William Smith, the iconic badass actor in “Hawaii Five-O” and “Laredo,” died Monday at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills. He was 88 years old.
His wife, Joanne Cervelli Smith, confirmed his death to the Hollywood Reporter. The cause of death is unknown.
Smith was best known for his portrayal of Falconetti in the groundbreaking 1976 miniseries “Rich Man, Poor Man”. The actor has also fought in two of the most memorable brawls in movie history, facing Clint Eastwood in “Any Which Way You Can” in 1980 and Rod Taylor in “Darker Than Amber” in 1970.
In his heyday, the bodybuilder was a champion discus thrower at UCLA, an arm wrestling and boxing champion, and a black belt in martial arts. He had 18-inch biceps and could do 5,100 continuous crunches and 163 pounds of reverse curls – which helped solidify the 6-foot-2 man as one of Hollywood’s legendary badass, with the list of its 289 credits on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb.com).
Smith began his long Hollywood career as a child actor in the 1940s when his family moved from the Dust Bowl to Southern California. He left the town of Tinsel a bit when he enlisted in the military to fight in the Korean War.
Returning to California, Smith continued to work steadily throughout the ’60s and’ 70s, becoming an obvious choice when casting cult biker films such as “Run, Angel, Run!”, “The Losers”, “Angels”. Die Hard “,” CC & Company “,” Chrome and Hot Leather “,” Gentle Savage “and” Eye of the Tiger “.
He played Texas Ranger Joe Riley in “Laredo” on television from 1965 to 1967, and then joined the original cast of “Hawaii Five-O” for its final season in 1980. Smith was also part of the first mini -series aired on American television, “Rich man, poor man.”
On the big screen, Smith has also starred in popular films. He played a general in the 1984 cult classic “Red Dawn”, fluent in Russian – which was only one of six languages he spoke. He was in 1982’s “Conan the Barbarian” alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and had his last acting credit last year as Hofbrau Bar Fly in 2020’s “Irresistible” starring Steve Carell and Rose Byrne.
In 1970, he portrayed a sadistic bodybuilder in “Darker Than Amber” and performed what is considered one of the most realistic fights on screen, with Taylor breaking three ribs and having his nose smashed.
Ten years later, he made film history again when he faced Eastwood in “Any Which Way You Can”. “It has to be one of the longest two-man fights ever in a movie without a double,” Smith said of the notorious scene.
Smith was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Bodybuilding and Fitness and inducted into the Muscle Beach Venice Bodybuilding Hall of Fame in 2010.
Along with his 31-year-old wife, Smith is survived by his two children, William E. Smith III and Sherri Anne Cervelli.