|Brian Dennehy with Pamela Payton-Wright|
in Goodman Theatre's 2002
"Long Day's Journey Into Night."
| LIZ LAUREN PHOTO
Brian Dennehy would have laughed.“He would have found 'Tommy Boy actor dead at 81’ fucking hilarious,” said Robert Falls, artistic director of the Goodman Theatre, of the headline that raced around social media Thursday. “I find it pathetic. The guy lived such a rich and full life, in the grandest sense.”
The Tony Award-winning actor died Wednesday.
While the world might have known Dennehy as a movie star, from Chris Farley’s popular, cringeworthy comedy or from “First Blood” — he was the sheriff giving Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo a hard time — or other Hollywood tripe, Chicagoans knew better.
“This was one of the great actors of our generation,” said Falls, who directed Dennehy in nine productions, including such classics as Eugene O’Neill’s “A Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and Arthur Miller’s timeless tragedy “Death of a Salesman,” which Dennehy starred in at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre in 1998, then took to Broadway and performed 450 times, winning a Tony.
The two met in the mid-1980s when the old 121-seat Wisdom Bridge Theater on Howard Street presented Ron Hutchinson’s drama “Rat in the Skull.”
“Brian wanted to play this Northern Irish cop,” said Falls. “He just wanted to do this play. He was thrilled to come to Chicago. It was love at first sight.”James Lancaster (left) and Brian Dennehy in a scene from the Wisdom Bridge Theatre production of Ron Hutchinson’s “Rat in the Skull” in 1985.
The two men became friends and frequent collaborators.
“We bonded over Irish Catholicism, alcoholism running through our family, and a love of Eugene O’Neill,” said Falls. “From the beginning, and I know this sounds crazy, but Brian said: ‘We’re going to do a lot of plays together. We’re going to do the big ones, the really difficult ones.’ I said ‘OK.’ ”
Falls kicked off his artistic directorship with Dennehy in Bertolt Brecht’s “Galileo.”
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