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'Free Willy' actor August Schellenberg dies at 77

Monday - 8/19/2013, 5:52am  ET

FILE - This undated file photo supplied by HBO shows actors Eric Schweig, left, August Schellenberg and Nathan Chasing Horse, right, in the HBO film "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee." Schellenberg, who starred in the “Free Willy” films and appeared in numerous television roles, has died at his Dallas home after a fight with lung cancer, his agent said Friday. He was 77. (AP Photo/HBO, Annabel Reyes, File)

URIEL J. GARCIA
Associated Press

DALLAS (AP) -- Canadian-born actor August Schellenberg, who starred in the "Free Willy" films and appeared in numerous television roles, has died at his Dallas home after a fight with lung cancer, his agent said Friday. He was 77.

Schellenberg played the role of Randolph Johnson, a whale trainer in all three "Free Willy" movies. In 2007, he was nominated for an Emmy as a supporting actor for his role as Chief Sitting Bull in the HBO series, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee."

Schellenberg's big-screen work also included appearing in the 2005 film, "The New World," alongside movie stars Christian Bale and Colin Farrell.

One of his last notable works was in 2012, when he played the lead role in an all Canadian cast of Shakespeare's "King Lear" at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, said his agent, Jamie Levitt.

"I got a call this morning from the NAC saying they have lowered their flags to honor him," Levitt said. "He was a loving father and grandfather and a very good husband. He was a very well-known Canadian and an iconic actor."

Levitt said Schellenberg, with whom she had worked for the past 15 years, died at his home Thursday.

According to his personal website, he taught acting workshops in Toronto at the Centre for Indigenous Theatre and at York University. He also was a former boxer, participated in various celebrity charity sporting events and served as a motivational speaker in Canada and the U.S.

Schellenberg, who was born in Montreal, was half Mohawk and half Swiss, according to his website. He was survived by his wife, actress Joan Karasevich, and three daughters.


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