Louis Gossett Jr, first black man to win Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, dies aged 87

29 March 2024, 14:17

Louis Gossett Jr. has died aged 87
Louis Gossett Jr. has died aged 87. Picture: Getty/Alamy

By Kit Heren

Louis Gossett Jr, the first black man to win a supporting actor Oscar, has died aged 87.

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Gossett won his Oscar for his role as a drill sergeant in the 1982 film An Officer and A Gentleman, playing opposite Richard Gere.

Gossett's nephew said that he died on Thursday night in Santa Monica, California.

The family did not reveal his cause of death.

The Oscar gave me the ability of being able to choose good parts in movies like Enemy Mine, Sadat and Iron Eagle," Gossett said in a 2024 book.

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Lou Gossett Jr., poses with his Oscar
Lou Gossett Jr., poses with his Oscar. Picture: Alamy

"More than anything, it was a huge affirmation of my position as a black actor," he wrote in his memoir.

He added that the statuette itself was in storage.

"I'm going to donate it to a library so I don't have to keep an eye on it," he said in the book. "I need to be free of it."

He won a Golden Globe award for the same role.

Louis Gossett Jr. last year
Louis Gossett Jr. last year. Picture: Getty

Gossett also gained critical acclaim for his performance as Fiddler in the 1977 television miniseries Roots, which depicted the atrocities of slavery.

He struggled with alcohol and cocaine addiction for years after his Oscar win. He went to rehab, where he was diagnosed with toxic mould syndrome, which he attributed to his house in Malibu.

In 2010, Gossett announced he had prostate cancer, which he said was caught in the early stages. In 2020, he went into hospital with Covid-19.

Lou Gossett Jr. in 1985
Lou Gossett Jr. in 1985. Picture: Getty

Among his later roles, he played an obstinate patriarch in the 2023 remake of The Colour Purple.

He is survived by sons Satie, a producer-director from his second marriage, and Sharron, a chef whom he adopted after seeing the seven-year-old in a TV segment on children in desperate situations. His first cousin is actor Robert Gossett.

Gossett's first marriage to Hattie Glascoe was annulled. His second, to Christina Mangosing, ended in divorce in 1975 as did his third to actor Cyndi James-Reese in 1992.

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