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Actors In Tom Cruise Movies You May Not Know Are Dead

Tom Cruise has been a major film star for decades, thanks to such blockbusters as the "Mission: Impossible" and "Top Gun" franchises, "Risky Business," "Rain Man," "Jerry Maguire," "War of the Worlds," and other projects. Thanks to his box office clout, he's been able to collaborate with top talent in front of and behind the camera: Cruise has worked on films for directors like Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, Paul Thomas Anderson, Michael Mann, Ron Howard, and Sydney Pollack. His choice of co-stars, too, has been nothing short of stellar, and allowed Cruise to share the screen with such figures as Paul Newman, Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, former spouse Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, and Willem Dafoe.

Cruise's career is now in its fourth decade, which by Hollywood standards, is an epic length. Countless actors and other creative types have risen to spectacular heights and then vanished from view within that time frame. Many of Cruise's screen collaborators have retired or settled into different careers during the course of his screen fame; still others have passed away. Below is a list of memorable actors in Tom Cruise films who've since passed away.

George C. Scott was Cruise's commanding officer in Taps

Though a cadre of up-and-coming young actors anchored 1981's "Taps," including Timothy Hutton, Sean Penn, Evan Handler, Giancarlo Esposito, and in his first major film role, Cruise, Harold Becker's 1981 drama was top-billed by George C. Scott. The celebrated actor and Oscar, Emmy, Golden Globe, and Genie winner starred as the aging head of a military school that becomes a war zone when cadets fight back against its closure.

An imposing figure with a commanding sandpaper bark, Scott's list of credits included some of the most popular, critically-praised feature films of the 20th century, including "The Hustler" (with Paul Newman), Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove," and "Patton," which earned him an Oscar (which he refused). Scott also worked extensively on television, earning Emmy nominations for a 1977 version of "Beauty and the Beast" and an acclaimed 1984 production of "A Christmas Carol." 

Scott worked into the 1990s in features like "Malice" and Sidney Lumet's remake of "Gloria" and in high-profile TV productions like "Tyson," "12 Angry Men" and "Inherit the Wind," the latter two of which paired him with another acting great, Jack Lemmon. "Wind" was Scott's final small screen appearance; he died of an aortic aneurysm at the age of 71 on September 22, 1999.

Billy Barty brought laughs to the dark Legend

In Ridley Scott's "Legend," Cruise's Jack O'the Green was accompanied on his quest to rescue Mia Sara's princess from Darkness (Tim Curry) by a trio of woodland creatures: the elf Honeythorn Gump (David Bennett) and a pair of dwarves, Brown Tom (Cork Hubbert, who died in 2008) and Screwball, played by the veteran character player Billy Barty. As his name suggested, Screwball was the more comic of the two small heroes, and Barty clearly relished his chance to bring a dose of levity to Scott's epic, sometimes alarming fantasy.

Barty, who stood 3'9" due to cartilage-hair hypoplasia dwarfism, began acting in the 1930s, often playing small children due to his size. He graduated to bit and minor roles in features and on television, often playing fantasy figures or donning costumes to play various pint-sized creatures for Sid and Marty Krofft. Barty also performed with comic musician Spike Jones's anarchic band and hosted his own kids' series on Los Angeles television in the 1960s. He eventually graduated to character parts, again mostly in comic roles for films like "Foul Play," "Willow," and "Masters of the Universe," but he also showed a dramatic side as an agent in the bitter Hollywood drama "The Day of the Locust."

In addition to his acting work, Barty was a tireless advocate for others with dwarfism, founding the non-profit Little People of America, which aids individuals of short stature and their families, in 1960. Barty remained active on screen until 2000, when he was hospitalized for heart and lung issues in May of that year. Barty died of heart failure at the age of 76 on December 23, 2000.

Paul Newman reprised an iconic role opposite Cruise in The Color of Money

Twenty-five years after his Oscar-nominated turn as jaded pool player "Fast Eddie" Felson in "The Hustler," actor Paul Newman reprised the character for "The Color of Money." The 1986 film, directed by Scorsese and written by Richard Price ("The Wire," "The Night Of") teamed Newman's Felson with Cruise's Vincent Lauria, a young pool talent with the same degree of brashness Felson had shown in his past. The pair decides to team up in order to scale the heights of the pool world with their combined skills.

