File photo shows Rene Auberjonois at the International Myeloma Foundation 7th Annual Comedy Celebration in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File
Rene Auberjonois, a prolific actor best known for his roles on the television shows Benson and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and his part in the 1970 film M.A.S.H. playing Father Mulcahy, has died aged 79.
The actor died on Sunday at his home in Los Angeles of metastatic lung cancer, his son Remy Auberjonois told The Associated Press.
I am devastated to report that René Auberjonois has just passed away. 79 years.— TREK on the TUBE (@TrekOnTheTube) December 8, 2019
I am truly saddened by his passing and extend my love and best wishes to his family, friends and colleagues. I wish I could've met him.
May he forever Rest In Peace.
Live long and prosper. pic.twitter.com/YfBeBOPMFy
Rene Auberjonois worked constantly as a character actor in several golden ages, from the dynamic theatre of the 1960s to the cinema renaissance of the 1970s to the prime period of network television in the 1980s and '90s - and each generation knew him for something different.
It is with deep sadness that we share the loss of another one of our #DS9 family. @reneauberjonois will be remembered for his depth of performance and many contributions to our entertainment community. We are sending all of our love & thanks to his family & friends at this time. pic.twitter.com/865LQbbWsZ— The DS9 Documentary (@DS9Doc) December 8, 2019
For film fans of the 1970s, he was Father John Mulcahy, the military chaplain who played straight man to the doctors' antics in M.A.S.H. It was his first significant film role and the first of several for director Robert Altman.
For sitcom watchers of the 1980s, he was Clayton Runnymede Endicott III, the hopelessly highbrow chief of staff at a governor's mansion on Benson, the ABC series whose title character was a butler played by Robert Guillaume.
And for sci-fi fans of the 1990s and convention-goers ever since, he was Odo, the shape-shifting Changeling and head of space-station security on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
"I am all of those characters, and I love that," Auberjonois said in a 2011 interview with the Star Trek website.
I am so horribly sad to report that the wonderful #ReneAuberjonois has passed away. Such a talented, kind man. Everyone who ever met him would tell you the same. I am so sorry for everyone’s loss.https://t.co/878sFuJfCF— Andrew Keates 🎄 (@andrewkeates) December 8, 2019
Auberjonois was born in New York in 1940, the son of Fernand Auberjonois, Swiss-born foreign correspondent for US newspapers, and the grandson of a Swiss post-impressionist painter also named Rene Auberjonois.
The younger Rene Auberjonois was raised in New York, Paris, and London.
After graduating from college at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Institute of Technology Auberjonois joined various theatre companies, eventually landing roles on Broadway in 1968, including playing the Fool in a long-running version of King Lear.
The following year he would play Sebastian Baye opposite Katharine Hepburn in Coco, a play on the life of designer Coco Chanel that would earn him a Tony for best actor in a leading role in a musical.
He would later see Tony nominations for 1973's The Good Doctor, 1984's Big River, and 1989's City of Angels.
In 1970, Auberjonois began his run with Altman, playing Mulcahy in M.A.S.H.
In his most famous exchange from the movie, Sally Kellerman's Margaret Houlihan wonders how such a degenerate doctor as Donald Sutherland's Hawkeye Pierce could reach a position of responsibility in the US Army.
A bible-reading Auberjonois responds, deadpan: "He was drafted."
"I actually made that line up when we were rehearsing the scene," Auberjonois said on the podcast The Gist in 2016. "And it became a kind of an iconic line for the whole film."
The same year he played an off-the-wall ornithologist in Altman's Brewster McCloud, played a saloonkeeper alongside Warren Beatty in the director's western McCabe & Mrs. Miller in 1971 and appeared in Altman's Images in 1972.
He spent much of the rest of the 1970s doing guest spots on TV shows before joining the cast of Benson in its second season in 1980, where he would remain for the rest of the show's seven seasons, playing the patrician political adviser and chronic hypochondriac Endicott.
Much of his later career was spent doing voices for animation, most memorably as the French chef who sings the love song to fish-killing Les Poissons in Disney's 1989 The Little Mermaid.
He played Odo on Deep Space Nine from 1993 until 1998 and became a regular at Star Trek conventions, where he raised money for Doctors Without Borders and signed autographs with a drawing of Odo's bucket, where the character would store himself when he returned to his natural gelatinous state.
Auberjonois was also a regular on the ABC law-firm dramedy Boston Legal from 2004 to 2008.
Late in his career, Auberjonois would work with independent filmmakers including the artful director Kelly Reichardt, for whom he appeared in 2016's Certain Women and 2019's First Cow, his final role.
Rene Auberjonois was one of those guys who made everything better for as long as I've been watching films and TV. I first fell in love with his work on BENSON. #RIP and much love.— DrewMcWeeny (@DrewMcWeeny) December 8, 2019
He is survived by his wife of 56 years Judith and their two children, Tessa and Remy.
Sad to hear about the passing of René Auberjonois. Rest in peace. 😔 pic.twitter.com/7HGw8Aoz1I— Christian Johannesén (@phatseejay) December 8, 2019
© AP 2019