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David Huddleston, Who Played the Titular ‘The Big Lebowski,’ Dies at 85

Huddleston starred in Mel Brooks' 1974 comedy hit "Blazing Saddles" and the 1985 family film "Santa Claus: The Movie."

David Huddleston

David Huddleston

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David Huddleston, a character actor with more than 140 credits, died Tuesday at the age of 85, the Los Angeles Times reports. His wife Sarah Koeppe, a casting agent, said he died of advanced heart and kidney disease.

READ MORE: 5 Things You Might Not Know About The Coens’ Cult Classic ‘The Big Lebowski’

Huddleston starred in Mel Brooks’ 1974 comedy hit “Blazing Saddles” and the 1985 family film “Santa Claus: The Movie,” but his most famous role came late in his career when Joel and Ethan Coen cast him as the puffed-up phony millionaire in “The Big Lebowski.” Despite having only a handful of scenes in the film, Huddleston turned in an unforgettable and hilarious performance, thanks in part to lines like “Strong men also cry,” “The bums will always lose,” and “What in God’s holy name are you blathering about?”

Born and raised in Virginia, Huddleston served in the Air Force and studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts on the G.I. Bill. His more than 50-year career included roles in television and on Broadway. In 2005, he played a judge in the comedy musical “The Producers.”

WATCH: ‘The Big Lebowski’ Making Of Special: Watch The Coen Brothers & Jeff Bridges Analyze The Cult Classic

“Things were not important to him — people were,” Koeppe told the LA Times, adding that Huddleston “loved entertaining.” His “crowning achievement,” she said, was playing Benjamin Franklin in the 1997 Broadway play “1776.”

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