Bill Cobbs, veteran actor known for roles in ‘Demolition Man’ and ‘Air Bud,’ dead at 90

Bill Cobbs, a veteran Hollywood actor known for roles in “Demolition Man,” “That Thing You Do!” and “Air Bud,” among many others, has died, according to a family member. He was 90.

The news was confirmed by Cobbs’ brother Thomas Cobbs, who wrote on Facebook that the actor died on Tuesday “peacefully at his home in California.”

“A beloved partner, big brother, uncle, surrogate parent, godfather and friend, Bill recently and happily celebrated his 90th birthday surrounded by cherished loved ones,” the post continued.

CNN has reached out to Cobbs’ representatives for further comment.

With a career spanning five decades, Cobbs had nearly 200 film and TV credits, and appeared in many beloved titles including the 1993 action-thriller “Demolition Man” and the Oscar-nominated 1996 classic “That Thing You Do!”

The Cleveland-native’s career began in the mid-1970s when he got his start on the stage, appearing in Broadway productions including “Black Picture Show” and “The First Breeze of Summer.” He also later appeared in stage productions for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

Throughout the ’70s and into the ‘80s, Cobbs’ career took off. He appeared in various TV shows and TV movies including “Good Times,” “The Equalizer,” “One Life to Live” and “Sesame Street.”

He also appeared in a number of films including “The Hitter,” “Trading Places” and the Oscar-winning “The Color of Money.”

In 1987, Cobbs had another big break when he landed the role of The Dutchman opposite the late Dabney Coleman in the ABC sitcom “The Slap Maxwell Story,” appearing in every episode of the show’s single season. He also played Webb Johnson in one episode of the legal drama series “L.A. Law” that same year.

(From left) Mickey Rooney, Dick Van Dyke and Bill Cobbs in 'Night at the Museum.' - 20th Century Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection
(From left) Mickey Rooney, Dick Van Dyke and Bill Cobbs in 'Night at the Museum.' - 20th Century Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection

The 1990s were a dynamic period for Cobbs. Appearing alongside Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, Cobbs played the role of Devaney in the 1992 Oscar-nominated thriller “The Bodyguard.”

He appeared in the 1993 sci-fi thriller “Demolition Man,” alongside Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes and Sandra Bullock. In 1996, Cobbs played a fictional jazz pianist in the musical comedy “That Thing You Do!” starring Tom Hanks, Liv Tyler and Steve Zahn.

The following year, he portrayed Arthur Chaney in the beloved family-friendly movie “Air Bud,” about a Golden Retriever who plays on a high school basketball team.

On TV, Cobbs had one-off roles in classic shows throughout the ‘90s including “ER,” “The Sopranos,” “The Wayans Bros.” and “Northern Exposure.” He was also a series regular on the first season of “The Gregory Hines Show.”

He went on to appear in a number of additional iconic TV shows of the aughts, including “Six Feet under,” “The West Wing,” “The Drew Carey Show” “NYPD Blue” and “JAG.” In 2006, he played Reginald in the Shawn Levy-directed “Night at the Museum” and went on to reprise the character in the 2014 sequel “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.”

In 2013, Cobbs played Master Tinker in the cinematic adaptation of “Oz The Great and Powerful,” based on author L. Frank Baum’s “Oz” books.

Cobbs in 2020 appeared on the TVOKids children’s series “Dino Dana,” which won him a Daytime Emmy for outstanding limited performance in a daytime program. His final acting credit came in 2023, when he appeared on the TV mini-series “Incandescent Love.”

Cobbs’ passion for acting never waned throughout his decades-long career.

“I enjoy what I do, I really enjoy it,” he said in a 2012 interview. “It’s exciting to have a project and work on it and see it come to fruition, so I can find joy doing this so much.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

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