Gavan O’Herlihy death: Ron Howard pays tribute to Happy Days star

Irish actor’s agent said he was ‘admired and respected for his directness, his sincerity, and his honesty’

Roisin O'Connor
Saturday 13 November 2021 10:19
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<p>Gavan O’Herlihy in ‘The Descent 2'</p>

Gavan O’Herlihy in ‘The Descent 2'

Gavan O’Herlihy, the actor who starred as Chuck Cunningham in the hit sitcom Happy Days, has died aged 70.

The Dublin-born actor’s death was first reported by the Irish Echo. He died on 15 September in Bath, his brother confirmed to Variety. A cause of death was not disclosed.

“He was a wonderful actor with a long and distinguished career in film, television, and theatre,” his agent Michael Emptage said in a statement.

“Gavan was admired and respected for his directness, his sincerity, and his honesty — he is greatly missed by all who knew him and most particularly by his adoring wife and family.”

Ron Howard, who played Chuck’s little brother Richie Cunningham on the Seventies show, tweeted: “I knew him as the first of two Chucks on Happy Days and then as Airk in Willow where I had the pleasure of directing him. A talented actor with a big free spirit.”

O’Herlihy famously disappeared from Happy Days after two seasons. Chuck was ultimately portrayed by three different actors, including O’Herlihy, Ric Carrott for the pilot episode, and Randolph Roberts for two episodes in season two.

O’Herlihy later said he chose to quit the show due to a lack of screentime, as over two seasons he only appeared in seven episodes.

“I pulled out of it, I didn’t want to do it,” he said in an interview. “They had me at college, I was going to grunt and bounce a basketball once every couple of weeks for probably three or four years. And at 20 years old, that’s not the gig you want to be doing. But that was my big break; that got me established around town as a kid who got hot in a hurry.”

He went on to appear in several series including Lucas Tanner, The Six Million Dollar Man,The Bionic Woman, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, and Midsomer Murders.

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In the Eighties, during which time he relocated to England, he starred in films such as Superman III and Willow. He appeared with his father, Dan O’Herlihy, in two early episodes of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, as the corrupt mountie Preston King. He also starred in adventure horror film The Descent 2, and as Captain Jack Petachi opposite Sean Connery’s James Bond in Never Say Never Again.

“To give a child another perspective from LA is a great thing,” he said in a 2013 interview with the Irish Independent. “There the sun is powerful, the sea is powerful, the money is powerful. But Dublin in those days held its own power. It was dirty and poor and smelly, and for a young man from California, it had its own magical pull.”

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