Mitchell Ryan, who played villain in 'Lethal Weapon', dies at 88

Mitchell Ryan, an actor best known for his role in the gothic soap opera ‘Dark Shadows’ and who played a heroin-dealing retired general ...


Mitchell Ryan, an actor best known for his role in the gothic soap opera ‘Dark Shadows’ and who played a heroin-dealing retired general in the action movie ‘Lethal Weapon’, died Friday at his Los Angeles home . He was 88 years old.

The cause was heart failure, said Saturday Ro Diamond, who represented Mr. Ryan for more than 40 years.

With his square jaw and slicked back hair, Mr. Ryan entertained film buffs and TV fans alike in a career that spanned more than 50 years, starting with an uncredited role in the film ‘Thunder Road ” (1958).

His breakout performance came in 1966 when he landed a role on “Dark Shadows,” a popular soap opera about the adventurous life of the wealthy Collins family. Set in the fictional town of Collinsport, Maine, the family experiences supernatural events and is tormented by strange beings, such as ghosts, witches, and zombies.

Mr. Ryan played Burke Devlin, an ex-con who returns to Collinsport and seeks revenge on the family.

“It was a wonderfully written kind of gothic melodrama and Burke was this wonderful, mysterious character,” Mr. Ryan recalled decades later in a maintenance. “And actually, there wasn’t much to do with it except bring a lot of my passion to it and just allow it out.”

He was fired from the show because of his alcoholism.

He recalled in his memoir, “Fall of a Sparrow,” how grateful he was to have overcome his struggles in sobriety. “I’m lucky to have 30 years of drunkenness, I managed to live an enviable acting life,” he wrote.

He added that “sober for the next 30 years, I’m told I’ve come out of it a good and useful human being.”

Another major role came in 1987, when he played an antagonist in “Lethal Weapon,” which starred Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. Mr. Ryan recalled in a maintenance that those involved with the film initially thought it was destined to fail.

“It was a scary mess for everyone,” he said, noting that the script was constantly being rewritten. “Nobody knew what was going on.”

Mr. Ryan played a retired general turned heroin smuggler who issues orders in a calm, poised cadence, but is prone to outbursts of rage.

The film would gross over $100 million worldwide at the box office.

“We were all absolutely shocked and stunned when it turned out to be a massive hit,” Mr Ryan said.

He joked that the series of movies that followed made everyone richer except him because his character, General Peter McAllister, was in a vehicle that was Hit by a bus. “Poor Mitch, I was killed,” he said.

Mr. Ryan went on to play roles in more than two dozen TV series, but found his ego was getting inflated. He wrote on his site that “the more successful I was, the easier it was to take credit for what ‘I had accomplished.”

It was behavior he said would be “deadly in the long run and inconsistent with reality,” he wrote.

Yet in interviews he frequently said he was grateful for his long acting career, which as a child seemed unlikely.

Mitchell Ryan was born January 11, 1934, in Cincinnati and raised in Louisville, Ky., by his mother, who was a writer, and his father, who was a salesman. Information on survivors was not immediately available on Saturday.

He said that as a boy he often made up people he might one day be and had no idea he was “acting, because everything was real to me”.

He served in the United States Navy, then continued his work in theatre. “I can’t count the number of pieces I’ve made, but it could easily be over a hundred,” he wrote.

For 15 years he performed in a play almost every night in road shows, on Broadway and Off Broadway. Even while working on “Dark Shadows”, he was still performing parts at night after leaving the television set, which he said was “not a very good idea”.

In 1989, he played Anthony Tonell, a brutal businessman, in “Santa Barbara”, a television series about several wealthy families in California. From 1997 to 2002, he played Edward Montgomery, a rich and eccentric father, in the sitcom “Dharma & Greg”.

In the preface to his memoir, Mr. Ryan wrote: “A young man became an actor because someone thought he had the right look for a part. A pleasant voice. And he wasn’t doing anything else at the time.

“And he stayed on as an actor,” he added, “because, remarkably, he was good at it.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Mitchell Ryan, who played villain in 'Lethal Weapon', dies at 88
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