Top Gun and Die Hard star Clarence Gilyard Jr has died at the age of 66.


The University of Nevada, Las Vegas College of Fine Arts, where he had been working as a film and theatre professor, announced his death on Monday (28th November), according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The actor is said to have been battling a long illness before his death. No further details have been given.

A statement released by the university said the star would be “loved and missed dearly” and they had been “blessed” by his presence.

“Professor Gilyard was a beacon of light and strength for everyone around him,” UNLV film chair Heather Addison said.

She continued: “Whenever we asked him how he was, he would cheerfully declare that he was ‘Blessed!’ But we are truly the ones who were blessed to be his colleagues and students for so many years. We love you and will miss you dearly, Professor G!”

Gilyard made his film debut in 1986’s Top Gun, appearing alongside Tom Cruise as naval flight officer Marcus 'Sundown' Williams.

However, he remains best known for his role as computer hacker Theo in the Christmas action movie Die Hard.

He revisited the role in 2020 when he starred in Advance Auto Parts’ 2020 advert promoting DieHard car batteries.

Clarence Gilyard Jr as Conrad McMasters in Matlock. Frank Carroll/NBC/ Getty Images

Gilyard also had a number of TV roles over the years, including his part as Conrad McMasters on ABC’s legal drama series Matlock.

He starred in 85 episodes of the show before exiting in 1993 to appear in the Western crime series Walker, Texas Ranger, where he starred across all eight seasons before it came to an end in 2001.

Gilyard spent a year at the Air Force Academy as a cadet before earning his bachelor’s degree in acting and breaking into Hollywood.

The star returned to academia in 2006, joining the department of theatre at the University of Nevada as a film and theatre professor.

Tributes have been flooding in on social media for the late actor, with Sons of Anarchy star Chris Reed tweeting: "Clarence Gilyard has passed away. RIP to a legendary screen presence."


Critic Courtney Howard tweeted: "Actor Clarence Gilyard solidified his place in film history as Theo in DIE HARD (which he revived in a ‘21 Super Bowl ad) & in TV as Conrad McMasters in MATLOCK. But he also made an innumerable impact in real life as a film studies professor at UNLV. May he Rest In Peace. #RIP"