John Saxon, the stoic yet charismatic character actor who starred in many iconic horror, western and genre films, died in Murfreesboro, Tenn., after a battle with pneumonia, according to multiple reports. He was 83.
The daughter of his “Enter the Dragon” co-star Bruce Lee paid tribute on the late martial arts actor’s Twitter page.
🐉🙏🏽 Sad day. Our condolences to the Saxon family. Thank you for your talent, John. Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/FvnAka9egf
— Bruce Lee (@brucelee) July 26, 2020
Saxon’s most iconic roles were playing Donald Thompson in the original 1984 “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” as well as two of the sequels, and Roper in 1973’s martial arts epic “Enter the Dragon.” He starred in scores of influential horror movies, including Dario Argento’s 1982 film “Tenebrae,” 1974’s “Black Christmas” and 1996’s “From Dusk Till Dawn.” Saxon also made his mark in westerns such as John Huston’s 1960 film “The Unforgiven,” 1969’s “Death of a Gunfighter” and 1972’s “Joe Kidd.”
During a career that stretched over 60 years, Saxon’s roles were varied and shot all over the world. He started gaining attention as a teen heartthrob in the 1956 film “Rock, Pretty Baby,” which led to roles opposite stars such as Debbie Reynolds and Sandra Dee. As Saxon aged, he transitioned into a character actor, working across Europe in the ’60s, including roles in Mario Bava’s seminal giallo “The Girl Who Knew Too Much,” and other films shot in Italy, the Philippines and Britain. The 1966 western “The Appaloosa” earned him a best supporting actor Golden Globe nomination, in a role opposite Marlon Brando.
After the early success of “Enter the Dragon” and “Black Christmas” made him ubiquitous to genre fans, Saxon’s work took off more than ever. Guest appearances on ’70s television staples such as “The Six Million Dollar Man,” “The Bionic Woman,” “Starsky and Hutch” and “The Rockford Files” brought him small-screen recognition.
Among his 200-plus credits, he’s best known for playing the patriarch police officer in the “Nightmare” series, appearing in the first entry, as well as the 1987 sequel “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” and the meta 1994 chapter “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare,” where he revived his role as well as played a fictionalized version of himself.
Saxon’s final role was in the 2017 film “The Extra.”
The Hollywood Reporter first reported the news.