Star Trek: Deep Space Nine actor Rene Auberjonois has died, aged 79.
The prolific character actor, who also starred in sitcom Benson and Robert Altman film MASH (1970), died of metastatic lung cancer at his home in Los Angeles, his son Remy-Luc Auberjonois told PA.
Auberjonois' career spanned five decades, beginning with theatre in the 1960s before moving on to films in the 1970s and television shows in the 1980s.
He frequently collaborated with Altman, starring in his films McCabe & Mrs Miller (1971) and Images (1972).
In Benson – the ABC series whose title character was a butler played by Robert Guillaume – he played Clayton Runnymede Endicott III, the chief of staff at a governor’s mansion.
For science-fiction fans and convention-goers ever since, he was Odo, the shape-shifting Changeling and head of space-station security on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
“I am all of those characters, and I love that,” Auberjonois said in a 2011 interview with the Star Trek website.
“I also run into people, and they think I’m their cousin or their dry cleaner. I love that, too.”
Auberjonois' Star Trek family, including his Boston Legal co-star William Shatner and George Takei, led tributes to the actor.
Takei called the actor's death "a real loss," writing: "Star Trek fans knew him as Odo from Deep Space Nine. We knew him as Rene. He was a wonderful, caring, and intelligent man. He shall be missed. When I look out to the stars, I shall think of you, friend."
This is a terrible loss. Star Trek fans knew him as Odo from Deep Space Nine. We knew him as René. He was a wonderful, caring, and intelligent man. He shall be missed. When I look out to the stars, I shall think of you, friend. https://t.co/IE2gtivRcg— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei)December 8, 2019
Shatner wrote: "To sum up his life in a tweet is nearly impossible. To Judith, Tessa & Remy I send you my love and strength. I will keep you in my thoughts and remember a wonderful friendship with Rene."
I have just heard about the death of my friend and fellow actor @reneauberjonois. To sum up his life in a tweet is nearly impossible. To Judith, Tessa & Remy I send you my love & strength. I will keep you in my thoughts and remember a wonderful friendship with René.— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner)December 8, 2019
Other stars to pay tribute include Gates McFadden, Larry Nemecek, Robert Hewitt Wolfe and Armin Shimerman.
@reneauberjonois You were a spectacular artist from Altman film IMAGES to Star Trek:DS9 and the million performances in between. A devoted family man, a visual artist, and loving and loves le human being. Thanks for showing the world how to do it. #love #admiration— Gates McFadden (@gates_mcfadden)December 8, 2019
— Larry Nemecek (@larrynemecek)December 8, 2019
It is with great heartache and loss I share with you the passing of dear,dear Rene Auberjonois.His last message to me was entitled "Don't forget..." I know that I,Kitty,and all that knew him will never forget.The world seems noticeably emptier now. I loved him.— Armin Shimerman (@ShimermanArmin)December 8, 2019
When Rene was cast as Odo, he joked "I hope #DS9 will replace Benson on my tombstone." He will be remembered for both, for Boston Legal, for The Little Mermaid, & so much more. His portrayal of Odo, under all that latex, was subtle, emotional, & astounding. One of the greats. pic.twitter.com/Z6YzC5xgMh— Robert Hewitt Wolfe (@writergeekrhw)December 8, 2019
Auberjonois' was born in New York in 1940, the son of Fernand Auberjonois, Swiss-born foreign correspondent for US newspapers, and the grandson of a Swiss post-impressionist painter also named Rene Auberjonois.
After graduating from college at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie Mellon, Auberjonois hopped around the country joining theatre companies, eventually landing three roles on Broadway in 1968, including playing the Fool in a long-running version of King Lear.
The following year he would play Sebastian Baye opposite Katharine Hepburn in Coco, a play on the life of designer Coco Chanel that would earn him a Tony for best actor in a leading role in a musical.
He received Tony nominations for 1973’s The Good Doctor, 1984’s Big River, and 1989’s City of Angels.
Auberjonois' other film credits include the 1976 version of King Long, mystery thriller The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) and Certain Women (2016).
Additional reporting by Agencies