As director Ethan Hawke would underscore in his documentary "The Last Movie Stars," Newman was one of the most popular and respected actors of the 1960s and 1970s, lending both rugged determination and emotional complexity to films like "Hud," Alfred Hitchcock's "Torn Curtain," "Cool Hand Luke," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Sting," and "Slap Shot." At the time of the "Money" release, he was rebounding from a career decline in the late '70s with a string of hits that included "The Verdict" and "Absence of Malice"; Newman remained a star well into the 1990s and beyond with features like "Nobody's Fool" and "The Road to Perdition," as well as TV work like "Empire Falls" and even voice-acting roles in "Cars."

A noted philanthropist who supported an array of causes through his food products and other efforts, Newman retired from screen acting in 2007 with twelve Oscar nominations, including three wins (he won an honorary Oscar in 1986 and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1994), four Golden Globes, an Emmy, and a Tony Award nomination. Diagnosed with cancer, the 83-year-old Newman died of the disease at his home in Westport, Connecticut on September 26, 2008.

One of TV vet Reg E. Cathey's earliest film roles was in Born on the Fourth of July

At first glance, you might not recognize Reg E. Cathey in Oliver Stone's "Born on the Fourth of July," but you'll certainly recognize his resonant, theatrically-trained voice as the speaker at a Vietnam protest in Syracuse, New York. Cathey is only on screen for a moment during the scene, in which Cruise's Ron Kovic is separated from his childhood friend Donna (Kyra Sedgwick); prior to his appearance, Cathey was best known for children's television in the 1990s, most notably on "Square One Television," and similarly small roles in films like "Quick Change" and "What About Bob?"

Cathey's commanding, confident presence eventually found an audience through work on acclaimed series like "Homicide: Life on the Street" and films like "Clear and Present Danger" and "Se7en" (for which he played the coroner). He moved into breakout character roles on "Oz" and "The Wire," and netted a 2015 Emmy Award as Freddy Hayes, confidante of Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood, on "House of Cards." Feature film work has included "The Machinist," "St. Vincent," "Fantastic Four," and "Hands of Stone," for which he appeared uncredited as promoter Don King.

Cathey died at the age of 58 at his home in New York City on February 9, 2018. He had reportedly been diagnosed with lung cancer.

Before Law & Order, Fred Dalton Thompson ran NASCAR in Days of Thunder

When Tom Cruise's Cole Trickle and Michael Rooker's Rowdy Burns become injured after locking horns at the Firecracker 400 race in Florida, the pair is brought up before "Big John," the head of NASCAR, the governing body for stock car racing. Fred Dalton Thompson, an imposing actor best known for a long run as District Attorney Arthur Branch on the "Law & Order" franchise (and a high-profile political career), plays Big John as a steely, no-nonsense type who spells out the racers' future if they continue to butt heads ("I'm gonna black flag the two of you and take apart your racecars for three hundred laps. Then, if you pass inspection and you put your cars back together, I might let you back in the race.")

Thompson brought the full weight of his long career as a former U.S. attorney, Watergate Committee counsel and senator for the state of Tennessee to his acting roles. He began by playing himself in "Marie," a 1985 film about a corruption case against the Tennessee governor; this set in motion a string of turns as authority types in "The Hunt for Red October," "Die Hard 2," "Cape Fear," and "Sinister," among many other films and TV series.

Thompson ran for president of the United States in 2007 but returned to acting after failing to secure the nomination. He busied himself on nearly all of the "Law & Order" franchise series while also recovering from a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2004. The disease later claimed his life at the age of 73 on November 1, 2015.

Robert Prosky was Far and Away's good bad guy

Stage and television actor Robert Prosky played 19th century landowner Daniel Christie opposite Cruise in Ron Howard's "Far and Away" (1992). On paper, Christie is the villain of the piece: his men (led by Thomas Gibson) burn down Cruise's family home when he fails to pay the rent, promptings Cruise to show up at Prosky's door with a shotgun and murder in mind. Christie is revealed to be more pushover than boss – his wife (Barbara Babcock) is the real brains of the operation – and their encounter ends on a positive note, as it introduces Cruise to Christie's daughter, played by Nicole Kidman.

