Gregory Walcott, a prolific character actor whose career was often overshadowed by a starring role in Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space, has died. He was 87. The news was made public earlier this weekend on his son’s Facebook page.
Born Bernard Mattox in North Carolina in 1928, he began his acting career with an appearance as a drill instructor in the 1955 World War II drama Battle Cry, made while he was still serving in the US Army. This led to several other roles as military characters, including the Henry Fonda drama Mister Roberts, The Outsider, and Midway (in which he played Captain Elliott Buckmaster).
Appearing on both television and film, a recurring role on Rawhide led to a long working relationship with Clint Eastwood. Walcott appeared with Eastwood in Joe Kidd, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Eiger Sanction, and Every Which Way But Loose. In addition to Rawhide, Walcott found frequent work in the 1950s and 60s on tv westerns, including Bonanza, Maverick, and The Rifleman. Among his later roles, he had notable appearances on The Six Million Dollar Man, Kojack, Land of the Lost, and recurring roles on Dallas, and Murder, She Wrote.
But it was for Plan 9 From Outer Space that he would be most widely remembered. As he related in a 1998 interview, he took the role as a favor to a friend despite severe misgivings. Walcott considered the film to be “trash,” and was uncomfortable with the way footage of Bela Lugosi was used; subsequently, he would spend decades distancing himself from it.
However, Walcott eventually came to terms with, and even tentatively embraced his place in popular culture. His final film role was a cameo as a film producer in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood. 6 years later, in an interview with the LA Times, he remarked that “[i]t’s better to be remembered for something than for nothing, don’t you think?”