Clarence Gilyard, Die Hard and Top Gun actor and professor, dies aged 66 | Movies


The film and television actor Clarence Gilyard – who was known for her supporting roles in the films Top Gun and Die Hard and her starring role in the TV show Walker, Texas Ranger – has passed away, according to the university where he taught. He was 66.

Gilyard had reportedly been ill for a long time, but no other details were available when the college of fine arts at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) announced his death in a press release Monday afternoon.

Adrian Pasdar and Clarence Gilyard in Top Gun. Photo: CBS Photo Archive/CBS/Getty Images

Fans of the 1986 Tom Cruise blockbuster Top Gun saw Gilyard portray a pilot codenamed Sundown in what was his film debut. He was also the computer-savvy terrorist Theo in the 1988 Bruce Willis film Die Hard, a role he reprized in a 2021 Super Bowl commercial. And in 1989, he began regularly portraying private investigator Conrad McMasters in the primetime TV lawyer drama Matlock starring Andy Griffith.

Moving on in 1993 after 85 appearances on Matlock, Gilyard took on a role as the sidekick to Chuck Norris’ titular character in the TV crime drama Walker, Texas Ranger. He portrayed the character Jimmy Trivette throughout the show’s eight-season run — even directing one of its 196 episodes — before it ended in 2001.

UNLV brought Gilyard to its theater department in 2006 as an associate professor. He cherished his role as an instructor there and prioritized it over chasing more screen credits, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Clarence Gilyard in April 2018.
Clarence Gilyard in April 2018. Photo: Arlene Richie/Rex/Shutterstock

According to the Review-Journal, in 2010 Gilyard described his love for teaching.

“My agent is not happy that I am not working, but university is just too much fun,” said Gilyard at the time. “And once you start a semester and meet those students, it’s like doing a TV series.

“You are connected to them. How can you leave them when you see in their eyes that they depend on you? They have ambitions for their own growth for those 15 weeks.”

The dean of the college of fine arts, Nancy Uscher, said in a statement Monday that Gilyard “deeply inspired” his students.

“His generosity of spirit was boundless – he was always ready to contribute to projects and performances whenever possible,” added Uscher.

The film critic said Courtney Howard on Twitter late Monday that Gilyard’s body of work “solidified his place in film history”, but his academic career was equally important and had a “countless impact in real life”.

Before embarking on his acting career, Gilyard was born in Moses Lake, Washington, and grew up in a military family living on US airbases before settling in California. He later attended the United States Air Force Academy for a year and eventually received his bachelor’s degree from California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Gilyard was the father of six children. He was divorced from Catherine Dutko and married his wife, Elena Gilyard, in 2001.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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