Prosky was a familiar face to TV audiences thanks to his long run as Sgt. Stan Jablonski on "Hill Street Blues," and guest shots on "Coach" and "Cheers" (for which he was initially considered to play Coach Ernie Patusso). But Prosky also enjoyed a long and diverse string of film roles, which ranged from formidable bad guys ("Thief," "The Natural," "Christine") and gruff businessmen ("Mrs. Doubtfire") to seen-it-all types ("Broadcast News," "The Last Action Hero") and comic performances in "Outrageous Fortune" and "Gremlins II: The New Batch (as TV horror host Grandpa Fred). Prosky, who was also a staple of the Washington D.C. and New York theater scenes (and netted a Tony nomination in 1988), died from complications of heart surgery at the age of 77 on December 8, 2008.

J.T Walsh took a sympathetic turn in A Few Good Men

Character actor J.T. Walsh made the darker, more unpleasant sides of human behavior not only palatable but also positively magnetic. In films like "Sling Blade," "Breakdown," "Good Morning, Vietnam," and "The Grifters," Walsh played morally corrupt figures whose inherent intelligence and force of personality made their behavior almost acceptable – if not to others, at least to themselves. His exceptional talent made him a critical and viewer favorite, and he worked steadily until his sudden death from a heart attack at the age of 54 on February 27, 1998.

On occasion, Walsh also played less nefarious characters. The most notable of these was Lt. Col. Matthew Markinson in Rob Reiner's film adaption of Aaron Sorkin's play "A Few Good Men." Markinson was the linchpin in military lawyer Tom Cruise's defense case involving two Marines accused of murdering a third: he knew that the dead Marine sought and was denied the transfer that would have saved his life by Col. Jessup (Jack Nicholson). Markinson was haunted by his own failure to intervene on the Marine's behalf, and ultimately took his own life rather than face questioning or further abuse by the volcanic Nicholson.

Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey also acted in Jerry Maguire

For a period of time, rocker Glenn Frey enjoyed a modest career as a film and television actor. The co-founder of the Eagles and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member guested on "Miami Vice," "Nash Bridges," and "Wiseguy," and appeared opposite Robert Duvall and Mark Harmon in the 1986 action-drama "Let's Get Harry." Frey was also briefly the star of his own network series, the detective comedy-drama "South of Sunset," which fizzled after a single episode, despite heavy promotion during the 1993 World Series.

Frey's other feature film appearance was a minor role in Cameron Crowe's "Jerry Maguire." Cast as the fictitious general manager of the Arizona Cardinals football team, Frey's Dennis Wilburn is resistant to a request for a sizable new contract for wide receiver Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr. in his Oscar-winning role). Wilburn isn't having it, citing Tidwell's "attitude problem," and makes Tom Cruise's Jerry sweat out his decision — and endure Rod's "Show me the money" rant — until finally agreeing to an even larger contract in the film's finale.

"Maguire" was Frey's final film appearance. He remained active with the reunited Eagles until 2015, when the band postponed appearances while Frey underwent surgery for abdominal problems related to medication he took for rheumatoid arthritis. Frey never made it to the operation; complications from pneumonia led to a medically induced coma from which he never recovered, and he died at the age of 67 on January 18, 2016.

Philip Baker Hall gave a sad, subtle performance in Magnolia

Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia" gives nearly all of its large ensemble cast, which includes Tom Cruise, with moments in the spotlight where they unveil remarkable performances, but Philip Baker Hall earns several standout scenes in the course of the 1999 film. Cast as Jimmy Gator, the terminally ill and alcoholic host of a children's game show, Hall is tasked with lifting some ponderous emotional weight — Jimmy wants to make up for his past failings, including the abuse of his daughter (Melora Walters) — and shoulders the burden with quiet desperation and determination.

Hall came to fame late in life: though he appeared on television and in features throughout the 1970s and 1980s, he didn't enjoy widespread acclaim until the end of the latter decade, when a powerful turn as Richard Nixon and a recurring part on "Seinfeld" as library cop Lt. Bookman put him on many viewers' radars. He began collaborating with Anderson soon after, and appeared in "Hard Eight" and "Boogie Nights." His world-weary face and persona drew in other filmmakers as well, and led to appearances in "The Rock," "The Truman Show," "Zodiac," "Rush Hour," and "Argo."

