‘Free Willy’ actor August Schellenberg dies after fight with lung cancer
Actor August Schellenberg arrives at the British Academy of Film & Television Arts/Los Angeles and Academy of Television Arts & Sciences fifth annual Tea Party in Los Angeles, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2007, the day before the Primetime Emmy Awards. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Published Friday, August 16, 2013 2:32PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 16, 2013 6:45PM EDT
DALLAS -- Montreal-born actor August Schellenberg, who starred in the "Free Willy" films, has died at his Dallas home after a fight with lung cancer. He was 77.
The actor's agent, Jamie Levitt, says Schellenberg died Thursday surrounded by his family.
Schellenberg played the role of Randolph Johnson, a whale trainer, in all three "Free Willy" movies. In 2007, he was nominated for an Emmy as a supporting actor for his role as Chief Sitting Bull in the HBO series, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee."
Schellenberg's big-screen work also included appearing in the 2005 film, "The New World," alongside movie stars Christian Bale and Colin Farrell. He also had numerous television appearances.
Levitt, who has worked with the actor for the past 15 years, says one of Schellenberg's last notable works was in 2012, playing the lead in an all-aboriginal production of Shakespeare's "King Lear" at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.
On Friday, the NAC said it had lowered its flag at the entrance to the building in honour of Schellenberg.
In a statement, the centre called him "one of Canada's greatest actors" who "had a profound impact on the cultural life of the country."
According to his personal website, he taught acting workshops in Toronto at the Centre for Indigenous Theatre and at York University. He also was a former boxer, participated in various celebrity charity sporting events and served as a motivational speaker in Canada and the U.S.
Schellenberg graduated from the National Theatre School in 1966 and has appeared in productions at the Shaw and Stratford festivals and numerous American theatre festivals.
Schellenberg, who lived in Toronto from 1967 until 1995, was half Mohawk and half Swiss, according to his website.
"He was a loving father and grandfather and a very good husband. He was a very well-known Canadian and an iconic actor," Levitt said.
Schellenberg is survived by his wife, actress Joan Karasevich, and his three daughters.
With files from The Canadian Press