It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Ben Gazarra. The actor passed away in New York City on Friday (3rd February) after battling pancreatic cancer. He was 81.
Gazarra, born Biagio Anthony Gazzara, a classically trained actor, started his career playing numerous roles in the 1950’s, mostly the part of ‘the heavy’ in various movies. He moved to television in the 1960’s with recurring parts in the shows ARREST AND TRIAL and RUN FOR YOUR LIFE. He enjoyed a comeback in no less than three John Cassavettes movies in the seventies, HUSBANDS, THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE and OPENING NIGHT. In the eighties Gazarra appeared as the bad guy in the classic Patrick Swayze movie ROAD HOUSE before going on to appear in the Coen brothers’ THE BIG LEBOWSKI, HAPPINESS and SUMMER OF SAM, all in the 1990’s. More recently, in 2003, Gazarra appeared in Lars Von Trier’s DOGVILLE. During his career he was the recipient of four Emmys and was nominated for no less than three Tony’s for his stage work.
The actor recognised that ROAD HOUSE was his most repeated film on television, and clearly showed a fondness for his co-star in that movie in an interview. “Patrick Swayze was very nice, a very sweet boy. He was a boy then, actually. Well, a young man. And just tasting the fruits of newly-found stardom. And I remember he was very nervous about it, very apprehensive. He cared a lot, and he was very tense about doing a good job. And so we’d talk and walk, and walk and talk. I liked him, and we liked each other.” Ironically, Swayze himself passed away in 2009 at the age of 57, also after battling the same disease, pancreatic cancer.
Gazarra’s last screen appearance was in the Jason Statham thriller 13, a movie seen in other territories last year, but one yet to receive a UK release.
He is survived by his third wife, Elke, and daughter, Elizabeth.
May you rest in peace Mr. Gazarra. Thank you for the movies.