General News

Actor Richard Farnsworth Dies

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Aug 01, 2001 | 10:48am EDT

Actor Richard Farnsworth, an Oscar nominee this year for Best Actor for “The Straight Story,” died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound Friday night in Lincoln, N.M. The oldest actor to be nominated for a Best Actor statuette, Farnsworth was 80.

Farnsworth, who was nominated twice for an Academy Award and was a former stuntman, had been involved in filmmaking for more than 60 years.

Lincoln County Sheriff Tom Sullivan released a statement Friday night saying the actor died at his home in Lincoln, 250 miles southeast of Albuquerque. Police did not release any further details, but Jewely Van Valin, Farnsworth’s fiancée, was at home when he died.

“I was just in the other room and I heard the shot,” she said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Farnsworth's home. “He was in incredible pain today. He was going downhill.”

Van Valin said Farnsworth was diagnosed several years ago with terminal cancer, which had left him partially paralyzed, and he struggled with the pain while working on David Lynch’s “The Straight Story.”

“He was very ill in that movie, but phenomenally he made it through. He didn't want the world to know he was sick,” Van Valin said. “He couldn't fight it, and cancer got him.”

At age 79, Farnsworth was the oldest leading actor to receive an Oscar nomination. This year’s nomination was the second for Farnsworth, who was also nominated for the 1978 film “Comes A Horseman.” Actress Gloria Stuart was 87 when she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for 1997’s “Titanic,” making her the oldest performer ever nominated.

Farnsworth, a Los Angeles native, was a stuntman for more than 30 years and moved into acting at age 57. He appeared in films such as “The Natural,” “Tom Horn” and “Anne of Green Gables.”

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