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Spalding Gray Found Dead

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Mar 09, 2004 | 11:24am EST

Actor/writer Spalding Gray, best known for his satirical and self-deprecating monologues, was found Sunday in New York's East River, two months after being reported missing, The Associated Press reports. He was 62.

His wife, Kathleen Russo, reported him missing Jan. 11, a day after he vanished from the couple's apartment after seeing the movie Big Fish with Russo and one of their children. Witnesses told police they saw Gray, who had battled depression and physical pain for many years, on the Staten Island ferry the night he vanished, and Russo said she feared he jumped off the boat. Dental records were used to identify the body.

A quirky character actor who appeared in films such as True Stories, The Paper, Beaches, Kate & Leopold, Gray enjoyed his greatest success with his Obie-winning monologue Swimming to Cambodia, which recounted in part his movie role in the Oscar-winning The Killing Fields. The monologue, developed over two years of performance, became a critically acclaimed film directed by Jonathan Demme.

Also turned into films were his monologues Monster in a Box and Gray's Anatomy, which was directed by Steven Soderbergh. Wrote Washington Post reviewer David Richards, "Talking about himself--with candor, humor, imagination and the unfailingly bizarre image--he ends up talking about all of us."

But Gray's life in recent years had been pockmarked by tragedy and depression. A horrific head-on car crash during a 2001 vacation in Ireland to mark his 60th birthday left him discouraged and in poor health, and he tried to kill himself in October 2002 by jumping from a bridge near his Long Island home.

The actor, whose mother committed suicide when she was 52, also spoke openly about considering the same fate. In an 1997 interview with the AP Gray said he'd even written an epitaph for his tombstone: "An American Original: Troubled, Inner-Directed and Cannot Type."

"I'm not Mr. Quick," Gray said in the interview. "I'm not a great social satirist. I need time to absorb life. I spend a lot of time mulling, cogitating."

"Spalding had an affinity with that material and its enormous sadness and wistfulness about lost opportunities and the mysteries of the universe," Gregory Mosher, who directed the 1989 Tony-winning Our Town revival starring Gray, told AP. "That probably was Spalding's main subject, wasn't it? Writing and thinking about the mysteries of life and death."

Gray is survived by wife Russo, two sons ages 11 and 6, a stepdaughter and two brothers. A memorial service will be held in a few months.

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