Treat Williams, his start, career and sudden departure

by Sherif M. Awad

 

 

 

Treat Williams was a versatile and prolific actor who appeared on film, stage, and television for over four decades. He was known for his roles in musicals, dramas, thrillers, and comedies. He died at the age of 71 in a motorcycle accident in Vermont on June 12, 2023.

His start

Treat Williams was born on December 1, 1951, in Stamford, Connecticut, to Marian and Richard Norman Williams. He moved with his family to Rowayton, Connecticut, when he was three. He was a distant relative of Robert Treat Paine, a signatory to the Declaration of Independence, and William Henry Barnum, a U.S. Senator from Connecticut and a cousin of the showman P.T. Barnum.

He graduated from the Kent School in Connecticut and Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania. He developed a passion for acting and performed in several theater productions during his college years. He made his film debut in 1975 as a cop in Deadly Hero. He then played a private detective in The Ritz (1976) and a German soldier in The Eagle Has Landed (1976).

His career

Williams rose to fame in 1979 when he starred as George Berger, a hippie leader, in Hair, a film adaptation of the Broadway musical directed by Milos Forman. He received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance. He also appeared in Steven Spielberg’s comedy 1941 (1979) and the romantic comedy Why Would I Lie? (1980).

In 1981, he played Danny Ciello, a corrupt New York City cop who turns informant, in Prince of the City, a crime drama directed by Sidney Lumet. He received another Golden Globe nomination for his role. He also starred as D.B. Cooper, the infamous plane hijacker who vanished with $200,000 in cash, in The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper (1981).

Williams continued to work in various genres and mediums throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Some of his notable films include Once Upon a Time in America (1984), where he played a labor organizer; Smooth Talk (1985), where he played a seductive stranger; Dead Heat (1988), where he played a zombie cop; Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead (1995), where he played a hitman; and The Phantom (1996), where he played a villainous tycoon.

He also appeared on television and Broadway. He played Stanley Kowalski opposite Ann-Margret’s Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire (1984), for which he received his third Golden Globe nomination. He played Jack Dempsey, the heavyweight boxing champion, in Dempsey (1983). He played Michael Ovitz, the powerful Hollywood agent, in The Late Shift (1996), for which he received an Emmy nomination.

He also returned to Broadway sporadically. He played Danny Zuko in Grease (1973-1974), the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance (1981), and Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls (1992-1993).

His sudden departure

Williams remained active as an actor until his death. He starred as Dr. Andrew Brown, a widowed father who moves to a small town with his children, in the WB series Everwood (2002-2006). He also had recurring roles on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Blue Bloods, Chicago Fire, and Chesapeake Shores. He guest starred in HBO’s We Own This City (2022), a drama about corruption in Baltimore.

He also appeared in several films, such as The Congressman (2016), where he played a disillusioned politician; The Etruscan Smile (2018), where he played a dying Scotsman; and Operation Christmas Drop (2020), where he played a U.S. Air Force general.

He was also an author, writer, and aviator. He wrote a children’s book called Air Show! (2006), which was illustrated by his son, Gill Williams. He also wrote several articles for aviation magazines. He owned and flew several planes, including a World War II-era Grumman TBM Avenger.

He died on June 12, 2023, in Dorset, Vermont, after a Honda SUV turned in front of him and caused a collision that threw him from his 1986 Honda motorcycle. He was taken to Albany Medical Center in Albany, New York, where he was pronounced dead. He is survived by his wife, Pam Van Sant, and his two children, Gill and Ellie Williams.

Conclusion

Treat Williams was a talented and versatile actor who left a lasting impression on audiences with his roles in movies like Hair, Prince of the City, and The Phantom. He was also a stage performer, a television star, an author, a writer, and an aviator. He died tragically in a motorcycle accident at the age of 71. He will be remembered as one of the most prolific and diverse actors of his generation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When was Treat Williams born? He was born on December 1, 1951, in Stamford, Connecticut.
  • What was his breakthrough role? He starred as George Berger, a hippie leader, in Hair (1979), a film adaptation of the Broadway musical directed by Milos Forman.
  • How many Golden Globe nominations did he receive? He received three Golden Globe nominations for his roles in Hair (1979), Prince of the City (1981), and A Streetcar Named Desire (1984).
  • What was his last TV show? He guest starred in HBO’s We Own This City (2022), a drama about corruption in Baltimore.
  • How did he die? He died on June 12, 2023, in Dorset, Vermont, after a Honda SUV turned in front of him and caused a collision that threw him from his 1986 Honda motorcycle.
 
Sherif M. Awad
Sherif M. Awad
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