Clarence Gilyard Jr. Dead: Die Hard and Top Gun Star Was 66
Top Gun and Die Hard actor Clarence Gilyard Jr. died Monday following an illness. He was 66.
His death was announced by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he worked as a film and TV professor since 2006.
"It is with profound sadness that I share this news," Dean Nancy J. Uscher and the UNLV College of Fine Arts said Monday. "His students were deeply inspired by him, as were all who knew him."
"He had a national and international following through his celebrated work in the theatre, in film, and television," added Uscher. "His generosity of spirit was boundless — he was always ready to contribute to projects and performances however possible."
"Professor Gilyard was a beacon of light and strength for everyone around him at UNLV," added UNLV film chair Heather Addison. "Whenever we asked him how he was, he would cheerfully declare that he was 'Blessed!' But we are truly the ones who were blessed to be his colleagues and students for so many years. We love you and will miss you dearly, Professor G!"
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CBS Photo Archvie/Getty Images
A familiar face in film and television for decades, Gilyard appeared as Sundown in 1986's TopGun, and as villainous computer whiz Theo in 1989's Die Hard.
In 2020, he revisited the Die Hard role for an Advanced Auto Parts commercial celebrating the brand's acquisition of the DieHard battery brand.
CBS via Getty Images
The commercial also starred Bruce Willis' character John McClane and was an experience Gilyard called "surreal" in an interview with Nevada Public Radio.
Gilyard also co-starred with Andy Griffith on the crime drama Matlock from 1989-1993, playing private investigator Conrad McMasters in 85 episodes.
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Frank Carroll/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images Clarence Gilyard in Matlock
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"Before Matlock, I really struggled with the comedy aspect of acting," Gilyard said, per IMDB. "I stuck to Andy like glue during the four years we worked together and he taught me so much. Anything I do comedic I owe to working with him."
"He was a surrogate father on television," Gilyard added about his co-star, who he had grown up watching on The Andy Griffith Show. The pair remained friends until Griffith's death in 2012.
Gilyard later starred opposite Chuck Norris as Jimmy Trevette in the CBS action-adventure show Walker, Texas Ranger, which aired from 1993-2001.
After the show ended, he completed an MFA (masters of fine arts) in Theatre Performance at Southern Methodist University, later becoming a film and theater professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas'College of Fine Arts.
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Ron Tom/NBCU Photo Bank Clarence Gilyard in Duck Factory
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"I'm wired to teach. And I'm a professional, but the profession has to feed the classroom," Gilyard told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2017. "It's what stimulates my characters because I'm in touch with people's lives in the 21st century."
At the time of his death, Gilyard was still a working actor and in the process of filming TV movie Eleanor's Bench. He had long been ill, reported The Guardian Tuesday, but no other details were immediately available.
The newspaper added that he was the father of six children and married his second wife, Elena Gilyard in 2001.