Mariska Hargitay, Ice-T, Christopher Meloni, Laraine Newman and Billy Crystal were among the Hollywood notables paying tribute to Richard Belzer, longtime Law & Order: SVU star and beloved comedian, who died at the age of 78.
Belzer, who writer and longtime friend Bill Scheft confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter had died Sunday at his home in Bozouls in southwest France, was facing health issues.
The performer was known as a legend on the stage and screen, making his movie debut in 1974’s The Groove Tube and warming up audiences in Saturday Night Live‘s early days. A regular detective on the small screen, Belzer’s Homicide character, the recognizable John Munch, first appeared in 1993 on the series’ first episode and made his final appearance in 2016 on Law & Order: SVU. He would appear on the long-running Dick Wolf Law & Order spinoff for nearly 15 years, with Munch retiring from the NYPD in 2014, before returning for a 17th-season episode “Fashionable Crimes.”
In a statement, Dick Wolf and his production company lauded Belzer, a “consummate professional” who “brought humor and joy into all our lives.”
“Richard Belzer’s Detective John Munch is one of television’s iconic characters,” the Instagram statement reads. “I first worked with Richard on the ‘Law & Order’/’Homicide’ crossover and loved the character so much, I told Tom (Fontana) that I wanted to make him one of the original characters on ‘SVU.’ The rest is history.”
Belzer’s character on Law & Order: SVU had several partners during his run, but one of the most iconic pairings was with Ice-T’s Odafin “Fin” Tutuola. The rapper and actor took to Twitter to remember his late friend and co-star, writing, “Highs and Lows… After one of the most amazing weeks of my life. I wake up to the news I lost my friend today. Belz is gone.. Damn it! But remember this..’When you ARE having real fun and are Truly Happy. ENJOY it to the fullest! Cause Pain is inevitably coming.’ I’ll miss you Homie.”
Speaking fondly of her late co-star, Hargitay wrote on Instagram: “Goodbye my dear, dear friend. I will miss you, your unique light, and your singular take on this strange world. I feel blessed to have known you and adored you and worked with you, side by side, for so many years. How luck the angels are to have you. I can hear them laughing already.”
(Excerpt) Read more in: The Hollywood Reporter