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Josip Elic, best known as the mental patient Bancini in 1975's classic drama "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," has died at age 98.
His manager Matt Beckoff confirmed the news on Facebook Thursday saying the actor's death in a New Jersey rehabilitation facility was the result of a recent fall.
Elic's Bancini was an oft-confused patient living at the Oregon mental facility in director Milos Foreman's "Cuckoo's Nest," who would frequently lament, "I'm tired." Bancini's most memorable scene involved carrying Jack Nicholson's Randall P. McMurphy on his shoulders in an impromptu basketball lesson, a scene which the 6' 2" Montana-born Elic said was ad-libbed.
Elic played a restaurant violinist who gets a bottle of champagne poured down his pants by Zero Mostel in Mel Brooks' 1967 comedy "The Producers." It was on that film Elic crossed paths with Lee Meredith, who played the campy Swedish secretary Ulla.
The two met again in 1975 at a Manhattan Theatre Club show called "A Straightman, a Comic and a Talking Lady," later renamed "Burlesque Humor Revisited."
"He was the comic, I was the talking lady," says Meredith. "He did a lot of serious work, but he was very, very funny."
Elic and Meredith became inseparable friends, bonding over laughs and their shared passion for protecting animals.
Meredith would become his caretaker when Elic suffered a fall in his New York apartment. After he got out of the hospital, Elic moved in with Meredith and her husband, producer Bert Stratford, at their home in River Edge, New Jersey. He was there for more than a year, before transferring to a nearby assisted-living residence.
"It was like we adopted him to the family, we spent every holiday together," says Meredith.
Elic starred in two episodes of the original "Twilight Zone" TV series, playing an electrician in 1962's "One More Pallbearer" (1962) and a de-humanized Subaltern in "The Obsolete Man" (1961) alongside Burgess Meredith.
The fandom over "Twilight Zone" due to sci-fi conventions grew to be even larger than Elic's "Cuckoo's Nest" fame
"My big autographs used to be 'Cuckoo's Nest,'" Elic told the Montana Standard in 2015. "Now it's 'Twilight Zone.'"
The "Twilight Zone" work also allowed Elic to meet creator Rod Serling, whom he found to be surprisingly light-hearted.
But Elic's favorite film role was as Darcey Henchman in director Frank Capra's 1961 comedy-drama "Pocketful of Miracles," starring Betty Davis and Glenn Ford.
Meredith says that Elic proudly wore his World War II veteran's hat, ran a dime Bingo game at the nursing home and cracked up the staff at his doctor appointments.
"He always used to say 'I bet my blood pressure is better than yours.' And it always was. He was very proud of that," says Meredith. "And when people would say that he looked good, he would say, 'You think I look good now, you should have seen me 60 years ago.' He had a line for everything."
Elic was mentally sharp and, most of all, funny until the end.
"Once he turned 95, he really wanted to live to be 100," says Meredith. "Then he finally said, 'I don’t know if I’m going to make it. I don’t think this year was such a good year for me.' We tried to talk him out of that, but that’s the way it did turn out. The holidays are not going to be the same without him."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest's Bancini dies: Josip Elic was 98