Wilford Brimley, best known for his supporting roles in 'The Firm', 'Hard Target', and 'Cocoon', has passed away at the age of 85.

Like most actors of his calibre and generation, Brimley had a colourful life before he began acting. A high-school dropout who joined the US Marines, Brimley worked as a bodyguard for Howard Hughes, before finding work as a stunt horse rider, owing to his skills as a ranch hand and blacksmith. His best friend, Oscar-winning actor Robert Duvall, urged him to give acting a go.

Brimley's first foray into screen work was on the seminal '70s TV show 'The Waltons', followed by a supporting role in 'The China Syndrome', where he played one of the nuclear workers that worked alongside Jack Lemmon's character. He also had a short but significant appearance in 'Absence of Malice', which was later parodied in a scene in 'Seinfeld'. Brimley had a number of supporting roles throughout the '80s, most notably in John Carpenter's 'The Thing', where he played Blair, the camp's biologist.

His best-known role came in Ron Howard's 'Cocoon', where he played a member of a retirement community who finds an alien egg that reinvigorates them simply by swimming in a pool where they're stored. Brimley was almost twenty years younger than his co-stars at 49, and dyed his moustache and hair grey to look older than he was.

Brimley also starred in 'The Firm', where he played the mob-associated firm's head of security, and in John Woo's US debut movie, 'Hard Target', starring alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme and Lance Henriksen. He was also known in the US for starring in a number of commercials about medical products and raising awareness of diabetes, also.

Brimley is survived by his second wife and his four children.