Anthony James, who starred opposite Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven, died of cancer on Tuesday

By Alexia Fernández
May 28, 2020 06:22 PM
Anthony James
Anthony James in Unforgiven
| Credit: Warner Bros

Actor Anthony James, who starred opposite Clint Eastwood in 1992’s Unforgiven, has died. He was 77.

James, who was born James Anthony, died two months short of his 78th birthday due to cancer, according to his obituary.

The actor was best known for playing villains in films and TV shows, many of them westerns.

After graduating from high school, James "persuaded his mother that they had to go to Hollywood," his obituary reads. "With almost no money, the two of them took a train to L.A. His mother cleaned houses and Jimmy got a 'scholarship' to an acting class which he paid for by cleaning bathrooms."

His breakthrough came with the 1967 Norman Jewison film In the Heat of the Night when he was 26.

That film was awarded an Academy Award for Best Picture the following year, beating out The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

He followed that appearance up guest-starring roles in Hawaii Five-O, The High Chaparral, Bonanza, The Rookies, Charlie’s Angels and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

anthony james
Anthony James in 1976's Burnt Offerings
| Credit: Everette Collection

James retired from acting in the early 1990s, with his last film role in Eastwood’s Unforgiven, which won an Academy Award for Best Picture in 1993. James played Skinny Dubois, the irritable and contentious owner of a brothel.

Notably, his first and last major film appearances were in Oscar-winning films.

After retiring, James moved to New England where he focused on painting, which he sold to galleries in Boston, New York, Japan and other locations, according to his obituary.

James was also a published poet, publishing a book of his paintings and poems, Language of the Heart, in 1994. In 2014, he also wrote a memoir, Acting My Face.

The actor is survived by a close group of friends, having never married or had children. In lieu of flowers, donations in Anthony’s memory are asked to be given to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).