Oscar-winning star of ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ dead at 87

Actor Louis Gossett Jr., renowned for his iconic roles in ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ and the TV mini-series ‘Roots’, has passed away at the age of 87.

He made history as the first Black man to win an Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor category at the Academy Awards.

Gossett’s career spanned an impressive 200 projects in Hollywood, with 12 more in the pipeline, according to IMDb. Tragically, he will not see these upcoming projects come to fruition.

NPR reports that Gossett died in Santa Monica, California, on March 28, 2024. A death certificate obtained by TMZ lists chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as the primary cause of death, with heart failure and atrial fibrillation as contributing conditions. Gossett had battled COPD for many years, and his body is to be cremated.

Louis Gossett Jr holding violin in a scene from the Television Series ‘Roots’, 1977. Credit: Warner Brothers Television / Getty.

Before making his mark on television and film, Gossett began his career on stage. He was a star on Broadway, sharing the stage with luminaries like Marilyn Monroe and Sidney Poitier.

Upon his arrival in Hollywood, Gossett described being “treated like a king,” but he also faced significant racism as a newcomer. Recounting one such experience, he said the drive to his hotel should have taken 20 minutes but ended up taking four and a half hours because “the police stopped me and wanted to know who the hell I was.” He further recalled being handcuffed to a tree for three hours for simply walking in Beverly Hills after 9 pm.

Despite these hardships, Gossett carved out an illustrious career, though he believed it could have been even more remarkable if he had been a white actor. Reflecting on this, he remarked, “You look at my track record over a 55-year period of all the awards. Maybe I should be kind of closer to Clint Eastwood, don’t you think? If you think about the drugs and alcohol, then maybe I should be more like Robert Downey Jr.”

Credit: Shutterstock.

Gossett openly discussed his struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, which led him to enter rehab 20 years ago. He completed a 12-step program, which involved confronting and eliminating what he termed the “killer” for anyone: resentment. “For me, that killer was resentment,” he explained.

Gossett’s personal life included three marriages, the first of which ended in annulment, while the other two ended in divorce. He is survived by his two children, Satie and Sharron.

Louis Gossett Jr.’s legacy is one of groundbreaking achievements and resilience in the face of adversity. His contributions to the arts and his pioneering role in breaking racial barriers in Hollywood will be remembered and celebrated for years to come.

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