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Canadian actor August Schellenberg, who starred in Free Willy, dies at 77

August Schelleberg cast member in the HBO film "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, " arrives at the premiere of the film in Los Angeles in this file photo taken May 10, 2007. Best known for playing Native American roles in films such as "Free Willy" and "The New World, " has died after battling lung cancer, his manager said on Thursday. He was 77.

Chris Pizzello/REUTERS

Montreal-born actor August Schellenberg, who starred in the "Free Willy" films, has died at his Dallas home after a fight with lung cancer. He was 77.

The actor's agent, Jamie Levitt, says Schellenberg died Thursday surrounded by his family.

Schellenberg appeared in numerous television roles and was in all three "Free Willy" movies. In 2007, he was nominated for an Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie for his role as Chief Sitting Bull in "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee."

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Levitt says one of Schellenberg's last notable works was in 2012, playing the lead in an all-aboriginal production of Shakespeare's "King Lear" at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

On Friday, the NAC said it had lowered its flag at the entrance to the building in honour of Schellenberg.

In a statement, the centre called him "one of Canada's greatest actors" who "had a profound impact on the cultural life of the country."

Schellenberg graduated from the National Theatre School in 1966 and has appeared in productions at the Shaw and Stratford festivals and numerous American theatre festivals.

He lived in Toronto until 1995.

Levitt described Schellenberg as a loving family man and an iconic Canadian actor.

Schellenberg is survived by his wife, actress Joan Karasevich, and his three daughters.

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