The Tragic Death Of Die Hard Actor Clarence Gilyard Jr.

Actor Clarence Gilyard Jr., who is perhaps best known for playing Theo in 1988's "Die Hard," has died. News of the 66-year-old's death was confirmed by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) on November 28, 2022 via an official statement. Gilyard Jr. was teaching film and theater at the UNLV College of Fine Arts at the time of his passing and his colleagues remembered his incredible character. "His students were deeply inspired by him, as were all who knew him," wrote Dean Nancy J. Uscher, adding, "His generosity of spirit was boundless – he was always ready to contribute to projects and performances however possible." UNLV film chair Heather Addison also praised his contribution to the university, as well as his infectious positivity, calling him "a beacon of light and strength for everyone around him at UNLV."

Tributes quickly began to pour in from his peers, students, and fans. "RIP to a legendary screen presence" tweeted actor Chris Reed while screenwriter and producer Ben Trebilcook dubbed him "a terrific actor." Meanwhile, one of his alumni, T.C. Fontaine, paid tribute to his lasting impact by tweeting, "Thank you for teaching me how to 'live'. Forever my acting teacher/colleague." As for fans, they recalled what a huge role Gilyard's films played in their lives. "I was upset to learn [of] the Clarence Gilyard's death," tweeted one supporter. "I remember watching him with my parents & brother every weekend." No cause of death was given.

A look back at Clarence Gilyard Jr.'s impressive career

Clarence Gilyard Jr. had an impressive acting career in the 1980s and 1990s followed by a career as a professor. Gilyard Jr. had 37 acting credits to his name, per IMDb, starting with an appearance on two episodes of "Diff'rent Strokes" in 1981. After that, he landed a number of TV shows and movies before getting his big break playing Sundown in 1986's "Top Gun." As he told KNPR in 2020, it was that role that set him up for playing Theo in "Die Hard." Recalling his meeting with "Die Hard" producer Joel Silver, the actor shared how Silver told him, "Clarence! I admire your work. I was just watching you the other day in 'Top Gun.'"

Following his big screen breakthroughs, Gilyard Jr. returned to television with key roles in "Matlock" and "Walker, Texas Ranger." However, despite his success as an actor, he decided to shake things up and go back to school to earn an MFA in Theatre Performance at Southern Methodist University, per UNLV. He then pivoted again and became a professor at UNLV. Indeed, Gilyard Jr. loved teaching. As he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2017, "I'm wired to teach." He also saw it as an opportunity to better his own acting. "Being with all those millennials — I don't understand what they're saying but I'm siphoning off their energy," he explained. Despite all of his successes, he was incredibly humble. "I've been blessed," he said.