Clarence Gilyard, known for roles in films including Die Hard and Top Gun, has died at the age of 66.
The actor played Hans Gruber’s terrorist hacker Theo alongside Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman in Die Hard in 1988, as well as naval flight officer Marcus “Sundown” Williams in Top Gun alongside Tom Cruise in 1986.
He was also known for TV series including Matlock, and Walker, Texas Ranger.
In a career as an actor, director and producer spanning more than 30 years, Gilyard was still active in the film and TV industry at the same time as teaching acting at UNLV.
Recent projects included the short Legacy Of A Spy in 2021, and the films Christmas On The Coast and The Perfect Race – as well as reprising the role of Theo alongside Willis’s John McClane for a battery advert in 2020.
The actor was 66 and had been suffering from a long illness, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Paying tribute, UNLV dean Nancy J Uscher said she shared the news of his death with “profound sadness”.
She continued: “His students were deeply inspired by him, as were all who knew him. He had many extraordinary talents and was extremely well-known in the university through his dedication to teaching and his professional accomplishments.
“He had a national and international following through his celebrated work in the theatre, film, and television. His generosity of spirit was boundless – he was always ready to contribute to projects and performances however possible.”
She said the university would remember Gilyard “with joy and gratitude”.
UNLV film chairperson Heather Addison described the actor as “a beacon of light and strength for everyone around him” at the university.
“Whenever we asked him how he was, he would cheerfully declare that he was ‘blessed!’ But we are truly the ones who were blessed to be his colleagues and students for so many years. We love you and will miss you dearly, Professor G!”
In an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2017, Gilyard said he had been “blessed” in his career.
“There are actors who are better looking, more talented, but at that time, the directors who were after me, they said, ‘This kid needs to be in my movie’,” he said.
He also said he was “wired to teach”, adding: “I’m a professional, but the profession has to feed the classroom. It’s what stimulates my characters because I’m in touch with people’s lives in the 21st century. I work best as an artist when I’m in a fertile arena. That means creative and imaginative. Being with all those millennials – I don’t understand what they’re saying but I’m siphoning off their energy.”