Larry Hagman, the television icon best known for playing J.R. Ewing on CBS' Dallas as well as TNT's current incarnation, died Friday, TVGuide.com has confirmed. He was 81.
Hagman died of complications from his recent bout with cancer, his family told the Dallas Morning News. His Dallas co-stars Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray were reportedly by his side when he passed.
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Hagman was diagnosed with Stage 2 throat cancer last year -- just months after TNT's Dallas reboot was announced. "As J.R. I could get away with anything — bribery, blackmail and adultery," Hagman said at the time in a statement. "But I got caught by cancer. I do want everyone to know that it is a very common and treatable form of cancer. I will be receiving treatment while working on the new Dallas series. I could not think of a better place to be than working on a show I love, with people I love. Besides, as we all know, you can't keep J.R. down!"
Hagman, who announced in mid-2012 that he was in remission from cancer, had already begun filming the second season of TNT's Dallas, which is set to premiere Monday, Jan. 28, 2013. The series had already filmed six episodes when Hagman passed. Because of his sudden passing, there is no timeline on how production will be affected. Sources say the show's writers and producers will now begin working on a way to give Hagman's character a proper send-off.
Hagman played villain J.R. Ewing throughout Dallas' original 1978 to 1991 run, as well as in two later TV movies before TNT's reboot. His character was at the center of one of television's biggest cliff-hangers after being shot by an unknown assailant, leading viewers to spend the summer of 1980 pondering, "Who shot J.R.?" The catch phrase spawned a slew of merchandise, which led to Hagman asking for a pay raise and royalties before returning the following season. The episode that revealed J.R.'s shooter is still among the highest-rated TV programs ever.
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"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," said Dallas executive producers Cynthia Cidre and Michael M. Robin, the show's cast and crew and Warner Bros., the studio behind the reboot, in a statement. "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 is deeply saddened by Larry's passing, and our thoughts are with his family and dear friends during this difficult time."
Added TNT in its own statement: "All of us at TNT are deeply saddened at the news of Larry Hagman's passing. 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."
Gray, who starred in both incarnations of Dallas, also expressed her sadness over the passing of her onscreen husband. "Larry Hagman was my best friend for 35 years," she said in a statement obtained by TVGuide.com. "He was the Pied Piper of life and brought joy to everyone he knew. He was creative, generous, funny, loving and talented, and I will miss him enormously. He was an original and lived life to the full. The world was a brighter place because of Larry Hagman."
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Besides Dallas, Hagman's credits also included Fail-Safe, Nixon, The Eagle Has Landed, Primary Colors, Superman. His first major TV role was on I Dream of Jeannie. Barbara Eden, who played the titular Jeannie, called Hagman "a key element" in her life on her Facebook page Friday. "Throughout various productions I had the pleasure of watching the Texas Tornado that was Larry Hagman," she said. Amidst a whirlwind of big laughs, big smiles and unrestrained personality Larry was always, simply Larry. You couldn't fault him for it, it was just who he was. I am so thankful that this past year I was able to spend time with him and experience yet again 'Larry' in all his Big Texas bravado... Goodbye Larry, there was no one like you before and there will never be anyone like you again."
Hagman is survived by his wife of 59 years, Maj Axelsson, who, according to reports, currently suffers from Alzheimer's. The couple had two children together.