Clu Gulager, a veteran actor known for his roles in the NBC series “The Virginian” and the 1985 horror-comedy “The Return of the Living Dead,” has died of natural causes. He was 93 years old.
Gulager’s son, John, shared a photo of his father on his Facebook as a tribute. Filmmaker Sean Baker, who directed Gulager on the 2015 feature “Tangerine,” confirmed the news of his death on Twitter.
RIP Clu Gulager. I had the honor to work with the legend in Tangerine and a fashion shoot for V Magazine in 2016. He was incredibly talented, hilarious, gentle and kind. And he adored cinema. We will miss you Clu. pic.twitter.com/hy6r1v7QRs
— sean baker (@Lilfilm) August 6, 2022
Diane Goldner, Gulager’s daughter-in-law, also shared a family statement on Facebook confirming the news, saying that he died “surrounded by his loving family.”
“Clu was as caring as he was loyal and devoted to his craft, a proud member of the Cherokee nation, a rule-breaker, sharp and astute and on the side — always — of the oppressed. He was good-humored, an avid reader, tender and kind. Loud and dangerous,” reads the statement. “He was shocked that he lived, for even a day after Miriam Byrd-Nethery, the love of his life, died 18 years ago.”
Gulager’s acting career stretched across seven decades, beginning with small guest performances in 1950s television series. A mainstay of TV Westerns, Gulager starred as Billy the Kid in NBC’s “The Tall Man” for its two-season run and took a regular role in the network’s “The Virginian” for four of its nine seasons. He also had a role in Peter Bogdanovich’s “The Last Picture Show” in 1971.
In the 1980s, Gulager was reintroduced to a new generation of viewers with prominent roles in horror films. The actor starred alongside Vera Miles in 1984’s “The Initiation. A year later, he could be seen in Dan O’Bannon’s “The Return of the Living Dead” and Jack Sholder’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge.”
Gulager was a favorite of director Quentin Tarantino, whose 2019 film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” marked the actor’s final screen credit. The actor played a book shop owner in Tarantino’s film. In his private life, Gulager was a regular moviegoer at Tarantino’s New Beverly Cinema in recent years.
Born William Martin Gulager in Holdenville, Okla. on Nov. 16, 1928, Clu’s father was a former actor and a cowboy entertainer. After serving in the US Marine Corps in the 1940s, Gulager attended Northeastern State University and later Baylor University, beginning his venture into acting.
Gulager’s first screen credit is listed as a 1955 episode of the variety series “Omnibus.” After a series of guest appearances on TV shows, Billy the Kid on “The Tall Man” marked his first major role, acting opposite Barry Sullivan as Pat Garrett. Although the NBC series was short-lived, Gulager quickly found himself back in the saddle as a regular cast member on “The Virginian” only a few years later.
In 1964, Gulager played a major role in Don Siegel’s “The Killers,” acting alongside a cast that included Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, John Cassavetes and Ronald Reagan (in his final film role).
Gulager also directed his own short film, “A Day With the Boys,” which was nominated for the Palme d’Or for best short film at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival.
Later in his career, Gulager was directed by his son, John Gulager. The pair collaborated on the horror-comedy film series “Feast” and 2012’s “Piranha 3DD.”
Gulager married fellow actor Miriam Byrd-Nethery in 1960. The two remained married until Byrd-Nethery’s death in 2003. He is survived by his sons, John and Tom; their partners, Diane and Zoe; his cherished grandson Clu Mosha; dedicated fans and decades of extraordinary students.