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Actor Treat Williams dies at 71 after motorcycle accident

The actor’s work spanned stage, film and television, from the Broadway production “Grease” to the film “Hair” and series “Everwood.”
/ Source: NBC News

Treat Williams, a star of stage, television, and film, has died in a motorcycle accident, his family said Monday evening in a statement. He was 71.

“It is with great sadness that we report that our beloved Treat Williams has passed away tonight in Dorset, Vermont after a fatal motorcycle accident,” his family said. “As you can imagine, we are shocked and greatly bereaved at this time.”

Vermont State Police said in a statement the actor was critically injured in Dorset about 4:53 p.m. Monday when a Honda SUV turned in front of him, ending in a collision that threw Williams from his 1986 Honda motorcycle.

He was taken to Albany Medical Center in Albany, New York, where he was pronounced dead, state police said.

The driver of the SUV, who was uninjured, was not cited, but an investigation into the collision was ongoing, police said.

Williams recently guest starred in HBO’s “We Own This City,” a drama about corruption in Baltimore that was aired and streamed this spring. In 2016, he played the title character in the theatrical and streaming release of “The Congressman.”

He developed as an actor’s actor by starting as an understudy for the Broadway hit “Grease” in the 1970s before taking the lead role as Danny Zuko. But his real breakthrough was as director Milos Foreman’s hippie character, George Berger, in a defining film of the counterculture, “Hair,” in 1979.

That opened the door to roles in countless films, including Steven Spielberg’s “1941,” Sidney Lumet’s “Prince of the City,” Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in America,” and John Erman’s adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ classic “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

In his television career, Williams had roles on shows including “Law & Order” and “Blue Bloods,” often as a benevolent-seeming patriarch with just a hint of corruption beneath the surface.

LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT -- "Spiraling Down" Episode 1310 -- Pictured: Treat Williams as Jake Stanton -- Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Treat Williams as Jake Stanton on "Law & Order: SVU."Virginia Sherwood / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images file

More recently he portrayed Dr. Andrew Brown in the WB series “Everwood,” and Brian Grabler, a retired Baltimore police detective in “We Own This City.” In the latter series, he teaches at the police academy and, according to HBO’s news release, “recognizes much of what has gone wrong” with the city’s force.

Williams was born in Rowayton, Connecticut, to parents Marian and Richard Norman Williams, according to his IMDB bio. He went from prep school to Pennsylvania’s Franklin and Marshall College, where he dove into the world of stage and screen.

His summers were spent immersed in stage classics at Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, the bio said. His later success meant free time could be spent flying, and Williams became a licensed pilot and instructor.

In their statement, his family said his loved ones were “beyond devastated.”

“Treat was full of love for his family, for his life and for his craft, and was truly at the top of his game in all of it,” the family said. “It is all so shocking right now, but please know that Treat was dearly and deeply loved and respected by his family and everyone who knew him.”

Williams rejoiced in his earliest film work, saying in a 2011 interview with A.V. Club that “Hair” was “the greatest film experience of my life.”

“It was just really, really fun,” he said of working on the classic. “I loved John Savage and Beverly D’Angelo, and Milos Forman is one of the great filmmakers of all time. That was really an honor to be a part of.”

He is survived by his wife, Pam Van Sant, and their children, Gill Williams and Elinor Williams.

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