Dallas, TX - Actor Larry Hagman, 81, whom fans for decades confused with J.R. Ewing, the conniving character he so convincingly played on TV's Dallas, died Friday in the Texas city that made him a household name.
Hagman had been battling cancer for the past year, having announced his diagnosis just as he began work on the soap-opera reboot for TNT.
A statement released to the Dallas Morning News by the actor's family noted, "Larry's family and close friends had joined him in Dallas for the Thanksgiving holiday. When he passed, he was surrounded by loved ones. It was a peaceful passing, just as he had wished for. The family requests privacy at this time."
Hagman relished the chance to reprise his best-known character. "Of course it's fun to play the villain," Hagman told USA TODAY in 2011 while filming an episode of the new Dallas, which returned to television earlier this year after a 20-year absence. "I don't understand why people love J.R. so much, but it's not just America, it's all over the place. France, England. Ireland. In Germany they have this amazing core of people who follow my career."
Hagman, like the scheming oil baron J.R., the star of the prime time soap opera which aired from 1978 to 1991, was a Texan. He was born in Forth Worth in 1931. His father, Ben Hagman, was a district attorney and his mother, Mary Martin, was a renowned Broadway actress.
Hagman, who became a household name for playing J.R., said for years he would remind people that he wasn't J.R., but that later in life, he changed his attitude. "I used to say, 'No, I'm not J.R.,' but I don't now. When people think I'm J.R., I play up to that."
Though best known for his work on Dallas, Hagman, who graduated from Bard College and served in the Air Force, also appeared on the daytime soap opera Edge of Night from 1961-63. In 1954 he wed Maj Axelsson, with whom he had two children, daughter Heidi Kristina and son Preston.
He credited the longevity of his marriage to "two bathrooms," and his ability to live vicariously through J.R.. "I did all my fooling around on screen," he told USA TODAY in 2004.