Actor Treat Williams dies at 71 after motorcycle accident

Treat Williams, a star of stage, television and film, has died in a motorcycle accident, his family said Monday evening. 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 in a statement. “As you can imagine, we are shocked and greatly bereaved at this time.”

Vermont State Police said in a statement that Williams 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; 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 he took the lead role as Danny Zuko. But his real breakthrough was as director Miloš Forman’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 “Law & Order,” “Blue Bloods” and other shows, often as a benevolent-seeming patriarch with just a hint of corruption beneath the surface.

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 Marian and Richard Norman Williams, according to his IMDb bio. He went from prep school to Pennsylvania’s Franklin and Marshall College, where he dived into the world of stage and screen.

His summers were spent immersed in stage classics at Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, the bio says. Williams’ later success meant free time could be spent flying, and he 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.”

Former Baltimore Sun journalist David Simon, the creator of “We Own This City,” said he was honored when Williams signed on to the show.

“After years of cop reporting, ‘Prince Of The City’ was the only film that made me believe anyone else knew the truth about the drug war,” he tweeted. “So honored when Treat Williams signed on to deliver our own, later critique of the disaster. RIP to a legendary actor and a fine, gracious man.”

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. “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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