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Maury Chaykin as Desmond Howl in 1994's Whale Music

D. Curran

Maury Chaykin, one of Canada's most versatile and beloved character actors, has died at age 61 in Toronto.

Chaykin was most recently seen in the hit TV comedy Less Than Kind.

Film director Atom Egoyan, in five of whose films Chaykin appeared, said he was "devastated" by the news of his passing. "He was an incredible privilege to work with - so full of possibilities, anger, range, humour, life, contradiction."

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Indeed, what often made Chaykin's acting so interesting to watch was a sense of unpredictability about how his character would respond in any situation. He always seemed to be able to find a novel twist - with a look, or body language or a line reading.

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Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to an American father and Canadian mother, Chaykin studied drama in New York and Buffalo and moved to Toronto in the mid-1970s. His resumé references more than 150 roles in film and television, testimony to his ability to create memorable, idiosyncratic characters even in the smallest of parts.

Among his more memorable creations were detective Nero Wolfe in the TV series of the same name; the mad Major Farnbrough in Kevin Costner's Dances With Wolves; the rock musician Desmond Howl in Whale Music, for which he won a Genie Award; and as union boss Hal Banks in the TV film Canada's Sweetheart: The Saga of Hal C. Banks.

More recently, Chaykin appeared in the hit HBO series Entourage as Harvey Weingard, a character based on film mogul Harvey Weinstein; and as Sam Blecher, a driving instructor in Mark McKinney's Less Than Kind.

Chaykin is survived by his wife, actress Susannah Hoffmann, and their daughter, Rose.

Note to readers: A full obituary will follow.

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