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Frank McRae, Star of ‘Licence to Kill’ and ‘Last Action Hero,’ Dies at 80

The veteran character actor shared the screen with Timothy Dalton, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger

Frank McRae, a mainstay of action blockbusters including “License to Kill” and “Last Action Hero,” has died. He was 80.

McRae died of a heart attack on April 29 in Santa Monica, Calif., his daughter-in-law confirmed.

Born in Memphis, McRae excelled in high school sports before attending Tennessee State University, where he double-majored in history and drama. He played defensive tackle for the Chicago Bears’ 1967 season before deciding to transition into acting. 

McRae’s work on the big screen would quickly overshadow his football accomplishments, with the actor going on to appear in over 40 films. His breakout role came in the 1973 gangster flick “Dillinger,” a part he got by standing in a studio exec’s parking space until he was granted a meeting, according to IMDB.

The actor shrewdly leveraged his 6-foot-5 frame into a run of tough guy roles throughout the 1970s and ’80s, often alongside Sylvester Stallone, as in “F.I.S.T.”, “Paradise Alley,” “Lock Up” and “Rocky II.”

In 1989’s “Licence to Kill”, McRae played Sharkey, a pal to Timothy Dalton’s James Bond. 

Not to be pigeonholed, McRae also took roles in comedies like “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” “Batteries Not Included”, “Used Cars” and Steven Spielberg’s “1941.” He even parodied his own no-nonsense cop character in “48 Hours” in 1993’s “Last Action Hero” with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

After news of McRae’s death hit on Thursday, online tributes came pouring in, with many fans remembering the warmth and charisma beneath the actor’s rough exterior. Twitter user @MrAlecDeacon described him as a “giant man with a giant heart.”

McRae is survived by his son Marcellus and his grandchildren Camden, Jensen and Holden.