Wilford Brimley, ‘Cocoon’ Star, Dies at 85

Beloved character actor also appeared in such films as “Absence of Malice” and “The Natural”

Last Updated: August 2, 2020 @ 8:43 AM

Wilford Brimley, the beloved character actor who starred in such film as “Cocoon” and “The Natural,” died Saturday at age 85.

He had been sick for two months with a kidney ailment, his agent told the New York Times.

The Utah native found his breakthrough role as a recurring character in the 1970s period drama “The Waltons.” Soon, he played a range of often crotchety characters on the big screen, including a nuclear power plant engineer in 1979’s “The China Syndrome,” a tenacious district attorney in 1981’s “Absence of Malice,” a country music manager in 1983’s “Tender Mercies” and the manager of a perpetually losing baseball team in 1984’s “The Natural.”

His biggest role may have come in Ron Howard’s 1985 hit “Cocoon” as the leader of a group of outcast senior citizens who discover a swimming pool that magically restores their youth — a character that was significantly older than his then age of 49. He reprised the role in a 1988 sequel.

In the 1980s, Brimley also gained famed as the on-camera spokesman for Quaker Oats and Liberty Medical, which sold diabetes-testing kits.

Other notable films included “The Thing” (1982),”High Road to China” (1983), “The Firm” (1993), “In & Out” (1997) and “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” (2009). He also had a cameo as an irascible postmaster general in a 1997 episode of “Seinfeld.”

After news of Brimley’s passing broke, several celebrities took to Twitter to pay their respects.