Joe Turkel, a veteran character actor from such classics as Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, passes away at 94.
Veteran character actor Joe Turkel has passed away at the age of 94, just a few weeks short of his 95th birthday. Turkel was born on July 15, 1927 in Brooklyn, New York. At age 17, he joined the U.S. Army and served in Europe in WWII. After the war, he moved to California to pursue acting, which he did for 50 years, beginning his career in 1948 and officially retiring in 1998. Over those five decades, he amassed over 140 credits and was a frequent collaborator with director Stanley Kubrick. His first role was a minor one, in 1948’s City Across the River, where he played Shimmy Stockton, one of a crew of juvenile delinquents being reformed by the strong-willed head of a community center.
His experience fighting in the European Theater would serve him well as he acted as a soldier in a handful of iconic war films, including 1965’s POW film King Rat, 1966’s The Sand Pebbles where he appeared alongside Steve McQueen, and Stanley Kubrick’s 1957 WWI film Paths of Glory. He also worked with Kubrick in the heist film The Killing, the nonlinear nature of which was the inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, and most notably in Kubrick’s horror masterpiece The Shining. Turkel played Lloyd, the ghostly bartender and physical manifestation of Jack Torrance’s (Jack Nicholson) alcoholism, often goading him to drink. He also memorably played Eldon Tyrell, the unsettling creator of the Replicants in Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi opus Blade Runner.
According to Variety, Turkel passed away earlier this week, Monday June 27, at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California. His family broke the news of his passing, although no cause of death has been given. His two sons Craig and Robert were said to have been at his side and that he passed peacefully.
Turkel’s last film role was in the sci-fi horror film The Dark Side of the Moon in 1990, an early effort of screenwriters Chad and Carey Hayes, who went on to write the remake of House of Wax and The Conjuring. His final credit was in the 1997 point-and-click computer game “sidequel” to Blade Runner, which was also called Blade Runner, where he reprised his role as Eldon Tyrell, but in voice alone. His family announced that before his passing, he completed a memoir titled The Misery of Success, which is scheduled to be released later this year.
After appearing in an impressive amount of television and film, Joe Turkel went out on top, with two of his most iconic roles at the tail-end of his career. Although nowhere near the household name of the stars of The Shining and Blade Runner, he left an indelible mark in those films as well as many others, doing what the best of character actors do: adding to the tone and texture of the films. He created memorable performances without overshadowing the work itself. Often described by those who knew him as “funny” and “fierce,” the prolific actor will be missed.
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