Blade Runner Star Joe Turkel Passes Away

By Nathan Kamal | Published

Joe Turkel

Veteran character actor Joseph “Joe” Turkel has passed away. The actor is best known for his key roles in genre classics Blade Runner and The Shining, but had an immense body of work stretched across five decades. Per Variety, Joe Turkel passed away at ​​St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif., survived by his two sons Craig and Robert, and his brother David. While his cause of death is not currently public knowledge, the actor was 94 years old. Though he had not actively been in films or television since the late 1990s, his impact on popular culture was enormous. 

Joe Turkel in The Shining

Joe Turkel was born in Brooklyn in 1927, part of a family of Jewish-Polish immigrants. He enlisted in the United States Army at the age of 17 and served in Europe during World War II. Following the war, he moved to California to pursue his dreams of being an actor. Over the course of his long career, he would amass over 100 credits in film and television; his IMDb page functions as a snapshot of what a working actor’s career could look like in the latter half of the twentieth century. He would eventually work with acclaimed filmmakers and in cheap monster B-movies and everything between. Joe Turkel’s very first film credit was in 1949 in the Maxwell Shane-directed noir City Across the River, also noted for being the film debut of future superstar Tony Curtis. 

Between 1949 and his final credit in 1997, Joe Turkel worked at an incredible pace. Early in his career, he frequently had uncredited parts in movies like the World War II action film Halls of Montezuma and the police procedural The Human Jungle. He also frequently worked in television, with parts like a henchman in the forgotten Western series Tombstone Territory or an appearance on The David Niven Show. However, Joe Turkel’s career was changed forever when he was cast in the 1956 noir film The Killing, directed by emerging auteur director Stanley Kubrick. Joe Turkel would go on to feature more prominently in Kubrick’s next film, the anti-war classic Paths of Glory. Finally, he would play the key role of Lloyd, the eerie bartender of the Overlook Hotel in Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining. The film is now considered a masterpiece of modern horror, with Joe Turkel’s polite, sinister supernatural figure being one of the more mysterious parts of the film. 

While his role in cinematic history would have been assured by his role in The Shining, Joe Turkel would prominently feature in another classic in 1982: Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Turkel starred in the science fiction film as Dr. Eldon Tyrell, the brilliant designer of human replicants who meets his end at the hands (literally) of Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty. Joe Turkel’s portrayal of the sympathetic, yet amoral and detached scientist does a great deal for the atmosphere of the film, as does his brutal death near the climax of the movie. Joe Turkel had a long and accomplished career and we appreciate him for everything he did. Rest in peace, Joe Turkel.