Jack Kehler, perhaps best known as the landlord of “The Dude” in The Big Lebowski, has died. Per The Hollywood Reporter, representatives from Kehler’s talent agency, SMS Talent, confirmed his death due to complications from leukemia. Kehler died on Saturday in Los Angeles. He was 75.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1946, Kehler was among the most prolific character actors in Hollywood, with more than 170 screen credits to his name. Like many in his field, Kehler began his career while waiting tables in New York. He decided to become an actor at 24 and eventually found his way to the prestigious Actors Studio in 1982, one year before his first screen appearance in 1983's Strange Invaders.
Kehler quickly became a regular on TV, appearing on such groundbreaking shows as Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, and opposite Carol Burnett, Dabney Coleman, Teri Garr, and Charles Grodin on the miniseries Fresno. In the early 90s, he appeared in Kathryn Bigelow’s surfing-robbers blockbuster Point Break. Throughout the early 90s, Kehler found his way into several of the era’s most beloved shows, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Northern Exposure, Wings, and ER.
His movie career began to take off after his 1995 appearance in Waterworld, after which he landed roles in Lethal Weapon 4 and David Lynch’s Lost Highway. But it was as The Dude’s Landlord in Joel and Ethan Coen’s cult classic The Big Lebowski that he delivered his signature role. As the sheepish landlord with dreams of leading a modern dance show entitled “Dance Moderne,” he earned the sympathy and respect of The Dude and audiences, turning a few lines into a memorable and hilarious turn that grows funnier and more poignant with every viewing.
In the 2000s, Kehler continued a career as a prolific character actor, with roles in Men In Black II, Mad Men, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Love, Victor, and The Man In The High Castle.
Kehler is survived by his wife, Shawna Casey; son, Eddie; daughter-in-law, Mari-Anne; and grandson, Liam.