Peter Donat was best-known recently for his recurring role as Agent Fox Mulder’s father in six episodes of “The X-Files.”
Peter Donat, a Canadian-born character actor who played a wide variety of classical and contemporary roles in theater, film and television, died Monday at home in Point Reyes Station, California. He was 90.
His wife, Maria, said the cause was complications of diabetes.
Mr. Donat was best-known recently for his recurring role as Agent Fox Mulder’s father in six episodes of “The X-Files.”
But he preferred theatrical work. He performed frequently with respected companies like the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and the Stratford Festival in Canada. Over the years he played Cyrano de Bergerac, Prospero, Shylock, King Lear and Hadrian VII.
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“It’s the closest thing to the ideal creative life,” he said of stage acting in an interview with The Honolulu Advertiser in 1984. “I mean, how often can an actor do Shakespeare, Chekhov and a new play, all in an eight-month span? And do TV shows and films in between?”
He worked regularly in television, guest-starring on series like “The F.B.I.,” “Hawaii Five-O,” “Mannix,” “McMillan & Wife,” “Hill Street Blues” and “Murder, She Wrote,” on which he played three different roles over several seasons. On “Dallas,” he portrayed a doctor who treated the notorious Texas oilman J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) after he had been shot in a famous cliffhanger episode in 1980.
His film career nearly received a significant boost when he was considered for the role of Tom Hagen, the consigliere to Don Corleone, in “The Godfather.” From a list that also included Anthony Zerbe and Ben Piazza, director Francis Ford Coppola chose Robert Duvall.
Coppola cast Donat in a small role as a lawyer in “The Godfather Part II” and as Otto Kerner, the U.S. attorney who prosecuted carmaker Preston Tucker for fraud, in “Tucker: The Man and His Dream.”
Pierre Collingwood Donat was born Jan. 20, 1928, in Kentville, Nova Scotia. His father, Philip, was a landscape gardener, and his mother, Marie Bardet, was a homemaker. He was inspired to act by the films of his uncle, British film star Robert Donat, who won a best-actor Oscar for his performance in “Goodbye, Mr. Chips.” As a teenager, Pierre wrote and performed plays with school friends in his garage.
After graduating from Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and studying for one year at the Yale School of Drama in the early 1950s, Mr. Donat began performing onstage in Canada and the United States. He also got his first television roles.
While working in the United States, he changed his first name to Peter.
In addition to his wife, Maria (DeJong) Donat — with whom he wrote a one-man show about Chekhov that he performed — Mr. Donat is survived by his sons, Caleb, Christopher and Lucas; two stepdaughters, Barbara Park Shapiro and Marina Park Sutton; a stepson, Malcolm Park; 11 grandchildren; and his brother, Richard, who is also an actor. Mr. Donat’s first marriage, to actress Michael Learned, who played Olivia Walton on “The Waltons,” ended in divorce.