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Clarence Gilyard, 'Top Gun' and 'Die Hard' actor, dead at 66

Gilyard's career spanned more than 30 years across both tv and movie screens, as well as the theater.

WASHINGTON — Clarence Gilyard, the actor known for playing officer Marcus "Sundown" Williams in "Top Gun" and Theo the computer hacker in "Die Hard" has died. He was 66. 

Gilyard's death was announced by the University of Nevada Las Vegas College of Fine Arts, where he worked as a film and theatre professor. 

No cause of death was given, but the Las Vegas Review-Journal said he had been suffering from a long illness.  

"It is with profound sadness that I share this news," Dean Nancy Uscher said in a statement posted to Instagram. "His students were deeply inspired by him, as were all who knew him. He had many extraordinary talents and was extremely well-known in the university through his dedication to teaching and his professional accomplishments."

Gilyard began working in film in 1981 after studying theatre arts at CSU Dominguez Hills. His first role was on the TV sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes." 

In 1986, Gilyard moved to the silver screen, debuting as Sundown in Top Gun and acting alongside Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer. 

In 1988, he was cast as Theo, the hacker who helps Hans Gruber's terrorist group in Die Hard. 

Gilyard also continued acting for television, as Conrad McMasters in the 1989 legal drama "Matlock" and as Jimmy Trivette in "Walker, Texas Ranger." 

Up until his death, Gilyard was a professor of stage and screen acting/film for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. While teaching, he remained active as an actor, director and producer. 

"Professor Gilyard was a beacon of light and strength for everyone around him at UNLV," said UNLV film chair Heather Addison in the statement. "Whenever we asked him how he was, he would cheerfully declare that he was 'Blessed!' But we are truly the ones who were blessed to be his colleagues and students for so many years. We love you and will miss you dearly, Professor G!"

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