NEW YORK -- Veteran actor Ben Gazzara died Friday of pancreatic cancer, according to the New York Times.
The star of award winning films and plays such as "Anatomy of a Murder" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" was 81 years old.
Among his other notable film roles were an accused killer in "Anatomy of a Murder" (1959), the smooth-talking pornographer Jackie Treehorn in the Coen Brothers' "The Big Lebowski" (1998), and a grandfather separating from his wife of 40 years in Todd Solondz's "Happiness"(1998).
On stage, Gazzara originated the role of the alcoholic, sexually confused Brick in Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." It helped make his name, but he saw the role go to Paul Newman in the 1958 film adaptation.
Even after Hollywood beckoned, Gazzara was comfortable migrating from stage to screen, making frequent appearances on Broadway. He was nominated for three Tony awards for playing a drug addict in "A Hatful of Rain," for doing double duty in two short plays Eugene ONeills Hughie and David Scott Miltons Duet," and for playing the alcoholic George in a revival of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf."
His last Broadway role came in 2006's acclaimed revival of the social protest drama "Awake and Sing!"
Gazzara's performance in HBO's "Hysterical Blindness" earned him his first Emmy award in 2006.
He also earned plaudits for his starring role in the TV movie, "An Early Frost" (1985), one of the first nationally broadcast works to deal with the AIDS crisis.
Gazzara was married three times to Louise Erickson (19511957), actress Janice Rule (19611979), and German model Elke Stuckmann.
He his survived by Stuckmann, their daughter, and an adopted daughter.
Actor Ben Gazzara Dies at 81
Actor Ben Gazzara died February 3, 2012 of Pancreatic cancer in New York.