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Louis Gossett Jr., the First Black Man to Win Best Supporting Actor Oscar, Dead at 87

Louis Gossett Jr., who was the first Black man to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, has died. He was 87.

(Sidney Poitier was the first Black man to win an acting Oscar. His win, in 1964, was as the lead in “Lilies of the Field.”)

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Gossett won the Academy Award for his role as Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Emil Foley, Richard Gere’s hardcore drill instructor in 1982 film “An Officer and a Gentleman.” He was just the third Black actor to receive a nomination in the category. Gossett won a Golden Globe for the role as well.

In 2023, Gossett appeared in the remake of “The Color Purple,” as well as in a pair of episodes of BET+ original series “Kingdom Business.” The same year, he lent his voice to an uncredited part of Michael Jai White’s “Outlaw Johnny Black.”

Gossett’s nephew told The Associated Press that the actor died in Santa Monica, California on Thursday night, March 28, 2024. No cause of death was revealed.

Gossett shared his prostate cancer diagnosis in 2010 — it was early stages, he said. The actor was hospitalized with COVID-19 in 2020.

Five years prior to “Officer and a Gentleman,” Gossett won an Emmy for his role as Fiddler in the genre-changing miniseries “Roots.” He was nominated for seven more Emmy Awards, including as recently as a 2020 nod as a supporting actor in “Watchmen.”

Before Hollywood came calling, Gossett was a star on Broadway, receiving critical acclaim for his work in “A Raisin in the Sun” and later, “Golden Boy.” It was a film adaptation of “A Raisin in the Sun” that first brought him to Los Angeles.

Gossett’s Oscar win was the big one (of two) for “An Officer and a Gentleman.” Jack Nitzsche (music), Buffy Sainte-Marie (music), and Will Jennings (lyrics) also won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for their “Up Where We Belong.” Gossett’s co-star Debra Winger was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role, but did not win. The film was also nominated for its screenplay (Douglas Day Stewart) and editing (Peter Zinner); Nitzsche was also nominated for his score.

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