Larry Hagman was a character on screen and off

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    Larry Hagman: 1931 - 2012

    Actor Larry Hagman, famous for his role in 'Dallas' as J.R. Ewing, died at the age of 81 from complications with cancer.

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    Actor Larry Hagman, who found worldwide fame in his role as J.R. Ewing in the American soap opera "Dallas," died Nov. 23 at the age of 81.

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  • Larry Hagman: 1931 - 2012

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    Actress Mary Martin (1914 - 1990) went over songs from "South Pacific" with her son Larry Hagman. Both Martin and Hagman appeared in the show.

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    Betta St. John and Larry Hagman wore exotic costumes during a stage show in 1952.

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    Hagman filmed a scene on location at North American Aviation's Space Division in Downey, Calif., in 1965 for "I Dream of Jeannie."

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    Barbara Eden with her co-star Larry Hagman in a scene for "I Dream of Genie" in 1967.

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    A still from the TV series "Dallas" shows Larry Hagman, who played John Ross "J.R." Ewing Jr., as he sat in a lawnchair dressed in a waistcoat and Stetson, June 1982. Hagman was initially reluctant to be on "Dallas" when he first read the script in the late 1970s.

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    Maj and Larry Hagman paused for photographers outside Le Bistro in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Saturday, Nov. 7, 1981, where they joined other celebrities during a dinner hosted by former President Gerald Ford and his wife in honor of Jordan's King Hussein and Queen Noor.

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    Larry Hagman, pictured in October 1983. Hagman created one of American television's most supreme villains in the conniving, amoral oilman J.R. Ewing on "Dallas."

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    Irish television chat show host and radio broadcaster Terry Wogan with Larry Hagman, who played J.R. on "Dallas." At the time, "Who Shot JR?" was the burning question on the lips of a nation of soap addicts.

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    Larry Hagman lent his support to SAG actors on strike on Aug. 7, 2000, outside the Hollywood Paladium in Hollywood, Calif.

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    Larry Hagman onstage at the 2006 TV Land Awards at the Barker Hangar on March 19, 2006, in Santa Monica, Calif.

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    Larry Hagman posed in front of the Southfork Ranch mansion made famous in the television show, "Dallas," in Parker, Texas, Thursday Oct. 9, 2008.

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  • Image: File photo of Hagman riding a horse as he arrives for a VIP preview party for the Collection of Larry Hagman at Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills

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    Larry Hagman rode a horse as he arrived for a VIP preview party for the Collection of Larry Hagman at Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills, June 1, 2011.

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    Hagman's personal antiques, fine and decorative art, furniture, and memorabilia from the classic 1980's primetime soap opera "Dallas" were on display on May 23, 2011, before being offered for auction in a sale held at Julien's Auctions Gallery in Beverly Hills, Calif. on June 4, 2011.

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  • Image: Hagman holds his Lazarini Cominazo antique shotgun during a preview of the auction "The Collection of Larry Hagman" in Beverly Hills

    Larry Hagman: 1931 - 2012

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    Hagman posed with his Lazarini Cominazo antique shotgun during a preview of the auction "The Collection of Larry Hagman" in Beverly Hills.

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    Larry Hagman posed with his "Dallas" co-star Linda Gray in Hollywood on April 12, 2012.

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"Dallas" made Larry Hagman a star, and the latest TNT reboot of the classic show brought him back home to the role and the city he loved.

In January, Hagman appeared at the 2012 Television Critics Association's winter press tour to promote "Dallas" 2.0. There, he was doing what he did best – telling a good story. This one was about an old woman coming up to him during his original “Dallas” years, when his character, the villain J.R. Ewing, was one of the most popular personalities on television:

“She was in a walker and she came up and said, ‘You rascal, you. Treating Sue Ellen like that!’ and she hit me with her handbag and she knocked me off my chair,” said Hagman, who then got an apology from the woman. “ 'Oh, my husband died recently and I have his pearl-handled six shooter in my bag.' Only time I was pistol-whipped.”

The Fort Worth native's eyebrows were a bit bushier and his face a little more lined than in his younger days, but he still had that mischievous twinkle in his eyes as he talked to reporters about reprising his role as the most notorious bad guy on television in the new “Dallas.”

He was 80 years old then, and he had just announced he was dealing with throat cancer.

The actor died Nov. 23 at age 81 from complications from his battle with the disease. His family -- including wife Maj Axelsson, whom he married in 1954 -- was by his side in Dallas, where he was working on season two of the revival. Axelsson was the one who convinced him to take on the role of J.R. Ewing because, as she told Hagman, "there isn't one redeeming character in the whole script."

“Even though ‘(I Dream of) Jeannie’ is on everywhere on cable, only the older folks remember me from that,” Hagman said of his character, Maj. Anthony Nelson, at TCA. “But everyone remembers J.R. Ewing and ‘Dallas.’ ” 

He said people love the nasty guy for a very basic reason: “Everybody has a jerk like this in the family. That’s what makes him so appealing. Everybody knows who he is.”

A character in real life

The actor’s eccentric ways were well known. He once appeared as a guest at the annual TCA awards show wearing a suit that looked like something he wore back in the day when shooting “Dallas” during its epic 1978-1991 run.

Turned out it was.

And as he chatted with reporters before the ceremony, he talked about grabbing the old suit out of his closet to wear. He then fished out an elaborate pillbox from his pocket.

“Victoria (Principal) gave this to me for Christmas one year,” Hagman said of his “Dallas” co-star. “I must have put it in my pocket that night and I forgot what I did with it. Now it’s like I have a new present from her.”

Earlier in his career, Hagman started observing a silent day once a week. He would not speak to anyone for 24 hours.

“I did it because I was doing ‘Jeannie’ and I would go out and party on the weekend. I was at a rodeo with all the dust and horse s--- blowing around and I got a sore throat,” Hagman told reporters. “My doctor told me not to talk for the rest of the weekend and I liked it so much, I did it for one day each week for the next 20 years.

“It was a great way to get a lot of attention,” he explained. “People are brought into your bubble and they have to concentrate on you in order to communicate. I loved it.”

Though the actor was diagnosed with liver cancer in 1995 and later underwent a liver transplant after years of heavy drinking, Hagman never expected to live forever, just to live the life he had.

“I’m never bored. I’m back in the role I loved, doing what I love and with the people I love,” Hagman said of resurrecting J.R. for the “Dallas” reboot. “I’m having a great time.”

The actor filmed six of 15 episodes for the second season of TNT's "Dallas" reboot before he passed away. The new season premieres on Jan. 28.

What will you remember most about the actor's roles? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

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