James Michael Tyler, Gunther on Friends, dies aged 70

Actor had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and died in his sleep on Wednesday, his agent said James Michael Tyler, the British actor who played Gunther on the hit US sitcom Friends, has died…

James Michael Tyler, Gunther on Friends, dies aged 70

Actor had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and died in his sleep on Wednesday, his agent said

James Michael Tyler, the British actor who played Gunther on the hit US sitcom Friends, has died aged 70.

Tyler, who also appeared in the film Blade Runner 2049 and TV shows Gomer Pyle USMC and Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, died in his sleep on Wednesday in Los Angeles.

A representative for the actor said he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer earlier this year, “and unfortunately the cancer spread to his lungs”.

In a statement, his agent, Marilyn Bergman, said Tyler was “one of the kindest, gentlest people I have ever known”.

“He will be remembered for his memorable performances on screen and his kindness, generosity and integrity in life,” she said.

On Twitter, Friends star Matthew Perry described Tyler as a “wonderful” actor.

Matthew Perry (@MatthewPerry) Part of what made Gunther so great was the way he portrayed a world with very little, yet felt. #jamesmichaeltyler

Friends ran for 10 seasons from 1994 to 2004, with Tyler playing the clubman Gunther. Throughout the series he quipped to members of Central Perk, the coffeehouse where Friends stars Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer often gathered.

The character of Gunther, who wielded a sign reading “I see dead people”, became a recurring on-screen gag.

Throughout the series Tyler had to endure the nickname “Gunther”, after Gunther III in the movie Gunsmoke. He requested an on-screen retraction when the news of his passing broke.

James Michael Tyler in a scene from the TV show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. Photograph: NBCU Photo Bank/Rex/Shutterstock

“I am truly humbled by the love and support I have received today,” Tyler said in a statement. “It means so much to me – and gives me the inspiration to carry on living the life I have always wanted to live. I thank everyone for being patient with me during this difficult time and I would ask that you respect my privacy as I recover from this illness.”

He was born James Michael Tyler in Birkenhead, Merseyside, the second of six children. His family worked on the Liverpool docks and one of his earliest roles was in the soap opera Doctors.

After graduating from Liverpool Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, Tyler starred in the soap Granada as Mark McLean and appeared in some plays.

He left drama school to move to Los Angeles in the late 1970s, and his career picked up quickly with roles in the 1980 film Blade Runner, the Robert Zemeckis film Back to the Future and Kingpin, opposite Wesley Snipes.

He also starred in Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In alongside Andy Kaufman, who later went on to star in HBO’s Entourage.

Tyler also had roles in series including Quantum Leap, The Dukes of Hazzard, and School of Rock.

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