Ray Stevenson, an actor familiar to fans of both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Star Wars universe, died on Sunday. No cause of death has been announced. He was 58.
The son of a Royal Air Force pilot, Stevenson was born in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, on May 25, 1964, though his family moved to England when he was 8. After graduating from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, he made his film debut in 1998's The Theory of Flight, playing a high-priced gigolo hired to help Helena Bonham Carter's character lose her virginity.
He broke out playing the title role in 2008's Punisher: War Zone, director Lexi Alexander's take on Marvel vigilante Frank Castle, aka Punisher. Kevin Feige, an executive producer on the movie, had recommended Stevenson for the role after seeing him in the HBO series, Rome. Stevenson would later join Feige's MCU when Kenneth Branagh cast him in 2011's Thor.
In Thor, the actor portrayed Volstagg, a faithful friend to Chris Hemsworth's God of Thunder and a member of the Warriors Three. He reprised the role for 2013's Thor: The Dark World and then for 2017's Thor: Ragnarok.
"My agent said, people won’t recognize you. And I said, I don't give a damn!" Stevenson told IndieWire in 2011 of being cast as Volstagg. "Who else is gonna give me a chance to put a big fatsuit on and ham it up? I was nervous, and Ken Branagh said, 'You can't be too loud!' So, I said, 'Fine, I'll dip my toe into the river of ham.' And he said, 'Trust me, I've swam in that river many times. You enjoy that!'"
One of Stevenson's most recent film roles was in RRR, playing the villainous British governor, Scott Buxton. In the Telugu-language epic, Stevenson's character serves as the main antagonist to freedom fighters Bheem (N. T. Rama Rao Jr.) and Raju (Ram Charan). At the 95th Oscars, RRR made history when it won for Best Original Song for "Naatu Naatu" and became the first Indian feature to win an Oscar.
On the small screen, Stevenson lent his voice to two animated Star Wars series, Rebels and The Clone Wars, as the Mandalorian commander Gar Saxon. He will posthumously make his live-action debut in the upcoming series, Ahsoka, as Baylan Skoll. "Getting to wield the light saber is just the best feeling in the world," the actor said during this year's Star Wars Celebration. "The first time they handed it to me for the camera test, I couldn't help myself — I made the noise."