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Paul D’Amato dead at 76: Actor best known for appearing in The Deer Hunter and Slap Shot passes away after battle with rare brain disease


Actor Paul D’Amato – who inspired the Wolverine comic character and featured in the wedding scene of The Deer Hunter  – died at age 76 Monday following a four-year battle with a rare brain disease, his family said.

He was best known for playing a jaded green Vietnam veteran alongside Robert De Niro in 1978’s Vietnam epic Deer Hunter but also played a range of characters in police TV drama Law and Order.

His fiancée Marina Re told The Hollywood Reporter he was the ‘most wonderful, sweetest guy’ who fought ‘so hard’ against his illness.

It was the late actor’s acting as Tim ‘Dr. Hook’ McCracken in Slap Shot, which also starred Paul Newman that inspired X-Men comic book character Wolverine.

Cartoonist John Byrne said of the star: ‘He just had the look. He had the crazy eyes. And that’s what Wolverine needs to have.’

Actor Paul D'Amato ¿ who was featured in the wedding scene of The Deer Hunter ¿ has died aged 76. Pictured in the 1978 film

Actor Paul D’Amato – who was featured in the wedding scene of The Deer Hunter – has died aged 76. Pictured in the 1978 film 

The actor was also known  for his role as Tim 'Dr. Hook' McCracken in Slap Shot

The actor was also known  for his role as Tim ‘Dr. Hook’ McCracken in Slap Shot 

In his later years, D’Amato worked as a boot fitter in a Vermont ski shop and is survived by his sister Andrea and girlfriend Marina Re. 

Born in Worcester and later raised in Spencer, Massachusetts, D’Amato started working as a stage-hand when he was about 14, which inspired him to become an actor.

D’Amato was both an athlete and actor and appeared in theatre productions and on the ice hockey team while attending Emerson College in Boston.

D’Amato told Worcester Magazine in 2014 that his experience on the hockey ice opened the door for his stint in Slap Shot.

‘I got a call from my agent, “You play hockey right? Do you still skate?” I said I did,’ he told the publication.

D’Amato said he had an audition at the local venue Sky Rink upon learning ‘Paul Newman is doing a hockey film.’

The actor described the audition for the comedy, which also starred Strother Martin, Michael Ontkean and Jerry Houser.

‘At the audition I look out, they’re already on the ice but they can’t skate and my heart almost leapt out of my chest because I realized at that point I had a shot, that I was better than these guys,’ he said.

It was the late actor's acting as Dr. Hook Tim McCracken in Slap Shot that inspired X-Men comic book character Wolverine

It was the late actor’s acting as Dr. Hook Tim McCracken in Slap Shot that inspired X-Men comic book character Wolverine 

D'Amato told Worcester Magazine in 2014 that his experience on the hockey ice opened the door for his stint in Slap Shot

D’Amato told Worcester Magazine in 2014 that his experience on the hockey ice opened the door for his stint in Slap Shot 

The premise of the film saw Paul Newman as Reggie, the player-coach of Charlestown Chiefs, a minor league hockey team based out of Pennsylvania that played violently to boost its popularity.

Prior to Slap Shot, D’Amato had appeared in two roles: in the 1973 Clint Eastwood movie Magnum Force and on an episode of the TV series Code R in 1977.

D’Amato’s character was a member of the opposing team in the film’s championship contest. 

He recalled his thrill in working opposite the Hollywood icon Newman, who died in 2008.

‘I gotta tell you, first line I ever had in a movie – first job, first line – I’m looking at my idol Butch Cassidy, I’m looking at the guy that did Cool Hand Luke, I’m looking at the guy who did The Sting and I have to look him in the eye and say, “Dunlop! You s*** c***!”‘ he said.

He continued, ‘I was a little nervous. Working with Newman was like working with a friend. He was great, he was accessible. He was that easy.’

The actor was hailed by friends, fans and peers on social media upon news of his death: D’Amato’s costar in 1977 ice hockey comedy drama Slap Shot Steve Carlson also confirmed the news of his death in a post on X.

Carlson said: ‘RIP Paul D’Amato. ‘Sending heartfelt condolences to Family and fellow friends, actors.’ 

The actor was hailed by friends, fans and peers on social media upon news of his death

The actor was hailed by friends, fans and peers on social media upon news of his death

D’Amato continued his career with roles on both Law & Order and Law & Order: Criminal Intent throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. 

He most recently appeared on an upside of the ABC dramatic comedy The Unusuals in 2009. 

D’Amato also appeared in a string of benefit golf tournaments and sports gatherings, including the Enfield tournament, which he played in for about 10 years and raised funds for scholarships.



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