August Schellenberg, "Free Willy" Actor, Dies


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"Free Willy" star, August Schellenberg, has died at the age of 77. The actor, who was best known for his role in the three "Free Willy" movies, passed away on Thursday, after a long fight with lung cancer.

The Canadian born actor first gained popularity with his role as the whale trainer, Randolph Johnson, in "Free Willy" that was released in 1993. He then returned for the same role in the sequels that were released, "Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home" in 1995 and "Free Willy 3: The Rescue" in 1997. Schellenberg was well known for acting in Native American roles: he was half Mohawk and half Swiss-German.

Schellenberg was nominated for an Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie for his role in HBO's "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee." He also played a role in "The New World", released in 2005, where he acted with stars Christian Bale and Colin Farrell. In 2012, he landed the lead role the all Canadian cast of Shakespeare's "King Lear" at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

"I got a call this morning from the NAC saying they have lowered their flags to honor him," said Jamie Levitt, who had worked with the actor for the past 15 years. "He was a loving father and grandfather and a very good husband. He was a very well-known Canadian and an iconic actor."

Levitt, Schellenberg's agent, said that he died surrounded by his family. Schellenberg is survived by his wife, actress Joan Karasevich, three daughters, and three grandchildren.