The film industry lost a couple of charismatic and beloved individuals at the end of last week, leaving many in mourning. Fred Willard, best known for his roles in many of Christopher Guest’s ensemble comedies, passed away peacefully on Friday at the age of 86. Meanwhile, Lynn Shelton, a writer and director associated with the mumblecore movement, also died suddenly on Friday as a result of a previously undiagnosed blood disorder. She had directed such movies as Humpday and Laggies plus episodes of many TV shows including the Netflix series GLOW. She was 54 years old.
Fred Willard got his start as a comedic performer in the ’50s with appearances on The Tonight Show and other late night programs, founding the improv comedy group Ace Trucking Company, also doing performances at Second City in Chicago. He was seen on TV through the ’70s and ’80s on shows like Fernwood 2 Night, Real People and D.C. Follies in addition to hosting his own talk show What’s Hot, What’s Not. He seemed to find the perfect platform for his comedy after becoming one of Christopher Guest’s regular collaborators in such movies as This is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show and, more recently, he had recurring roles on such shows as Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family (the latter of which earned him 4 Emmy nominations).
As for Lynn Shelton, her death came as a shock to many, especially her partner, Marc Maron, who has since released a special episode of the WTF Podcast dedicated to her. Her second film, My Effortless Brilliance, earned her the Someone to Watch Award at the 2008 Independent Spirit Awards, and then one year later she won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance for Humpday. She also went on to direct Your Sister’s Sister, Laggies, Touchy Feely and Sword of Trust in addition to working on many noteworthy TV shows over the years including New Girl, The Mindy Project, Master of None, Fresh Off the Boat, Love and GLOW. Both will most definitely be missed. What are your favourite Fred Willard or Lynn Shelton works?