Louis Gossett Jr., Oscar winning star of An Officer and a Gentleman, dies aged 87

Louis Gossett Jr., who won an Academy Award for his performance in An Officer and a Gentleman and an Emmy for the groundbreaking miniseries Roots, has died at age 87, according to a statement from his family.

“It is with our heartfelt regret to confirm our beloved father passed away this morning. We would like to thank everyone for their condolences at this time. Please respect the family’s privacy during this difficult time,” the family’s statement, shared by Gossett’s longtime publicist, read.

Gossett became the first Black man to win an Oscar for a supporting role in 1983 for his work as the tough drill instructor, training a character played by Richard Gere, in An Officer and a Gentleman.

READ MORE: Take That’s Gary Barlow opens up about heartbreaking loss. 

Actor Lou Gossett Jr. attends the 3rd Annual ICON MANN Power 50 Dinner on February 18, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.

“Lou was a sweetheart. He took his job very seriously. He did his research. He stayed in character the whole time,” his co-star Richard Gere said in a statement to CNN. “He was the drill sergeant 24 hours a day, and it showed clearly in his performance. He drove every scene he was in. A tough guy with a heart of gold.”

The hit movie followed by six years his portrayal of Fiddler, who takes the newly arrived slave Kunta Kinte under his wing in ABC’s adaptation of Alex Haley’s book.

Tall at 6’4″, Gossett became known for authority-figure roles that took advantage of his physicality, playing a boxer in the movie Diggstown, the villain in the movie The Deep and an alien pilot (hidden under heavy makeup), marooned on a dangerous planet with his human foe, in the sci-fi allegory Enemy Mine.

He also starred in the Iron Eagle movies, which produced several sequels.

For a daily dose of 9Honey, subscribe to our newsletter here.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Gossett credited a high school English teacher with steering him toward acting, which he pursued while also playing basketball, even trying out for the New York Knicks.

He studied drama while attending New York University, and early in his career appeared on stage and later in the movie version of A Raisin in the Sun, opposite Sidney Poitier, which launched his career in Hollywood. (Poitier was the first Black man to win an Oscar, in the 1960s for Lilies of the Field.)

Gossett played several historical figures, including Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat and baseball legend Satchel Paige in TV movies during the 1980s.

Off screen, Gossett helped found the Eracism Foundation in the 1990s, an organisation committed to ending racism, which Gossett spoke of experiencing in Hollywood.

“I had to really learn the importance of what it takes to survive in this town, and I had to act as if I was second class,” he said. “I had to ingest the onus of being an African American person in America.”

READ MORE: Nick Cave feels “culpable” in the deaths of his two sons. 

Susan Sarandon and Christopher Reeves flank Louis Gossett Jr., winner of the 1982 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in "An Officer and a Gentleman."

The actor was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010 and decided to go public with the news “to set an example for the large number of African-American men who are victims of this disease because of the comparatively low emphasis in our community on preventive examinations and early treatment.

“I want to influence them to seek, as I have, the fine medical care and early detection now available,” he said at the time.

That didn’t stop him, however, from doing the work that he loved.

Gossett remained active in performing well into his 80s, co-starring last year in the movie version of the musical The Color Purple and a few years before that in the HBO series Watchmen, for which he received the last of his eight Emmy nominations in 2020.

This article was originally published by CNN with the headline ‘Louis Gossett Jr., Oscar-winning star of ‘An Officer and a Gentleman,’ dead at 87′ and has been reproduced here with permission.

FOLLOW US ON WHATSAPP HERE: Stay across all the latest in celebrity, lifestyle and opinion via our WhatsApp channel. No comments, no algorithm and nobody can see your private details.