Top Gun and Die Hard star Clarence Gilyard Jr dies aged 66

Top Gun and Die Hard star Clarence Gilyard Jr dies aged 66

Top Gun and Die Hard actor Clarence Gilyard Jr has died at the age of 66.

No further details surrounding the Hollywood actor’s death have been made public, although it is reported that he had been suffering from a long illness. Gilyard’s death was confirmed by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he had been working as a film and theatre professor at the UNLV College of Fine Arts, according to Variety.

Heather Addison, UNLV’s film chair, said: “Professor Gilyard was a beacon of light and strength for everyone around him. Whenever we asked him how he was, he would cheerfully declare that he was ‘blessed!’.

“But we are truly the ones who were blessed to be his colleagues and students for so many years. We love you and will miss you dearly, Professor G!”

The actor came to attention in 1986’s Top Gun alongside Tom Cruise, playing F-14 Tomcat radar intercept officer Lt. Marcus “Sundown” Williams. However, it was his role in 1988’s Die Hard that gained him widespread fame playing Theo, Hans Gruber’s (Alan Rickman) computer hacker.

He reprised his role in 2020 when he starred opposite Bruce Willis, who played his old nemesis, detective John McClane, in Advance Auto Parts’ 2020 commercial promoting Die Hard car batteries.

Aside from his film roles, Gilyard appeared in drama series Matlock as Conrad McMasters and starred in CBS’s action crime series, Walker, Texas Ranger.

But after two decades in the film and TV business, the actor took a professional sabbatical and swapped the screen for school, earning his MFA in theatre performance before going on become an associate professor in 2006.

Since news of his passing, tributes have poured in for the late actor.

UNLV College of Fine Arts Dean Nancy Uscher told the Las Vegas Review-Journal: “His generosity of spirit was boundless – he was always ready to contribute to projects and performances however possible.”

He is survived by his wife, Elena, whom he married in 2001, and his six children. He was previously married to Catherine Dutko.