George Segal, Oscar Nominee and Star of 'The Goldbergs,' Dies at 87
Oscar-nominated actor George Segal, one of the stars of the long-running sitcom "The Goldbergs," died Tuesday in Santa Rosa, California. He was 87.
Deadline first reported Segal's passing, confirming the news with his wife, Sonia, who said, “The family is devastated to announce that this morning George Segal passed away due to complications from bypass surgery.”
Segal was born February 13, 1934, in Great Neck, New York, becoming enamored of acting as a child when he saw the 1942 Alan Ladd-Veronica Lake film "This Gun for Hire."
After studying acting at Columbia University, he served in the army and continued honing his musical talents — he would go on to become a banjo virtuoso — in a variety of jazz bands before studying acting at the Actors Studio under Uta Hagen and Lee Strasberg.
Segal's first professional gigs were on the stage, including his first Broadway hit, "Gideon" (1961-1962).
He made his TV debut in the movie "The Closing Door" (1960) at the dawn of the '60s, and would go on to become one of the hottest actors of the next two decades. Following successes in films like "The Longest Day" (1962), "Invitation to a Gunfighter" (1964), and "The New Interns" (1964), he was part of the ensemble cast of Best Picture Oscar nominee "Ship of Fools" (1965) along with Vivien Leigh, who he later called "a luminescent figure."
"King Rat" (1965), "The Quiller Memorandum" (1966), and TV adaptations of "Death of a Salesman" (1966) and "Of Mice and Men" (1968) quickly followed.
It was his performance as clueless university faculty member Nick in the cinema classic "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966), the directorial debut of Mike Nichols, that made Segal a star, pairing him with Sandy Dennis opposite the powerhouse acting team of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Segal was nominated for a Golden Globe and a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, and the film received a staggering 13 Oscar nominations overall.
Mark Harris, author of the book "Mike Nichols: A Life" (Penguin Press) tells "Extra" of the turning-point role for Segal, "Nick is the closest thing to a thankless part in 'Virginia Woolf' — Albee wrote him as a humorless, somewhat belligerent character who's always a beat behind everyone else. I suspect it's one of the reasons that Robert Redford, who was Mike Nichols' first choice, turned down the part — a lot of the laughs come at Nick's expense. And Segal didn't try to get around that or prove to the audience that he was a likeable actor. He played Nick very honestly, which, for a young leading man, is a lot harder than it looks."
Segal went on to appear in a diversity of critically acclaimed films, including Sidney Lumet's "Bye Bye Braverman" (1968), Carl Reiner's "Where's Poppa?" (1970), Robert Altman's "California Split" (1974), and another Best Picture nominee, "A Touch of Class" (1973), for which he won a Golden Globe.
So sorry to hear about George Segal‘s passing. We had such fun making Owl and the Pussycat. May he Rest In Peace...
Among Segal's most popular films were "The Owl and the Pussycat" (1970) opposite Barbra Streisand, "Fun with Dick and Jane" (1977) with Jane Fonda, the comic mystery "Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?" (1978), and the John Travolta comedy "Look Who's Talking" (1989).
A testament to his appeal and to the household-name nature of his stardom at the time, he co-hosted the Oscars in 1976 with Goldie Hawn, Gene Kelly, Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw.
Though film roles became less frequent and less challenging, Segal appeared in numerous successes after his peak years, among them "For the Boys" (1991) with Bette Midler, "To Die For" (1995) with Nicole Kidman, Streisand's "The Mirror Has Two Faces" (1996), and the Jim Carrey vehicle "The Cable Guy" (1996).
Along with many TV guest spots, he enjoyed a major career resurgence on the sitcom "Just Shoot Me!" (1997-2003) as brash magazine publisher Jack Gallo, was the star of the short-lived TV Land series "Retired at 35" (2011-2012), then segued into the hugely successful "The Goldbergs" (2013-present) as "Pops."
Segal's last episode of "The Goldbergs" is set to air April 7.
At the time he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2017, Segal revealed he had been sponsored into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences by legends Rock Hudson and Veronica Lake. "I talked about Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake as being inspirations to my being in the movies, and here we are, all on the same Walk of Fame now, so... everything seems to come full circle."
Married three times, Segal is survived by his wife of 25 years, Sonia, and two children.
Segal touched many in the industry in his 60-year career. Among those who have memorialized him on social media are co-star Wendi McClendon-Covey, who tweeted a photo of the two embracing with the caption, "Grateful."
Another "Goldbergs" co-star, Sean Giambrone, tweeted, "My heart is broken. I lost a dear friend. Working with George was an honor and some of the happiest moments of my life. What a sweet & wonderful man. He was my confidant & teacher. When he smiled it changed my day. I wish everyone could have met him. Prayers are with the family."
"The Goldbergs" creator Adam F. Goldberg tweeted a loving collage of Segal images and wrote, "Today we lost a legend. It was a true honor being a small part of George Segal’s amazing legacy. By pure fate, I ended up casting the perfect person to play Pops. Just like my grandfather, George was a kid at heart with a magical spark. I think these memories say it all..."
Actress Morgan Fairchild wrote, "So sorry to hear of the passing of the wonderful George Segal! We did The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood together & I guested on Just Shoot Me. One of a kind and always a joy! #RIPGeorge#RIPGeorgeSegal."
Melissa Joan Hart tweeted, "Shocked and saddened to hear of #GeorgeSegal passing away! From being on set of #JustShootMe to directing him on #Goldbergs, he was a true gem and great man. He will be missed!"
"Aw! Rip #GeorgeSegal. I used to play poker with him at Norby Walters weekly game. Just a great vibrant man with a wonderfully dry sense of humor," Jennifer Tilly tweeted.