John Mahoney, the actor who played the role of Martin Crane on Frasier for 11 seasons, died in Chicago on Sunday while in hospice care, his manager confirmed to Variety. He was 77.
The British-born Mahoney, who moved to the Chicago area at the age of 19, didn’t fully enter acting until decades later, when John Malkovich and Gary Sinise enlisted Mahoney, then in his 40s, to join their Steppenwolf Theater Company. After winning the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play in 1986 for his role in the Broadway production of The House of Blue Leaves, Mahoney began a fruitful career in Hollywood with 1987’s Tin Men.
Mahoney was next cast as White Sox manager Kid Gleason in 1988’s Eight Men Out, a drama about the 1919 Black Sox scandal, and as actress Ione Skye’s embezzling father in Cameron Crowe’s romantic comedy Say Anything… in 1989.
Following roles in films like the Coen Brothers’ Barton Fink and The Hudsucker Proxy, In the Line of Fire, Striking Distance, Moonstruck and Reality Bites, Mahoney landed the part that he would most be remembered for: Wisecracking retired police officer Martin Crane on Frasier, the sitcom spin-off of Kelsey Grammer’s Cheers character; Mahoney previously appeared on a 1992 episode of Cheers in a different role.
Cheers star Ted Danson said in a statement to Rolling Stone, “John could do anything as an actor; he was so nimble. He was also a gentleman. His kindness radiated from him. I will miss him. Much love John!”
Kelsey Grammer, who famously played Frasier Crane, tweeted a picture hugging the late actor and his television father.
He was my father. I loved him. pic.twitter.com/3mGcyEMxoy
— Kelsey Grammer (@KelseyGrammer) February 7, 2018
Mahoney would be recognized for his Frasier role with a pair of Emmy and Golden Globes nominations for supporting actor in a comedy, as well as an ensemble Screen Actors Guild Award. David Hyde Pierce, who played Niles Crane on Frasier and won the 1999 Golden Globe over Mahoney, said in his acceptance speech at the time, “The greatest honor the Academy has ever given me, is to put me in the same category with John Mahoney.”
Jane Leeves, who played Daphne Moon on Frasier, told Rolling Stone: “John was the dearest, sweetest man I have ever known. His wicked sense of humor, usually whispered in your ear or spoken just loud enough that only you could hear could bring you to tears. And his smile. Oh my God. He was lit from within. How lucky I am to have had him in my life. I loved him so much and will miss him so terribly.”
Peri Gilpin, who played Roz Doyle on Frasier, remembered Mahoney’s generous spirit. “John knew what was important. He cared about people. He stayed grounded. He ran lines with me and he insisted that I stop mugging for the camera!” she told Rolling Stone. “He told the same stories over and over every week to every new guest star, but they were funny every time. He had the greatest laugh. When he said you did good, you knew you had. He always said thank you.”
CBS Home Entertainment, the current distributor of Frasier, said in a statement, “We mourn the loss of John Mahoney, best known as Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce’s irascible dad, Martin Crane, in #Frasier. He leaves behind a legacy of enduring performances on stage and screen.”
The actor also provided his voice to the animated features Antz and The Iron Giant. Following Frasier‘s finale in 2004, Mahoney continued to appear in films and on television, including Dan in Real Life, Hot in Cleveland and a 2015 episode of Foyle’s War, his last credited role.