Fred Willard

  1. Robert Hays, Airplane!  1980.    Tested for the central role of the pilot afraid of flying in the Zucker brothers’ spoof of Zero Hour!1957.  Also considered: Chevy Chase, David Letterman (no kidding!), Barry Manilow (honestly, I don’t make these things up), Bill Murray, and Robert Wuhl. Plus Willard, honest enough to explain:  “I didn’t understand it!”
  2. Frank Bonner, Spencer, TV, 1984.    Know the face, not the name –  that can prove frustrating for actors, as well.  Like poor Willard being fired after the first  pilot for not being Bonner!  It was during rehearsals in his role of George Winger, that Willard worked out that the production team had mistaken him for Bonner. After the second pilot with Bonner, Ronny Cox took over  for the full 13 episodes – the lead, Chad Lowe, having quit after seven.


Fred Willard was the funniest person that I’ve ever worked with. He was a sweet, wonderful man. – Steve Carell.

I’m at a loss for words, a state Fred Willard never found himself in. My friend for 40+ years, a great comic actor who had no competition because there was only one of him. We were all so lucky. Goodbye, Fred – Michael McKean

 Birth year: 1933Death year: 2020Other name: Casting Calls:  2