Hall also worked on television, appearing on "Modern Family," "BoJack Horseman," and "Messiah," which proved to be his final screen appearance. He died of emphysema at the age of 90 at his home in Glendale, California on June 12, 2022. Hall wasn't the only one of Cruise's "Magnolia" castmates to pass away: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jason Robards, Ricky Jay, Henry Gibson, and Danny Wells all died in the decades since its release.

Jerry Maguire gave Kelly Preston one of her best screen moments

Though a popular, well-liked actress, Kelly Preston rarely got an opportunity to show her talents in film and television projects. Roles in hit productions like "Twins," "Citizen Ruth," and "Jack Frost" hinged on her empathetic qualities, but rarely afforded her a chance to dig into real dramatic territory. However, her turn in "Jerry Maguire" as Tom Cruise's fiancée provided her with one genuine show-stopping scene. Upon discovering that Cruise's Jerry has been fired after writing a letter advocating that his agency should make money less of a goal, Preston's Avery unleashes a gush of emotions: she decks him (repeatedly), owns her brittle and fragile sides and refuses to apologize for either of them, and then reveals the vulnerability behind her all-business persona. It's an extraordinary scene, and one that Preston nails with exceptional power.

Preston kept busy throughout her career, excelling at light comedies like "The Cat in the Hat" and "Sky High," as well as several projects with her husband, actor John Travolta ("Old Dogs"). She could play earthy and sexy, too, as her work in teen comedies like "Mischief" and "Secret Admirer" displayed, and she could handle heavier material like "Death Sentence," for which she played Kevin Bacon's ill-fated wife, and subtler comedies like Alexander Payne's satirical "Ruth." Preston also worked extensively on TV, including recurring roles on "Medium" and "CBS: Cyber."

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, Preston sought treatment at various facilities until 2020. She died of the disease at the age of 57 at her home in Clearwater, Florida on July 12 of that year. Her final film project, "Off the Rails," was dedicated to her memory.

Bill Paxton helped Tom Cruise fight aliens in Edge of Tomorrow

Cruise's ambitious science fiction epic "Edge of Tomorrow" enjoyed a huge promotional push with advertising at Comic-Con in 2013 as well as a flood of television commercials and social media content. However, the box office response was somewhat tepid, though Cruise and his castmates certainly couldn't have been the cause of its slow trudge through the box office. The film's cast included Emily Blunt, Noah Taylor, and film and TV favorite Bill Paxton, who played Master Sergeant Farell, the hard-bitten soldier tasked with taking Cruise's inexperienced public relations officer into battle against alien invaders.

Best known for his collaborations with James Cameron on "The Terminator," "Aliens," and "Titanic," Paxton drew critical and audience praise early in his career for unbridled performances in features like "Weird Science" and "Near Dark." The former musician changed his career path in the 1990s with a subtle turn as a reluctant small town sheriff in Carl Franklin's "One False Move," which led to character and lead roles in films like "Apollo 13" and "Twister."

Paxton also took top billing for the critically praised HBO drama "Big Love," and later enjoyed a recurring role as John Garrett on "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." However, his tenure on the show was cut short; surgery to repair heart damage led to a stroke that claimed Paxton's life at the age of 67 on January 25, 2017. His son, actor James Paxton, later played a younger version of Garrett on "S.H.I.E.L.D."

Henry Darrow lent class to the teen comedy Losin' It

One year before his breakout role in "Risky Business," Cruise earned top billing in "Losin' It," a comedy that on the surface appears to be another in the seemingly endless list of raunchy teensploitation movies that sprouted up in the wake of "Porky's." 

The basic premise, in which Cruise and three pals travel to Tijuana to lose their virginities, supports that idea, but the film itself has more on its plate than just prurient yucks. Directed by future Oscar winner Curtis Hanson and written by Bill L. Norton, a prolific screenwriter/director whose credits include '70s cult favorites like "Cisco Pike" and numerous TV series ("Angel," "Tour of Duty"), "Losin' It" also tries to deliver characters fueled by more than hormones. An impressive supporting cast, including Jackie Earle Haley, John Stockwell, and Shelley Long, help with that effort.

