Tom Bower, Private Eye Turned ‘Die Hard 2’ Star, Dies at 86

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic via Getty Images
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic via Getty Images

Tom Bower, the character actor best known for playing an oddball airport janitor who teams up with John McClane to take down a terrorist cell in Die Hard 2, died last Thursday. He was 86.

Bower died in his sleep at his Los Angeles home, his sister-in-law, Mary Miller, told The Hollywood Reporter. “He was an extraordinary human being,” his manager said in an email to USA Today.

Aside from Die Hard 2, Bower was best known for a 26-episode arc as the physician Dr. Curtis Willard on The Waltons, appearing on the historical drama from 1975 to 1978. He later said he was written off the show after asking for a pay bump.

“I asked for a very small raise, so they sent me to Pearl Harbor,” he explained in a 2022 interview.

Mary McDonough, who played Erin Walton, wrote on social media on Thursday, “Sad to hear we lost our ‘brother in law’ Curt. Rest in peace Tom Bower.”

Bower also enjoyed a stint playing Bob Odenkirk’s father on the AMC series Lucky Hank, which was canceled last December.

Born in Denver, Bower began studying to become an actor after deciding he wasn’t cut out for professional baseball, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He moved to New York City and joined an acting workshop started by aspiring director John Cassavetes. Ten weeks of shooting with a 16mm camera and a lot of improvisation later, Cassavetes had the pieces of his directorial debut, Shadows (1959), which Bower worked on, the trade reported.

He later moved to Boston, where he worked as a private detective in between acting gigs, Miller told The Hollywood Reporter.

“Straight jobs were necessary to provide for a young family and after running the gamut of all kinds of employment endeavors, Tom broke into the field of private investigation and that became his calling card for the next 15 years,” a “mini biography” penned by Bower on his own IMDb page explains.

Bower racked up more than 180 credits to his name over his nearly 50-year career, and continued to work up until last year, when he appeared in both Lucky Hank and the Netflix film We Have a Ghost. His final screen credit will be Hurricanna, a forthcoming drama about Anna Nicole Smith.

He also appeared in shows like Miami Vice, Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, The X-Files, Criminal Minds, The Office, Grey’s Anatomy, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. As a film actor, Bower worked with prominent directors like Oliver Stone, Werner Herzog, and Kevin Costner.

His wife, Ursula, died in August at age 75. The couple, who were married for 51 years, never spent a day apart, Miller told The Hollywood Reporter. Bower’s mini biography notes that he and Ursula, his “true love,” are survived by “a couple of kids” and four grandchildren.

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