The Radio Times logo

Cocoon actor Wilford Brimley dies at age 85

The actor is best known for being the pitch man for Quaker Oats food products

Wilford Brimley dead
Getty Images
Published: Sunday, 2nd August 2020 at 9:38 am

Wilford Brimley, the longtime character actor who appeared in hit films Cocoon, The Firm, The Natural and The China Syndrome has died at age 85.


The star, best known as the pitch man for Quaker Oats food products, died on Saturday morning in Utah.

His manager Lynda Bensky confirmed the news to The Hollywood Reporter.

Brimley had been on dialysis and had other medical issues and was in the ICU in St. George, Utah ahead of his death. He had lived since 2004 on a ranch in Greybull, Wyo.

Sharing a statement, Benksy said: "Wilford Brimley was a man you could trust. He said what he meant and he meant what he said. He had a tough exterior and a tender heart. I’m sad that I will no longer get to hear my friend's wonderful stories. He was one of a kind."

His talent agent Dominic Mancini added: "He was a wonderful man, a joy to be around, and his dry sense of humour and iconic voice left an ever lasting impression on every person he met. I was lucky to call him a friend.

"To know Wilford, was to love Wilford. He had an amazing career, and sliced through the screen with his dry wit, stoic stature, and powerful conveyance. His unique blend of unexpected comedy and indelible storytelling will always remain unmatched."

Brimley was known for his public advocacy of diabetes education.

He devoted efforts to raising awareness of the disease after he was diagnosed with the condition in 1979.

For his efforts to raise awareness of diabetes, he was given a lifetime service award by the American Diabetes Association in 2008.

Brimley is survived by his wife, Beverly, and their three children.

In 1956, he married his first wife, Lynne Bagley, with whom he had four sons. Brimley and Lynne were married until she died in June 2000.

In October 2007, Brimley married Beverly Berry.

Wilford Brimley dead
The actor died at age 85 Getty Images

He worked as a blacksmith, a rodeo rider, a Hollywood extra, and a bodyguard for business magnate Howard Hughes before tasting success as an actor.

Years before his role in the 1984 hit, The Natural, Brimley became good friends with his eventual co-star, Robert Duvall.

Duvall is credited with inspiring Brimley to pursue an acting career.

Speaking of their friendship, Brimley said in 2014: "I met him on one of those horse opera TV deals; I can't remember what the name of it was. I was fascinated with what he was able to do as an actor. I'd never seen anything like it. I announced to the world that I was an actor. Then I didn't work for about eight years."

His TV career started off slowly 1960s, when Brimley moved back to California from Idaho and was hired as an extra. At the time, there was a demand for folks who could ride horses, and he worked on such shows as Gunsmoke and Bonanza.

Wilford Brimley dead
Wilford Brimley, Hume Cronyn and Don Ameche in Cocoon (1985) Getty Images

Brimley was never a fan of Hollywood, once saying: "Too many people, too congested and too fast."

However, it's actually Hollywood which led to him landing his role in The China Syndrome, the drama about a catastrophe at a nuclear power plant.

In 1977, Brimley stopped off in L.A. to see some friends while he was hauling horses from Denver and was asked to interview for a part in the series, starring Jack Lemmon, Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas.

That turn led to other movies roles, including three with another famous Utahan, Robert Redford — The Electric Horseman, Brubaker (1980) and The Natural.

His film résumé also included: Borderline, The Thing, High Road to China, Harry & Son, Country, The Stone Boy, End of the Line, Cocoon: The Return, and Hard Target (1993).

Wilford Brimley dead
Wilford Brimley in Our House Getty Images

As well as this, he starred in American TV series Our House, alongside Deidre Hall.

Despite his extensive film CV, Brimley was perhaps best known for appearing in commercials for Quaker Oats food products in the 1980s and 1990s.


His more recent credits include the 2009 film Did You Hear About the Morgans?, starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant.


Sponsored content