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Louis Gossett Jr., 'An Officer and a Gentleman' Oscar Winner, Dead at 87

  

Category:  Entertainment

Via:  john-russell  •  3 weeks ago  •  8 comments

By:   Brenton Blanchet (Peoplemag)

Louis Gossett Jr., 'An Officer and a Gentleman' Oscar Winner, Dead at 87
Oscar winner Louis Gossett Jr., best known for his roles in 'Roots' and 'An Officer and a Gentleman,' has died at 87. The actor's nephew confirmed his death with the Associated Press, saying Gossett Jr. died on March 28 in Santa Monica, California.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


Academy Award winner Louis Gossett Jr., best known for his celebrated work in Roots and An Officer and a Gentleman, hasdied. He was 87.

The Associated Press confirmed news of Gossett's death after the actor's nephew told the outlet that he died Thursday night in Santa Monica, California. No cause of death has yet been revealed.

Born in New York City, Gossett got his acting start on Broadway inTake a Giant Step in 1953 — when he was still a student at Abraham Lincoln High School. As he explained in a 1991 conversation with Bob Costas, he had "a pretty promising career in high school."

"'They're looking for a young, Black kid to play a lead in a Broadway show called Take a Giant Step. They can't find anybody in the business, so they're going to the high schools. 'Tell your mother to take you down there,'" he recalled being told. "So, that's how I got in show business."

In the years that followed, Gossett attended New York University and acted in Broadway's The Desk Set in 1955 and 1956. His film debut came with 1961's A Raisin in the Sun, which has since been entered into the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. The movie was released two years after the original Lorraine Hansberry play premiered on Broadway, with Gossett acting alongside the legendary Sidney Poitier.

"I was in awe of that man — his experience and strength," Gossett told PEOPLE of the late Sidney Poitier in 2024. "I supported him, and he supported me."

At the beginning of his film career in the 1960s, Gossett also performed as a folk musician ("I passed the brass playing in the coffee shops down in the Village," he told PEOPLE) and played sports. He even turned down a potential professional basketball stint to focus on acting. "I was at rookie training for the [New York] Knicks when I got a call from Lorraine Hansberry to be a part of A Raisin in the Sun," Gossett told PEOPLE.

"They said the part comes with a $700 per diem, more money than most professional athletes had in the bank at the time. I put the basketball down, and the rest is history," he added.

After moving to Los Angeles in the '60s to focus on film and television, his next breakthrough role came in 1977, when he played Fiddler in Roots, earning an Emmy award for outstanding lead actor in a single appearance in a drama or comedy series. He later admitted that he was initially hesitant to take the gig.

"I said, 'Well, how come they saved the 'Uncle Tom' [role], for me?' I hide the insult that hit me in the pit of my stomach," Gossett told ScreenRant of being offered the role. "Then I said, 'Well, I'm not going to turn this down, because I want to be part of this thing.... It's a challenge to bring that resurrection character as a survivor in America, who does not remember being a slave, for him to survive. Without Fiddler, Kunta Kinte does not exist."

After Roots, Gossett enjoyed big-screen success with his role as drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in 1982's An Officer and a Gentleman. The film earned Gossett an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor — making him the first Black performer to win the Supporting Actor Oscar.

"They had hired another actor who was White, but when director Taylor Hackford found out that 75% of the Marine DI's were Black, they paid him off and hired me. I went down to San Diego Marine Corps to learn for six weeks," he told PEOPLE in 2024. "When I showed up on set, I was a marine."

As for the Oscar win, Gossett recalled in a CBS Sunday Morning interview that he didn't believe it at first, and that his agent "hit me on my chest and said, 'They mentioned your name.'"

"And I looked at him because I thought I was asleep. And I looked around and there was applause," he said. "Not supposed to be possible. So I said thank you. That's a piece of history."

In the '80s and '90s, Gossett appeared in a number of films and series, including Jaws 3-D, Enemy Mine, The Principal, Sadat, Iron Eagle, the Marvel-comic based film The Punisher, Toy Soldiers, A Good Man in Africa and Blue Chips. He also hosted Saturday Night Live in 1982.

Gossett revisited his stage roots later in his career, appearing as Billy Flynn in Chicago in 1996.

One of Gossett's most notable later roles was as Will Reeves in HBO's 2019 limited series Watchmen. The acclaimed show earned several awards following its brief, nine-episode run, including 11 Emmys. He told Page Six in 2020 that he didn't "know what the real answer is" in terms of why the show was not renewed.

In 2023, Gossett took on the role of Mister Johnson in The Color Purple, and as he explained in 2024, he was "still here" with no plans to retire. "God must have something left for me to do," he told PEOPLE.

"As long as I'm here, there's a job to do for the benefit of us all," Gossett previously told CBS Sunday Morning. "For what it's worth."

Gossett, who had been married and divorced three times, is survived by his two adult sons, Satie and Sharron.


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JohnRussell
Professor Principal
1  seeder  JohnRussell    3 weeks ago

Gossett in An Officer and A Gentleman

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
2  Trout Giggles    3 weeks ago

He will be missed. He was such a great actor. He was the only good thing about "An Officer and a Gentleman"

I loved him as Fiddler in "Roots"

 
 
 
Igknorantzruls
Freshman Quiet
2.1  Igknorantzruls  replied to  Trout Giggles @2    3 weeks ago

he was weird with his tuna though

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
2.1.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  Igknorantzruls @2.1    3 weeks ago

huh? LOL!

 
 
 
Igknorantzruls
Freshman Quiet
2.1.2  Igknorantzruls  replied to  Trout Giggles @2.1.1    3 weeks ago

he didn't like Mayo,   but he grew on him like a Debra Chicken Wing woman...

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
2.1.3  Trout Giggles  replied to  Igknorantzruls @2.1.2    3 weeks ago

Ah! I get it now. Very clever

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
3  Kavika     3 weeks ago

RIP Lou.

I related to him as Drill Sargent Foley, what a great performance.

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
4  Buzz of the Orient    3 weeks ago

IMO he truly deserved his Oscar for his performance in An Officer and a Gentleman.  But walking on at the age of 87 is not something I want to hear.

 
 

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