'Big Lebowski' Actor Dead At 81

'Big Lebowski' Actor Dead At 81
New York — Ben Gazzara, whose powerful dramatic performances brought an intensity to a variety of roles and made him a memorable presence in such iconic productions over the decades as the original "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" on Broadway and the film "The Big Lebowski," has died at age 81.

Longtime family friend Suzanne Mados said Gazzara died Friday in Manhattan. Mados, who owned the Wyndham Hotel, where celebrities such as Peter Falk and Martin Sheen stayed, said he died after being placed in hospice care for cancer. She and her husband helped marry Gazzara and his wife, German-born Elke Krivat, at their hotel.

Gazzara was a proponent of method acting, in which the performer attempts to take on the thoughts and emotions of the character he's playing, and it helped him achieve stardom early in his career with two stirring Broadway performances.

In 1955, he originated the role of Brick Pollitt,
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