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Bernie Casey (1939-2017)

20th September 2017

Felix Leiter actor an NFL star Bernie Casey has died at the age of 78

MI6 logo By MI6 Staff
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Born in Wyco, West Virginia, the USA on June 8th, 1939, Bernard ('Bernie) Terry Casey was a professional NFL player, actor, and poet.

After graduating from East High School in Columbus, Ohio, Casey studied at Bowling Green State University on a football scholarship and became a record-breaking track and field athlete, and then earned All-America recognition and a trip to the finals of the 1960 US Olympic Trials. Also during his college years, Casey won the Mid-American Conference title for high-hurdles in three consecutive years.

Bernie Casey in Never Say Never Again

After earning his masters in fine arts, Casey was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers as the 9th pick from the first round in 1961. His professional football career as a wide receiver spanned eight NFL seasons, all with the 49ers except for his final two years with the LA Rams. 

With his NFL career ending in 1968, Casey pivoted to acting and landed his first major role in 'Guns of the Magnificent Seven' (1969). A string of big and small screen roles followed in the 1970s and 1908s.

Bernie Casey in Never Say Never Again

When Sean Connery was persuaded to return to the role of James Bond 'one final time' for the 1983 rogue production 'Never Say Never Again' (which was a non-canonical remake of 'Thunderball' through Kevin McClory's rights), Casey was cast as 007's friend at the CIA, Felix Leiter. Connery spoke with Casey about the role, saying that as Leiter was never remembered by audiences, using a black Leiter might make him more memorable.

Casey continued to work routinely in film and television up until his retirement in 2006. Over the course of his 37 year- career, he earned 78 screen credits. Casey also was a published poet as well as a painter whose work was exhibited in galleries around the world. He received an honorary doctorate degree from The Savannah College of Art and Design, where he served for years as chairman of the board and advocated for arts education.

Bernie Casey in Never Say Never Again

A resident of Los Angeles throughout his career, Casey died following a brief illness on September 19th, 2017 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center at the age of 78.

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