Actor Maury Chaykin has died. This is sad. He was only 61, and he was a fantastic character actor — one of the best “Hey it’s that guy” kinds of actors. For me, his most memorable turn was as the Army officer in Dances With Wolves to whom Lt. John J. Dunbar (Kevin Costner) reports, early in the film, for his assignment. Chaykin’s officer turns out to be insane, and as Dunbar is riding away from the base, the sound of Chaykin’s suicidal gunshot rings out across the prairie. It was an odd moment in the film — a “What was that about” kind of thing — but I think it set up quite a lot of the later plot of the film, providing an explanation of just why the tiny camp Dunbar is taking over has been abandoned and why it’s allowed to languish for so long afterwards.
Good character actors are so important, because it’s their professionalism and skill that rounds out the world of a film. Chaykin was a fine one, and he’ll be missed.