The father of quirky alien puppet ALF has died in his home this week after a long battle with cancer.
Max Wright, who was 75 at his time of death, played Willie Tanner, the father of the family. He was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1995, but his family said he had been in remission for years before his death.
According to a representative of Wright’s, he passed peacefully in his home in Hermosa Beach, CA.
Max Wright, whose real name as George Edward Maxwell Wright, was best known for his role as ALF. Wright was the classic straight man to ALF’s antics and took the alien in after his love of radio signals accidentally attracted ALF to Earth.
ALF only ran for four seasons, but the creator of ALF, Paul Fusco, said the chemistry between ALF and Wright was what made the show. According to Fusco, Wright’s ability to treat the puppet like a real character made a big difference in the quality the show put out.
Wright himself found the role immensely challenging. Playing a supporting role to a puppet can’t be easy, though Wright made it look good on screen. “It was hard work and very grim,” he said at one point. His relief at having the show end was no secret to those who worked with him.
But Wright was known for a lot of other things, too. He played Max Denby in the TV show Norm for two years, and was on other shows briefly, like Cheers, The Drew Carey Show, ER, and Buffalo Bill.
Wright didn’t just spend his time in front of the camera, but he also had several successful theater productions. His on-stage credits include Once in a Lifetime, which he won the Theatre World Award in 1979 form, and Ivanov in 1998, which he was nominated for both a Tony and a Drama Desk award.
Wright was arguably more successful long term on stage than he was in film or TV productions, but he will forever be known as Willie Tanner to millions of fans.
Max Wright married Linda Ybarrondo in 1965 and the two remained together until her death in 2017. Linda passed away after a struggle with breast cancer. The family certainly got their money’s worth from United Healthcare; both fought extensively against cancer before it finally took them.
The couple had two children together.