When I found out John Mahoney died, the first film that came to mind was She's The One with Edward Burns. Mahoney played Burns' dad, Mr. Fitzpatrick, a hard-charging patriarch of a Boston family who took no prisoners when giving advice, yet cared deeply. Mahoney was the quintessential cinematic dad: overbearing, grumpy, flawed, yet caring and well-intentioned. It was his specialty.
Mahoney died at the age of 77 while in hospice care on Sunday in Chicago. His last role was playing Andrew De Mar in the British television series, Foyle's War, three years ago with an extended run on the TV Land comedy, Hot in Cleveland, before that.
Born in England in 1940, Mahoney didn't jump right into the world of film, playing first part in Hudson Taylor in 1981 at the age of 31. Mahoney jumped around a variety of smaller roles including the Chuck Norris actioner Code of Silence before landing his first sizable part in Barry Levinson's Tin Men (1987), playing Moe Adams.
1987 would be a big year for Mahoney, as he starred in a pair of popular films starring Cher, Moonstruck and Suspect. Juicy roles in Eight Men Out and Betrayed followed before the role of James Court in Say Anything landed on his lap, one of the many roles that would define Mahoney.
Another flawed father with good intentions and bad delivery. Mahoney's Court wanted the best for Ione Skye's Diane, warning her of John Cusack's Lloyd Dobler's rebel ways. Cameron Crowe did nothing fancy with the camera, instead letting his actors do the heavy lifting. Mahoney stole every scene he was in.
He played a similar role with more bite in the television hit, Frasier. The grumpy dad named Martin who wants the best for his sons, but really doesn't know how to frame it in words. When Hollywood needed a strict yet funny dad, they called Mahoney.
Being the action junkie I was growing up, I remember Mahoney playing Lieutenant Vince Hardy in Rowdy Harrington's Striking Distance. Mahoney's older cop was the father of Bruce Willis' Detective Tom Hardy, and his death early on in the film plays an integral role in the film.
That was what a guy like Mahoney did. He'd get a fraction of the screen time of the star, who carried a pretty face but played catch up in the acting department-and end up sticking in your memory long after the credits rolled. Mahoney rarely got top billing, preferring to slip into smaller roles and toss their rooms for the details. Remember him as Steve Carell's dad in Dan in Real Life? So good.
All in all, Mahoney played a part in 74 projects, slowing down in recent years and doing more theater work. The cause of death is unknown, but he did stay in a hospital briefly before his hospice care at home.
Unlike the late Harry Dean Stanton or Sam Elliott, Mahoney never got that true iconic starring role in a Hollywood picture late in his career that seemed to affirm his talent. All we have are the films he left behind.
John Mahoney wasn't a movie star and didn't guarantee dollars at the box office in the latest sequel/remake. He was an old-school actor who actually lived before he played make-believe, serving three years in the Army as a young man.
He was the real deal, playing guys like Mr. Fitzpatrick and Vince Hardy, seasoned lions tangling with the younger players.
Rest in peace.