"Free Willy" actor August Schellenberg dead at 77

"Free Willy" actor August Schellenberg dead at 77

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CBS/AP

Posted on August 19, 2013 at 7:41 AM

(CBS/AP) August Schellenberg, a Canadian actor who starred in the "Free Willy" films, has died at his Dallas home after a fight with lung cancer. He was 77.

The actor's agent, Jamie Levitt, says Schellenberg died Thursday surrounded by his family.

Schellenberg appeared in numerous television roles and played the role of Randolph Johnson, a whale trainer in all three "Free Willy" movies movies -- "Free Willy" (1993), "Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home" (1995) and "Free Willy 3: The Rescue" (1997). In 2007, he was nominated for an Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie for his role as Chief Sitting Bull in HBO's "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee."

Schellenberg's big-screen work also included appearing in the 2005 film, "The New World," alongside movie stars Christian Bale and Colin Farrell.

One of his last notable works was in 2012, when he played the lead role in an all Canadian cast of Shakespeare's "King Lear" at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, said his agent, Jamie Levitt.

"I got a call this morning from the NAC saying they have lowered their flags to honor him," said Levitt, who had worked with the actor for the past 15 years. "He was a loving father and grandfather and a very good husband. He was a very well-known Canadian and an iconic actor."

According to his personal website, he taught acting workshops in Toronto at the Centre for Indigenous Theatre and at York University. He also was a former boxer, participated in various celebrity charity sporting events and served as a motivational speaker in Canada and the U.S.

Schellenberg, who was born in Montreal, was half Mohawk and half Swiss, according to his website. He was survived by his wife, actress Joan Karasevich, and three daughters.

© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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