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Clarence Gilyard, actor and teacher of Die Hard and Top Gun, dies at the age of 66 | Movies


Film and television actor Clarence Gilyard, known for his supporting roles in the films Top Gun and Die Hard and for starring in the television show Walker, Texas Ranger, has died, according to the university where he taught. He was 66 years old.

Gilyard was reportedly ill for a long time, but no further details were immediately available when the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) College of Fine Arts announced his death in a press release Monday afternoon.

Adrian Pasdar and Clarence Gilyard in Top Gun.
Adrian Pasdar and Clarence Gilyard in Top Gun. Photography: CBS Photo Archive/CBS/Getty Images

Fans of Tom Cruise’s 1986 blockbuster Top Gun saw Gilyard portray a pilot named Sundown in what was his film debut. He was also the clever terrorist Theo in Bruce Willis’ 1988 film Die Hard, a role he reprized in a 2021 Super Bowl commercial. And in 1989 he began regularly portraying private investigator Conrad McMasters in the prime-time TV lawyer drama Matlock starring Andy Griffith.

Gilyard left in 1993 after 85 appearances on Matlock and starred as the sidekick to the titular character Chuck Norriss in the TV crime drama Walker, Texas Ranger. He portrayed the character of Jimmy Trivette throughout the eight-season series and even directed one of its 196 episodes before it ended in 2001.

UNLV brought Gilyard to the faculty of its theater department as an associate professor in 2006. He treasured his role as an instructor there and prioritized him seeking more on-screen credits. , the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Clarence Gilyard in April 2018.
Clarence Gilyard in April 2018. Photography: Arlene Richie/Rex/Shutterstock

According to the Review-Journal, Gilyard described his love of teaching in 2010.

My manager-agent isn’t happy I’m not working, but college is just too much fun, Gilyard said at the time. And once you start a semester and meet these students, it’s like doing a TV series.

You are plugged into them. How can you leave them once you see in their eyes that they depend on you? They have aspirations for their own growth during these 15 weeks.

The dean of the school’s college of fine arts, Nancy Uscher, said in a statement Monday that Gilyard had deeply inspired her students.

His generosity of spirit was boundless, he was always willing to contribute to projects and performances whenever possible, Uschers’ statement added.

The film critic Courtney Howard said on Twitter late Monday that Gilyards’ work cemented his place in film history, but his college career had the same consequence, having countless real-life impact.

Before embarking on his acting career, Gilyard was born in Moses Lake, Washington, and grew up in a military family that lived in air bases across the United States before settling in California. He then attended the United States Air Force Academy for a year and eventually earned his bachelor’s degree from California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Gilyard was the father of six children. He divorced Catherine Dutko and in 2001 married his wife, Elena Gilyard.




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