Prolific character actor Jason Wingreen, best known for playing a bartender on All in the Family and voicing Boba Fett in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, has died at age 95. He passed away in his Los Angeles home on Christmas Day.
A look at Wingreen’s IMDb page shows that the actor had nearly 200 screen credits throughout his storied career from 1955 until the mid-1990s. His most prominent and prolonged role was as Harry Snowden, the popular bartender at Kelsey’s Bar, which was frequented and later purchased by his friend Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) on All in the Family and spin-off series Archie Bunker’s Place. He appeared in 117 episodes across seven seasons between 1976 and 1983.
The actor also notably voiced Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. He received four lines of dialogue as the mysterious bounty hunter hired by Darth Vader after auditioning for the role of Yoda that would go to Frank Oz. However, he never received credit for the role, and received no residuals for the performance, despite the fact that his voice was also used for several Boba Fett action figures. His voice work in the film was not publicly known until decades later, and he was subsequently dubbed over for the Blu-ray and DVD versions of Empire Strikes Back. He was replaced by Temeura Morrison, who portrayed Boba’s father Jango Fett in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
In a 2010 interview Wingreen did with the Classic TV History blog — in which he admitted he had “no love for George Lucas” – the actor explained how the discovery that he voiced Boba Fett came about, and how the revelation had changed his life:
“My sister’s grandson was in a chatroom on the internet, and he happened to mention to some friends of his that his grandmother’s brother did the voice of Boba Fett. The word got around, because then I got a phone call from the editor of the [Star Wars] Insider magazine. He said, ‘Is it true that you did the voice of Boba Fett?’ I said, ‘Yes, I did. That’s my voice up there. I have the contract, too.’ He said, ‘Can I check with the Lucas people, and then I’d like to have an interview with you for the magazine.’ He did, and that’s what did it. That would have been in the year 2000. That’s what started the whole thing that’s given me this cottage industry that I’ve got here… Almost every day brings something. The other day, I signed a photo of Boba Fett for a little girl in Poland. It gives me something to do with my life. Otherwise I wouldn’t do very much, except existing.”
Wingreen, the son of a Jewish tailor, was born on October 9th, 1920 in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Queens. He wanted to pursue becoming a sportswriter but fell in love with acting while attending Brooklyn College. The WWII veteran’s first job in the entertainment industry was with a marionette company, and he would later co-found the Circle in the Square theater company. He acted in two Broadway plays in 1954 before starring in the first episode of CBS’ Playhouse 90, which was penned by famed screenwriter and TV producer Rod Serling. Wingreen would later appear in three episodes of Serling’s classic anthology series The Twilight Zone, including ‘A Stop at Willoughby’ and ‘The Midnight Sun.’
He worked steadily throughout the 1960s and 70s with TV roles in The Untouchables, The Outer Limits, The Fugitive, Ironside, Mission: Impossible and Star Trek, playing Dr. Linke in the season 3 episode ‘The Empath,’ making him one of the few actors to be involved in both Star Wars and Star Trek. He later played a doctor in the popular parody film Airplane! in 1980. Wingreen retired from acting in the 1990s after roles on Matlock, Seinfeld, and In the Heat of the Night — again opposite O’Connor.
He is survived by his son, Ned, two grandchildren and his sister Harriet Wingreen, a former orchestra pianist for the New York City Philharmonic. All of us here at Screen Rant extend our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.
R.I.P. Jason Wingreen: October 9th, 1920 – December 25th, 2015.