CAREER INTV w/ILLEANA DOUGLAS PODCAST LAST TUE, BACK SURGERY WED, PASSED AWAY FRIDAY
John Heard, who portrayed a Trump-like Atlantic City casino/arena owner in Brian De Palma's Snake Eyes, was found dead on Friday in a hotel room in Palo Alto. He was 71. According to Martha Ross at The Mercury News, "His family said he was staying at the undisclosed hotel while recovering from the [back] surgery, which was described as 'minor.'" Just four days earlier, on Tuesday, July 18th, Heard had been the guest on Illeana Douglas' podcast I Blame Dennis Hopper, in which Douglas asked him questions about his entire career (she ran out of time before she'd had a chance to ask him about working on Snake Eyes, which she called a great film and urged everyone to seek out, along with Martin Scorsese's After Hours). But Heard had told Douglas he was having back surgery the next day. Ross' article quotes a post Douglas made to her Facebook page after learning of his death on Friday: "He was filled with optimism and hope that he would get this back surgery and begin to start working again. That’s where he was happiest. Like any actor, he just wanted a job. He just wanted to work."
Heard was a theater actor (he originated the role who, by his own admission, never really took his work in film seriously. He is best known for the Home Alone movies, but his early film career was made up of lead roles in independent films such as John Byrum's Heart Beat (an Edward R. Pressman production in which Heard portrayed Jack Kerouac and co-starred with Sissy Spacek and Nick Nolte, with production design by Jack Fisk), Ivan Passer's Cutter's Way, Joan Micklin Silver's Head Over Heels and Between The Lines, and Paul Schrader's Cat People. He also had a significant role in Penny Marshall's Big.
An obituary by The Guardian's Ryan Gilbey includes this bit about Heard's theater days:
At the Long Wharf theatre in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1976 he originated the role of Billy, the gay soldier, in the first staging of David Rabe’s controversial play Streamers, and was disappointed not to have been retained for Mike Nichols’s subsequent New York production. He won an Obie award in 1977 for his performance in G.R. Point, in which he played a man processing dead soldiers from Vietnam before burial, and won another three years later for his combined work in Othello and Split.
Heard was married to Margo Kidder for six days in 1979. He had supporting roles in many films and TV series in the late part of his career. Ross article quotes some more from Douglas' Facebook post:
In her Facebook post, Douglas said she was devastated to hear about Heard’s death. She described him as a “great, great actor” who inspired her in her career. She said she had been trying to line him up for an interview for a long time; he was hesitant, thinking no one was that interested in him. “I convinced him that there was real interest in him. That people loved him, and wanted to hear from him,” she wrote.
This past March, Richard Luck posted a review of Snake Eyes at Right Casino, noting the similarities between Heard's role in the film and Donald Trump:
Of particular interest is the flamboyant Gilbert Powell. Played by John Heard of Cat People and Home Alone fame, Powell is very clearly the film’s equivalent of Donald Trump; The Donald being among the biggest names operating in Atlantic City around the time the movie was shot and set. Indeed, as the future president’s Historic Atlantic City Convention Center had played host to WrestleManias IV and V, so the man with the hypnotic hair had brought many a major box-office to the East Coast. Trump would also be instrumental in bringing MMA to Atlantic City, a bold move that led to UFC hefe Dana White being among the more unlikely speakers at the 2016 Republican Convention.