Richard Belzer died Sunday, February 19, at his home in France. The actor was 78.
Writer Bill Scheft, a longtime friend of Belzer, confirmed the news to The Hollywood Reporter on Sunday. “He had lots of health issues, and his last words were, ‘F–k you, motherf–ker,’” Scheft said.
Belzer started his career as a stand-up comic before landing roles in films. He made his debut in The Groove Tube (1974) before scoring small parts in many iconic movies, including Fame (1980) and Scarface (1983).
His most well known role, however, was as Detective John Munch. He originated the role on Homicide: Life on the Street in 1993 and appeared in 119 episodes of the series until it ended in 1999. Belzer then played Munch on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit from 1999 to 2016, appearing in 242 episodes of the NBC drama. His character also made appearances on The X-Files, The Wire and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Law & Order creator Dick Wolf paid his respects to Belzer in a statement on Sunday. “Richard Belzer’s Detective John Munch is one of television’s iconic characters,” Wolf told Variety. “I first worked with Richard on the ‘Law & Order’/’Homicide’ crossover and loved the character so much, I told Tom [Fontana] that I wanted to make him one of the original characters on ‘SVU.’ The rest is history. Richard brought humor and joy into all our lives, was the consummate professional and we will all miss him very much.”
NBC and Universal Television also released a statement shortly after Belzer’s passing made headlines. “Anyone who ever had the pleasure of watching Richard Belzer portray Det. John Munch — whether on Homicide or Law & Order: SVU — over four decades will never forget how much he inhabited that beloved character to make it his own,” the network said. “His professionalism, talents and dedication to the craft made him a pillar in the industry, but it was his humor, compassion and loving heart that made him family. Our condolences go out to his loved ones as we join them in mourning his loss, but also in celebrating his memory.”
In addition to his stand-up and acting careers, the Connecticut native was an author. He published How to Be a Stand-Up Comic in 1988 as well as 2000’s UFOs, JFK, and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don’t Have to Be Crazy to Believe, one of several conspiracy books he authored. He also penned 2008’s I Am Not a Cop!: A Novel, which tells the fictional story of an actor — who happens to be named Richard Belzer — who plays a TV cop — who happens to be named Munch — and investigates a gruesome murder.
Belzer was married to Gail Susan Ross from 1966 to 1972 and then was wed to Dalia Danoch from 1976 to 1978. He met Harlee McBride, a Playboy model, in 1983. They married in 1985, making Belzer stepfather to McBride’s daughters from a previous marriage, Jessica and Bree Benton. Belzer is survived by his wife and stepdaughters.
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