Ben Gazzara, the veteran actor of the stage and screen, has passed away on Friday at the age of 81 after battling pancreatic cancer. Born in New York City in 1930, Gazzara studied acting at the Dramatic Workshop in New York before joining the celebrated Actors Studio and began his career with a number of acclaimed Broadway roles during the 1950s, gaining the first of three Tony Award nominations in 1956 for his work in A Hatful of Rain. He made his feature film debut alongside fellow Actors Studio alumni such as George Peppard and Pat Hingle in 1957’s The Strange One, before gaining his breakthrough role in Otto Preminger’s 1959 courtroom drama Anatomy of a Murder.
During the 1960s, Gazzara enjoyed a successful run in the television series Run for Your Life, receiving three Golden Globe nominations for Best TV Star – Male and two Emmy nominations for Actor in Leading Role in a Dramatic Series (he would receive a further Emmy nomination in 1986 for the mini-series An Early Frost, before collecting the Award at the fourth attempt when he was named Outstanding Supporting Actor for the 2002 TV movie Hysterical Blindness). Following his work on Run for Your Life, Gazzara began a series of collaborations with acclaimed filmmaker John Cassavetes, appearing in Husbands (1970), The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) and Opening Night (1977), and during the later stages of his career he remained prolific, appearing in films such as Road House (1989), The Big Lebowski (1998), Buffalo ’66 (1998), Happiness (1998), Summer of Sam (1999), The Thomas Crown Affair (1999), Dogville (2003) and Paris, je t’aime (2006).