Irish character actor Derrick O’Connor, who portrayed the villain in Lethal Weapon 2 and appeared in three of Terry Gilliam’s films among numerous other credits, has died. O’Connor died Friday of pneumonia in Santa Barbara, his publicist Jane Ayer announced. He was 77.
O’Connor’s decades-long career included memorable film performances in Lethal Weapon 2, roles in Gilliam’s films Time Bandits, Brazil and Jabberwocky, as Thomas Aquinas opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in End of Days, as an aspiring buccaneer in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and in John Boorman’s Hope and Glory.
Widely regarded as a superb actor, O’Connor was noted for often paring down – or fully eliminating – his lines in a scene in order to emphasize the physical aspects of his role – a skill that earned him the admiration of many who directed him, especially Terry Gilliam. In Gilliam’s Time Bandits, his character’s dialogue was reduced to simple grunts while the Maid Marian character “translated” for him. In Brazil, O’Connor scrapped all of his character’s dialogue and simply repeated the dialogue of Bob Hoskins’ character.
He was best known, however for his role as villain Pieter Vorstedt, Arjen Rudd’s (Joss Ackland) evil right-hand man in Richard Donner’s Lethal Weapon 2 (1989).
His notable U.S. TV credits include Alias, Carnivale, Tracey Takes On, Monk, Murder She Wrote, and Ghost. In the UK and Australia, he was best known for starring roles in Stringer, Fox, The Sweeney, and Knockback.
Born in Dublin, Ireland and raised in London, O’Connor was a distinguished member of both the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Scottish National Theatre, with multiple lead stage roles in Edinburgh, Stratford-on-Avon and London’s West End. He starred in UK productions of plays such as The Knack, The Dumb Waiter, and Born Yesterday. He worked with several notable directors including Mike Leigh and Richard Eyre.
His work in theatre also included directing and producing a presentation of Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape and directing Rock Justice written by Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane – both in San Francisco. He wrote and directed the Irish docudrama film A Pint of Plain.
He had lived in the U.S. since 1990, most recently in the Santa Ynez Valley, north of Santa Barbara with his wife Mimi.
O’Connor is survived by his wife Mimi and son Max. A private celebration of life will be attended by close friends and family in San Francisco.