Bill Nunn obituary | Film | The Guardian

    Actor Bill Nunn, who died at age 63 of leukemia, was a gentle giant who frequently appeared as a supporting actor in major American films. He was most associated with writer-director Spike Lee, who cast him in four films. The most admired of these was the arsonist Do the Right Thing (1989), set over the course of a hot day in Brooklyn during which racial tensions escalate into violence. nunn played radio raheem, which launches the fight against the power of the public enemy from a sound system bigger than most home stereo systems. With the exception of a memorable speech on the nature of love and hate, he is a brooding and taciturn figure. His death while being strangled by the police takes the image’s climactic riot to another level.

    nunn said at the film’s 25th anniversary two years ago that he was still recognized in public as radio raheem: “It’s something that happens on a daily basis. It was huge for my career. I was just starting out in film and I’ve been working ever since.” He also starred in Lee’s earlier film, The College Campus Musical School Daze (1988), and opposite Denzel Washington in two of the director’s later films: Mo’ Better Blues (1990), about an aspiring trumpeter. jazz, and the basketball drama That Got Game (1998).

    To a wider audience, Nunn was recognized as the physical therapist in relation to Henry (1991) who helps an injured man (Harrison Ford) recover through unorthodox methods, such as dousing his food with hot sauce to make him talk. She also had a recurring role as newspaper stalwart Joseph “Robbie” Robertson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man film trilogy, which began in 2002.

    bill was born in pittsburgh, pennsylvania, the son of william nunn and his wife, frances (nee bell). His father was a journalist who worked his way through the ranks of the Pittsburgh Courier, an African-American newspaper, to become managing editor, before going on to a highly influential career as a scout for the Pittsburgh Steelers; his mother also worked in the courier service. (The newspaper photographer took the wedding photos of him.)

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    nunn was educated at schenley high school, pittsburgh, and morehouse college, a liberal arts campus, in atlanta, georgia, where she studied english. It was while at Morehouse that she accidentally turned to acting after accompanying a friend to an audition for a play. the director asked nun if he would complete the cast. “She said ‘yes,'” her sister, Lynnell, recalled. “So it wasn’t something she was looking for initially, but once she tried it, she fell in love.”

    by the time he graduated in 1976, he had decided to put aside his ambitions to become a writer and focus on acting. He stayed in Atlanta after graduation and was an artist-in-residence at Spelman University. “Fortunately, I never had to do the waiter thing,” he said. “When I got out of college, I immediately started teaching acting. One of the first jobs I had was in a program funded by the federal government where I taught theater to young people.”

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    His early years as an actor were spent on stage. after doing the right thing, screen work got heavy and fast. He appeared in several hits, including the thriller New Jack City (1991) and the comedy Sister Act (1992), in which he played the cop assigned to protect a witness (Whoopi Goldberg) holed up in a convent as a nun. He was also in the naughty neo-noir The Last Seduction (1994), the bizarre crime thriller Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead, Michael Moore’s comedy Canadian Bacon (both 1995), and numerous thrillers, including Extreme Measures (1996). , kiss the girls (1997) and fugitive jury (2003). His most recent screen work was as a paramedic in the American television adaptation (2014-15) of the Channel 4 comedy series Sirens.

    Although he never made a name for himself in film, theater was still important to him. the bill nunn theatrical outreach project, founded in 2008, aimed to connect professional actors with underfunded pittsburgh public school students. part of the project was the annual pittsburgh regional wilson august stand-up competition, named for nunn’s favorite playwright. He starred in one of Wilson’s best-known plays, Fences, in a 2009 production by Huntington Theater Company, Boston.

    He is survived by his wife, Donna, and his daughters, Jessica and Cydney.

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