Bernie Casey, noted for his memorable roles in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka and Revenge of the Nerds, has died, The Hollywood Reporter reports. He was 78. A rep told THR that the athlete-turned-actor died following a brief illness on Tuesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Casey launched his acting career in 1969 with his debut role in Guns of the Magnificent Seven, the sequel to The Magnificent Seven. Over the past four decades he starred in roles both on television and film, including acting in several Seventies blaxploitation films and playing the lead as a widower in the 1979 television series Harris and Company. He portrayed a wide range of characters, from former slave and train robber in Martin Scorsese’s 1972 film Boxcar Bertha, to detective (starring opposite Burt Reynolds in 1981’s Sharky’s Machine) and CIA agent (James Bond film Never Say Never Again) as well as famous roles in several Eighties comedy classics.
In 1984, he portrayed U.N. Jefferson, head of the Lambda Lambda Lambda fraternity, in Revenge of the Nerds. He starred as John Slade in the comedy blaxploitation parody film I’m Gonna Git You Sucka in 1988, and in 1989 he played high school teacher Mr. Ryan in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
While movie fans may remember Casey most for his notable film characters, he began his career as a star athlete in the Sixties. Casey was a top track and field athlete at Bowling Green University, where he received national honors, including qualifying for the finals at the 1960 United States Olympic Trials. He was also halfback for the school’s Falcons football team. Following graduation, Casey was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, where he spent six seasons, followed by two seasons with the Los Angeles Rams. He made one ProBowl in 1967 and left the NFL one year later.
Beyond his acting and athletic accomplishments, Casey was also a published author and poet as well as a painter.