Opposing the boy's efforts to become men in "Losin' It" is veteran character actor Henry Darrow. A frequent presence on television from the early 1960s through the late '90s, Darrow, whose parents hailed from Puerto Rico, earned critical and fan praise for a wide variety of characters on series. He was the roguish Manolito on the "The High Chaparral" in the 1960s, a savvy police detective on the '70s cult crime drama "Harry O," and earned a Daytime Emmy as a frequently absent father on the soap opera "Santa Barbara." Between these efforts, Darrow also turned up on "Wonder Woman," "Star Trek: Voyager," and "Simon & Simon," among many other series before his death from natural causes at the age of 87 on March 14, 2021.

Darrow plays a Tijuana sheriff in "Losin' It," and the character sits somewhere between all of his best-known roles. Though outwardly courteous, the sheriff is a tough customer with no love for Americans like Cruise and his pals who tear up his town each weekend. He does, however, covet Stockwell's convertible, and manufactures a handful of criminal charges in order to take possession of the car. Darrow's role on paper isn't much more than a stock villain, but he invests it with the considerable charm that he brought to all of his roles.

Legendary actor Max von Sydow was Cruise's nemesis in Minority Report

Cast as Lamar Burgess, the founder of the federal "Precrime" program in the futuristic world of Steven Spielberg's "Minority Report," actor Max von Sydow brought his considerable skill to embodying a complex character. Though Burgess extolled the virtues of law and order, he also committed murder – and prepared to kill Cruise's Precrime cop John Anderton – in order to preserve his legacy. That von Sydow was able to make this cold-blooded figure somehow sympathetic was a testament to his talents, which made him one of the most respected actors of the 20th century.

The Swedish-French von Sydow rose to international prominence in the 1960s in the thought-provoking, dreamlike films of director Ingmar Bergman, including "The Seventh Seal," which featured the iconic image of a knight (von Sydow) playing chess with Death. The success of these films led to work in the West, which resulted in von Sydow playing a remarkably diverse array of characters, from Jesus in "The Greatest Story Ever Told" and the Devil (in the guise of Leland Gaunt) in "Needful Things" to  Father Merrin in "The Exorcist," Ming the Merciless in "Flash Gordon," Blofeld in "Never Say Never Again," the voice of Vigo in "Ghostbusters II," the mute Renter in "Extremely Loud and Incredible Close," Lor San Tekka in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," and the Three-Eyed Raven in "Game of Thrones."

Twice nominated for Oscars, Golden Globes, and Emmys, von Sydow closed his career with the 2021 Greek drama "Echoes of the Past." He died at the age of 90 at his home in Provence, France on March 8, 2020.

A very permissive Shirley Knight co-starred in Endless Love

Tom Cruise kicked off his screen acting career with 1981's "Endless Love," a completely over-the-top romance-drama about an intense attraction between the daughter (Brooke Shields) of permissive ex-hippie parents and an older boy (Martin Hewitt) so tightly wound that he attempts to win her over by burning down her family's house. It's that kind of a relationship. 

Cruise appears briefly as a somewhat dopey, totally shirtless pal of Hewitt's who suggests the arson idea as the best way to win back a girl. He's not the only future star on display in "Endless Love": James Spader (billed as "Jimmy Spader"), Jami Gertz, and a very young Ian Ziering also pop up in various capacities.

The adults in "Endless Love" are quite a handful: Don Murray is Shields' free-wheeling and alarmingly close dad, while Shirley Knight plays her mom, who's so cool with her daughter's relationship with Hewitt that she actually watches them have sex (and later makes a pass at Hewitt). Richard Kiley and Beatrice Straight ("Poltergeist") play Hewitt's folks, who are so rigidly uptight that his psychosis almost seems understandable.

Of the four actors, only Murray remains alive today; Knight, a two-time Oscar nominee and eight-time Emmy nominee (including two wins), was a gifted but underrated lead and character player in films like "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs" and "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" before her death at age 83 on April 22, 2020. Kiley won a Tony and four Emmys and starred in series like "The Thorn Birds" and "A Year in the Life" (he was also the voice of the park tour in the novel and film version of "Jurassic Park") before his death at age 76 on March 5, 1999, while Beatrice Straight won an Oscar for "Network" and appeared in "Poltergeist" (among other films) prior to her passing at age 86 on April 7, 2001.