Prolific actor Jason Wingreen has been confirmed deceased by his son, Ned, who tells The Hollywood Reporter that the actor passed away at the age of 95 in his Los Angeles home on Christmas Day.
Many know Wingreen for the role he played as the voice of Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back, but his film career spans back much further than that. Known just as well for playing bartender Harry on All in the Family, Wingreen’s acting career goes back as far as 1955. He acted for nearly forty years before retiring in the 1990s, appearing on shows such as The Twilight Zone, Matlock, Ironside and Star Trek. In addition to Star Wars, his film credits include a doctor in the 1980 comedy classic Airplane.
A veteran of the Second World War, Wingreen actually did not audition for the role of Boba Fett. When he was first drawn to the Star Wars franchise, he auditioned to play the role of Yoda. This role was famously taken up by Frank Oz, but Wingreen was able to secure a role as the fearsome bounty hunter well-known to fans today. He may have only had four lines in Empire, but his legacy has been as long-lasting as that of many movie villains who demanded far more screen time.
Wingreen originally wanted to be a sportswriter, but an acting class at Brooklyn College and a job with a marionette company set his life on a different course. When he returned from active duty in WWII, he helped found the Circle in the Square theater company. Working out of Greenwich Village, he worked with the company until he was able to appear in two Broadway plays (The Girl on the Via Flaminia and Fragile Fox) in 1954. He soon made the leap to TV and, later, to film.
Boba Fett was a very small notch on the actor’s long list of achievements, but it is definitely one for which he is well remembered. Oddly, it wasn’t until around the dawn of the new millennium that his name became associated with the role. He was uncredited for the part, and he did not receive residual pay for his work—even though he aided merchandising by voicing the character on promotional materials such as action figures. While he regretted the decision to receive no royalty payments, he had previously admitted that the part did not take much effort.
“I think the actual work, aside from the hellos and goodbyes and all that, could have been no more than 10 minutes.”
Wingreen is survived by his son, his sister Harriet, and two grandchildren. Although retired for well over a decade, he will be missed by fans and colleagues alike.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter