This Is Spinal Tap And Anchorman Star Fred Willard Dies At 86

Fred Willard in Anchorman (2004)

Fred Willard, the veteran comedian known for his roles in This is Spinal Tap, A Mighty Wind and Anchorman has passed away. Willard passed away Friday night from natural causes. He was 86 at the time of his passing.

Fred Willard’s agent, Michael Eisenstadt, confirmed the news of his death to The Hollywood Reporter. Willard’s daughter, Hope, also announced his passing on Twitter with a heartfelt message:

It is with a heavy heart that I share the news my father passed away very peacefully last night at the fantastic age of 86 years old. He kept moving, working and making us happy until the very end.We loved him so very much! We will miss him forever.

Fred Willard’s began his stage career while working in New York in the ‘50s. With comedian Vic Grecco, he would form the comedy team Willard & Grecco and perform on the late-night circuit with shows like The Tonight Show and The Dean Martin Show. The two would eventually part ways in 1968.

It wouldn’t be until the ‘70s that Fred Willard’s career would really begin to take off, as he would land roles on Fernwood 2 Night, Forever Fernwood and America 2-Night. From here, his TV career would only grow, and he would remain a staple within sitcoms. Over the years, he would appear in numerous shows like Roseanne, That 70’s Show, Everybody Loves Raymond and more recently, Modern Family. In addition, he also has plenty of animated credits through The Simpsons, Family. Guy, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy and The Boondocks.

Fred Willard managed to carve out a place for himself within cinema, with memorable roles in Rob Reiner’s mockumentary This is Spinal Tap and fellow mockumentary A Mighty Wind. Fans of Adam McKay’s Anchorman films will no doubt remember him for playing Ed Harken, easily annoyed boss of Will Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy. In Pixar’s Wall-E, Willard even played Shelby Forthright, the CEO of BnL and the only human character in the film.

Willard’s career hasn’t been without its share of controversy, either. In 2012, the actor was arrested for lewd conduct at a California adult theater. This situation would cause him to lose several jobs, including his role on a PBS’ Market Warriors and his former ABC improv show. Nevertheless, the actor owned up to his actions and gradually bounced back.

As an actor and comedian, Fred Willard will likely be remembered most for his lighthearted brand of humor and the upbeat, “gee whiz” personality that accompanied many of his roles. He is survived by his daughter, Hope and one grandson.

While Fred Willard has passed on, fans can still see his work when he appears as Steve Carrell’s father on the upcoming Netlix comedy Space Force.

We here at CinemaBlend extend our thoughts to Fred Willard’s loved ones during this time.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Erik Swann is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He began working with the publication in 2020 when he was hired as Weekend Editor. Today, he continues to write, edit and handle social media responsibilities over the weekend. On weekdays, he also writes TV and movie-related news and helps out with editing and social media as needed. He graduated from the University of Maryland, where he received a degree in Broadcast Journalism. After shifting into multi-platform journalism, he started working as a freelance writer and editor before joining CB. Covers superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. He eats more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.