Louis Gossett Jr., 87, Dies; ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ and ‘Roots’ Actor

Louis Gossett Jr., who took home an Academy Award for “An Officer and a Gentleman” and an Emmy for “Roots,” both times playing a mature man who guides a younger one taking on a new role — but in drastically different circumstances — died early Friday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 87.

Mr. Gossett’s first cousin Neal L. Gossett confirmed the death.

Mr. Gossett was 46 when he played Emil Foley, the Marine drill instructor from hell who ultimately shapes the humanity of an emotionally damaged young Naval aviation recruit (Richard Gere) — in “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982). Reviewing the movie in The New York Times, Vincent Canby described Sergeant Foley as a cruel taskmaster “recycled as a man of recognizable cunning, dedication and humor” revealed in “the kind of performance that wins awards.”

Mr. Gossett with Susan Sarandon and Christopher Reeve after winning the Oscar for “An Officer and a Gentleman” in 1983.Credit…Associated Press

Mr. Gossett told The Times that he had recognized the role’s worth immediately. “The words just tasted good,” he recalled.

When he accepted the 1983 best supporting actor Oscar, he was the first Black performer to win in that category — and only the third (after Hattie McDaniel and Sidney Poitier) to win an Academy Award for acting.

A full obituary will follow.

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