playing cynical sportswriter Dickie Dunn in the 1977 hockey comedy Slap Shot.

Walsh had a memorable role as a crazed sniper in Steve Martin comedy The Jerk (1979), and played Captain Harry Bryant opposite Harrison Ford in Blade Runner (1982).

The Coen Brothers gave Walsh the rare chance to play a leading role in their debut film, the Texas noir Blood Simple, in 1984.

“My character in Blood Simple, Visser, doesn’t think of himself as particularly bad or evil,” Walsh told The Guardian in 2017. “He’s on the edge of what’s legal, but he’s having a lot of fun with all that. He’s a simple fella trying to make an extra buck and going a little further than he’d normally go in his business enterprises.”

His later roles included a much-loved appearance in the comedy Christmas with the Kranks.

As well as his 119 feature film credits, Walsh also appeared in more than 250 television productions including The X-Files, Frasier and The Righteous Gemstones.

He continued working up until this year, with his final film appearance coming in Mario Van Peebles’s western Outlaw Posse.