Character actor William G. “Bill” Nunn, III, best known for his acclaimed turn as Radio Raheem in Spike Lee’s groundbreaking 1989 film Do The Right Thing, as well as for playing Daily Bugle editor Robbie Robertson in the Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man trilogy, died today in Pittsburg from undisclosed causes. He was 62.
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1953, Nunn was a 1976 graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta Georgia who came to acting relatively late. His first acting job was in fellow Morehouse alum Spike Lee’s second film, School Daze, based on Lee’s own experience at the university.
Nunn was subsequently cast in his most famous role, Radio Raheem in Do the Right Thing, the film’s iconic supporting character known for blasting the music of Public Enemy from his boom box wherever he goes. Notably, Raheem is killed in an act of police negligence and brutality amid the film’s chaotic depiction of racial tensions in Brooklyn. The film, especially Nunn’s performance, has continued to resonate culturally and in recent years has received renewed attention in light of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“My Dear Friend, My Dear Morehouse Brother- Da Great Actor Bill Nunn As Most Of You Know Him As Radio Raheem Passed Away This Morning In His Hometown Of Pittsburgh,’ said Spike Lee on Instagram. “Long Live Bill NUNN. RADIO RAHEEM Is Now RESTING IN POWER. RADIO RAHEEM WILL ALWAYS BE FIGHTING DA POWERS DAT BE. MAY GOD WATCH OVER BILL NUNN.”
Lee followed that with a lengthier tribute to his friend and frequent collaborator Nunn, whom Lee cast in four of his films including School Daze, He Got Game and Mo’ Better Blues, as well as a nod to the iconic shoes Nunn wore in Right Thing.
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Radio Raheem. Let me tell you the story of Right Hand, Left Hand. It's a tale of good and evil. Hate! It was with this hand that Cane iced his brother. Love! These five fingers, they go straight to the soul of man. The right hand: the hand of love. The story of life is this: static. One hand is always fighting the other hand, and the left hand is kicking much ass. I mean, it looks like the right hand, Love is finished. But hold on, stop the presses the right hand is coming back. Yeah, he got the left hand on the ropes, now, that's right. Yea, Boom, it's a devastating right and Hate is hurt, he's down. Ooh! Ooh! Left-Hand Hate KOed by Love. If I love you, I love you. But if I hate you…Mookie: there it is, Love and Hate. Raheem I love you bruh…
Following Right Thing, Nunn went on to appear more than 40 films and several TV shows, among them New Jack City, Regarding Henry, Sister Act, Money Train, Idlewild, and of course Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. He was most recently seen in the role of Cash on USA Network’s short-lived series Sirens. He’s survived by his wife and two children.
As news spread, admirers and friends paid tribute to Nunn on social media.