Richard Farnsworth, the oldest leading actor to get an Academy Award nomination, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound Friday night, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department said. He was 80.
Farnsworth’s fiancee, Jewely Van Valin, said he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Farnsworth, a former stuntman, was nominated earlier this year for an Oscar for best actor for his performance in “The Straight Story.”
He had been involved in film making for more than 60 years and recently received a special award from the National Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock, Texas, for his work.
Sheriff Tom Sullivan released a statement Friday night saying Farnsworth died at his home in Lincoln, about 130 miles southeast of Albuquerque. Authorities did not release any further details.
Farnsworth was nominated this year for his portrayal of Alvin Straight, an Iowa man who made headlines in 1994 for riding his lawn mower more than 250 miles to see his ailing, estranged brother.
He was beaten out by Kevin Spacey, who won for his portrayal of a suburban father in “American Beauty.”
“It feels a lot better because I’m getting up there in age and might not have a chance again,” Farnsworth said in an interview after he was nominated in February.
It was the second nomination for Farnsworth, who was nominated for the 1978 film “Comes a Horseman.” Henry Fonda had been the oldest leading actor when he was nominated at age 76 for his role in “On Golden Pond,” which he won in 1982.
Farnsworth was a poor student who dropped out of school during the Depression at age 15 and went to work as a stable boy at a polo barn.
Two years later, in 1937, two men from Paramount studio came by looking for ponies and mentioned they needed someone who could ride horses on film. Farnsworth took the job, which paid $7 a day, about what he had been making per week.
The Los Angeles native moved from stunt work to acting at age 57, appearing in “The Grey Fox,” “The Natural,” “Tom Horn,” “Resurrection” and “Rhinestone.”