LOS ANGELES (AP) – Fred Willard, the comedic actor whose improv style kept him relevant for more than 50 years in films like â€œThis Is Spinal Tap,â€ â€œBest In Showâ€ and â€œAnchorman,â€ has died. He was 86.
Willardâ€™s daughter, Hope Mulbarger, said in a statement Saturday that her father died peacefully Friday night. The cause of his death has not been released.
â€œHe kept moving, working and making us happy until the very end,â€ Mulbarger said. â€œWe loved him so very much! We will miss him forever.â€
Willard was rarely a leading man or even a major supporting character. He specialized in small, scene-stealing appearances.
As an arrogantly clueless sports announcer on â€œBest In Show,â€ his character seemed to clearly know nothing about the dogs heâ€™s supposed to talk about and asks his partner on-air: â€œHow much do you think I can bench?â€ He also played the character of Frank Dunphy, the goofy father of Phil in the ABC series â€œModern Family.”
Willard was a four-time Emmy nominee for his roles in â€œWhatâ€™s Hot, Whatâ€™s Not,â€ â€œEverybody Loves Raymond,â€ â€œModern Familyâ€ and â€œThe Bold and the Beautiful.â€
In Pixarâ€™s 2008 hit â€œWALL-E,â€ he voiced the character of Shelby Forthright, the CEO of a ubiquitous big-box chain called Buyâ€™nâ€™Large.
â€œHow lucky that we all got to enjoy Fred Willardâ€™s gifts,â€ said actress Jamie Lee Curtis on Twitter. She is married to Christopher Guest who directed the mockumentary films, â€œBest in Showâ€ and â€œWaiting for Guffman.â€
â€œThanks for the deep belly laughs Mr. Willard,â€ she continued.
Willardâ€™s death comes nearly two years after his wife Mary Willard died at the age of 71. She was a playwright and TV writer, earning four Emmy nominations.
After his wife died, Willard questioned whether he would work again. But the beloved actor was brought on â€œJimmy Kimmel Live!â€ to mock President Donald Trumpâ€™s â€œspace force.â€ It was a reprise role of the 1978 NBC show â€œSpace Force.â€
â€œThere was no man sweeter or funnier,” Kimmel said on Twitter. â€œWe were so lucky to know Fred Willard and will miss his many visits.”
In 2012, Willard had a brush with the law. The actor was arrested after being suspected of committing a lewd act at a Hollywood adult theater.
Willard was fired from a narrating job and had to complete a diversion program. He called the arrest â€œvery embarrassingâ€ but insisted he did nothing wrong.
â€œItâ€™s the last time Iâ€™m going to listen to my wife when she says, `Why donâ€™t you go and see a movie?â€™â€ Willard said during an appearance on Jimmy Fallonâ€™s NBC show â€œLate Night.â€
Fallon was sympathetic toward Willard, calling him a â€œgood man” and one of his favorites.
Willard was continually beloved in Hollywood.
â€œFred Willard was the funniest person that Iâ€™ve ever worked with,” Steve Carell said on Twitter. â€œHe was a sweet, wonderful man.”
AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton contributed to this report.