Rick Ducommun, the comic character actor best known for playing Tom Hanks’ prankster neighbor Art Weingartner in Joe Dante’s The ’Burbs, died June 12 in a Vancouver hospice surrounded by family. He was 62.
Ducommun, who also was memorable in small roles in such films as Die Hard (1988), Groundhog Day (1993) and Scary Movie (2000), died due to a “serious complication from diabetes,” his wife, Leslie Ducommun, confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.
Then a relatively unknown stand-up comic, Ducommun beat out SCTV stars Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis to land the part of Ray Peterson’s (Hanks) nosy next-door neighbor Art, who thinks there’s been a murder in the neighborhood, in The ’Burbs (1989), Dante noted on Twitter.
“Lots of the funniest stuff he says was totally ad-libbed,” the director wrote.
Toward the end of the movie, Ducommun’s character wraps things up for a TV reporter: “I think the message to psychos, fanatics, murderers, nutcases all over the world is, do not mess with suburbanites because, frankly, we’re not going to take it any more. We’re not going to be content just to look after our lawns, wax our cars, paint our houses. We are out to get them.”
A native of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Ducommun shut down the power grid that plunged the Nakatomi Corp. building into darkness in the Bruce Willis-starrer Die Hard (1988), and he later appeared again opposite Willis and Damon Wayans in The Last Boy Scout (1991).
He played Anna Faris’ father in Scary Movie (2000), written by Shawn and Marlon Wayans and directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans, and guest-starred in The Wayans Bros. sitcom for the WB Network in the 1990s.
Ducommun was the local barfly Gus, a “glass is half empty kind of guy,” in Groundhog Day (1993), and he had a cameo as a security guard in Dante’s Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990).
He also was seen in such films as Spaceballs (1987), Little Monsters (1989), The Hunt for Red October (1990), Encino Man (1992), Class Act (1992), Loaded Weapon 1 (1993), Last Action Hero (1993), Ghost in the Machine (1993), Blank Check (1994), MVP: Most Valuable Primate (2000) and Pauly Shore Is Dead (2003).
On TV, Ducommun was one of the goofball cops in the short-lived 1986 NBC comedy The Last Precinct, created by Stephen J. Cannell and starring Adam West, and showed up on Max Headroom, Moonlighting, NYPD Blue and Murphy Brown.
In the early 1980s, Ducommun starred on the children’s show Zig Zag in Canada and attracted the attention of Alan Thicke, who was hosting a talk show based in Vancouver. He brought Ducommun to L.A. to serve as an announcer and performer on his ill-fated syndicated late-night talk show Thicke of the Night, meant to rival Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show.
Ducommun, who at one time weighed more than 420 pounds — he took off more than 200 pounds in a year and a half — did stand-up specials for HBO in 1989 and 1992.