Eli Wallach, an early practitioner of Method acting who made a lasting impression as the scuzzy bandit Tuco in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” died on Tuesday at the age of 98, the New York Times reported.
Wallach’s death was confirmed by his daughter Katherine, the newspaper said. The circumstances of his death were not immediately known, and representatives for Wallach did not immediately return requests for comment.
Having grown up the son of Polish Jewish immigrants in an Italian-dominated neighborhood in New York, Wallach might have seemed like an unlikely cowboy, but some of his best work was in Westerns.
Many critics thought his definitive role was Calvera, the flamboyant, sinister bandit chief in “The Magnificent Seven” Others preferred him in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” as Tuco, who was “the ugly,” opposite Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s classic “spaghetti Western.”
Years later, Wallach said strangers would recognize him and start whistling the distinctive theme from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”
Wallach, who was still making movies into his 90s, graduated from the University of Texas, where he picked up the horseback-riding skills that would serve him well in later cowboy roles, and studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse Actors Studio before World War Two broke out.