Larry Hagman, who portrayed the iconic role of J.R. Ewing on Dallas, died Friday at the age of 81, according to a statement posted to his official website. The cause was reportedly complications from his battle with cancer.
"Larry was back in his beloved Dallas re-enacting the iconic role he loved most,” his family said in a statement. “Larry's family and close friends had joined him in Dallas for the Thanksgiving holiday. When he passed, he was surrounded by loved ones. It was a peaceful passing, just as he had wished for."
Hagman was working on the second season of TNT’s reboot of Dallas, which premieres Jan. 28. The first season proved a hit last summer, averaging 5.9 million viewers for the version that matched stars of the 1980s primetime soap like Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray with a new generation of the Ewing clan.
“All of us at TNT are deeply saddened at the news of Larry Hagman's
passing,” the network said in a statement. “He was a wonderful human being and an extremely gifted actor. We will be forever thankful that a whole new generation of people got to know and appreciate Larry through his performance as J.R. Ewing. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time.”
Added Warner Bros., in a statement on behalf of Dallas’ executive producers, cast and crew: “Larry Hagman was a giant, a larger-than-life personality whose iconic performance as J.R. Ewing will endure as one of the most indelible in entertainment history. He truly loved portraying this globally recognized character, and he leaves a legacy of entertainment, generosity and grace. Everyone at Warner Bros. and in the Dallas family isdeeply saddened by Larry's passing, and our thoughts are with his family and dear friends during this difficult time.
As the scheming oil baron J.R., Hagman was at the center of TV’s most famous cliffhanger “Who Shot J.R.?” when he was shot twice by an unseen assailant in Dallas’ season-finale episode in 1980. When the answer was finally revealed the next season, an estimated 83 million people watched, making it the highest-rated TV episode at that time.
Though best remembered for Dallas, Hagman’s first big TV role was as astronaut Anthony Nelson in I Dream of Jeannie, which ran on NBC from 1965-70. He also had supporting roles in films like Fail-Safe, JFK, Nixon and Primary Colors.
Hagman is survived by his wife Maj, daughter Kristina, son Preston and five granddaughters.