Larry Hagman, best known for his conniving character J.R. Ewing on the original Dallas prime time soap, passed away last Friday at the age of 81. He had long suffered from liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver in the 1990s due to years of excessive drinking.
Hagman was surrounded by family and close friends (long-time co-stars Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy were also present) as he lost his battle with throat cancer the day after Thanksgiving.
Hagman rose to stardom in 1965 on the TV sitcom I Dream of Jeannie, playing Major Anthony Nelson, an astronaut who discovers a beautiful genie (played by Barbara Eden) in a bottle.
He became a household name in 1978, when he took on the character on J.R. Ewing, a wealthy Texas oil heir who was hell-bent on bringing down those around him. The nighttime soap ran from 1978 to 1991, and made him one of the greatest TV villains of all time.
“I really can’t remember half of the people I’ve slept with, stabbed in the back, or driven to suicide,” Hagman had once said of his character in a Time magazine article.
He had such a fondness for the character, he signed on for the Dallas reboot that aired early this year. The show’s writers and producers confirmed he had already taped six of the 15 episodes for the upcoming second season before his passing.
According to Entertainment Weekly, producers of the show are going to give his character “the proper sendoff that he deserves.”
Executive producers Cynthia Cidre and Michael M. Robin released a statement the day of Hagman’s death that read “Larry Hagman was a giant, a larger-than-life personality whose iconic performance as J.R. Ewing will endure as one of the most indelible in entertainment history.”
Cable channel TNT, which airs Dallas, released their own statement saying, “We will be forever thankful that a whole new generation of people got to know and appreciate Larry through his performance as J.R. Ewing.”
Deadline.com is speculating there may be a hiatus in filming in order for the writers to work on new scripts for the remaining episodes.
Meanwhile, his long-time co-stars released statements of their own grief.
Linda Gray, who played the wife of J.R. Ewing on Dallas said, “Larry Hagman was my best friend for 35 years. He was the Pied Piper of life and brought joy to everyone he knew. He was creative, funny, loving and talented, and I will miss him enormously.”
Says Patrick Duffy, “I lost one of the greatest friends ever to grace my life. The loneliness is only what is difficult, as Larry’s peace and comfort is always what is important to me, now as when he was here. He was a fighter in the gentlest way, against his obstacles and for his friends. I wear his friendship with honor.”
Hagman wrote an autobiography called Hello Darlin’: Tall (and Absolutely True) Tales About My Life, in which he revealed he ad-libbed on the set of Dallas to make his character even more compelling and outrageous to the viewing audience.
Hagman will be remembered for his humor, courage, and the lives he touched both on- and off-screen.