I once joked with Brian Dennehy that we had him to blame for the whole Rambo franchise. After all, if his small-town lawman hadn’t pushed Sylvester Stallone’s troubled Vietnam vet to the brink during the original First Blood (1982), John Rambo wouldn’t have gone on the rampage in the first place.
“Yeah,” Dennehy responded with a wolfish grin, “they’ll probably wind up putting that on my tombstone: ‘He Pushed John Rambo Too Far!’”
But, then again, maybe not. By the time of his passing Wednesday evening at age 81 — a good 30 years after we shared that exchange at the New York press junket for Presumed Innocent — Dennehy had amassed an amazing number of impressively diverse stage and screen credits, most of them dutifully noted in my Variety colleague Carmel Dagan’s obituary tribute. To put it simple and gratefully: He was too prolific and prodigious to ever be name-checked for a single role.