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RIP René Auberjonois — 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' Actor Dead At 79

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How Did René Auberjonois Die? New Details On Death Of 'Star Trek' Actor At 79

The Star Trek family has suffered another loss. Deep Space Nine actor René Auberjonois has died at 79 according to his son, Rèmy-Luc Auberjonois, who confirmed his death on Sunday. Auberjonois was best known for his role as the shape-shifting Odo on Deep Space Nine, but he also had long-running roles in M.A.S.H. and Benson.

How did René Auberjonois die?

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Auberjonois lost his battle with metastatic lung cancer on December 8. He passed away at his home in Los Angeles. Auberjonois was a character actor who worked steadily in film and television since the 1970s.

He played Father John Mulcahy, the military chaplain in the original movie M.A.S.H. He played Clayton Runnymede Endicott III, the chief of staff of the governor's mansion on the television show Benson. He was Odo, the shape-shifting changeling and head of security on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He played Chef Louis in The Little Mermaid. 

Auberjonois had a long and successful career on stage, in film and on television. Let's take a look at his life and career. 

1. He's a descendant of Napoleon's sister.

Auberjonois was born in New York City in 1940. His father, Fernand, was a Swiss-born, Cold War-era foreign correspondent and Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer. His mother, Princess Laure Louise Napoleone Eugenie Caroline Murat, was the great-great-granddaughter of Napoleon's younger sister, Caroline and Joachim Murat, who was the King of Naples during the First French Empire.

His family moved to Paris and London after World War II. It was there young Auberjonois decided he wanted to be an actor. His family moved back to the U.S. after a few years in France. They joined the South Mountain Road artists' colony in New York which allowed Auberjonois to hone his acting alongside residents who included Burgess Meredith and John Houseman. 

2. René Auberjonois was a founding member of several prestigious theater companies and was a Tony winner.


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After Auberjonois graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 1962, he worked with the Arena Stage in Washington D.C. He co-founded the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City.

In 1968, Auberjonois appeared in three plays on Broadway at the same time: he was Fool in King Lear, Ned in A Cry of Players, and Marco in Fire!. He received his first Tony Award for his performance in the Coco Chanel play Coco as Sebastian Baye opposite Katharine Hepburn. He received a number of Tony nominations for his work on Broadway during the 1970s and 1980s.

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3. He worked with Robert Altman several times.

In 1970, Auberjonois appeared in his first of several Robert Altman films, playing Father Mulcahy in M.A.S.H. His most famous line in the film was when Margaret Houlihan wanted to know how Hawkeye Pierce ascended to a position of authority in the Army. Auberjonois replied, "He was drafted."

That line became an iconic one and, in a 2016 interview, Auberjonois revealed that he made it up during rehearsals for the scene. Auberjonois also appeared in Altman's Brewster McCloud, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, and Images, as well as many other films over the decades. 

4. He was a regular on television shows since the 1970s.

Auberjonois spent most of the 1970s doing guest spots on various television shows until he joined the cast of Benson in its second season in 1980. He remained in that role for the duration of the show's next seven seasons.

Auberjonois appeared in a ton of shows over the years including Frasier, Judging Amy, Saving Grace, Boston Legal, The Good Wife, NCIS, Grey's Anatomy, Masters of Sex and Madam Secretary. He also had a successful voice-over career appearing in many animated series as a voice actor including Archer, Pound Puppies, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and a number of Star Trek spin-offs.

5. René Auberjonois cemented his legend as Odo in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Auberjonois appeared in 173 episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Odo, the non-human, shape-shifting head of security. He also directed a number of episodes of the series.

He appeared at a number of Star Trek conventions where he raised money for Doctors Without Borders. He also signed autographs with a drawing of Odo's bucket — which is where his character stored himself when he was in his natural gelatinous state. 

6. Tributes poured in from the Star Trek family.

Fans of Deep Space Nine took to social media to pay tribute to the late actor. William Shatner, who is, of course, most famous for his role as Captain James T. Kirk in the original Star Trek series and films, wrote, "To sum up his life in a tweet is nearly impossible. To Judith, Tessa & Remy I send you my love & strength. I will keep you in my thoughts and remember a wonderful friendship with René."

George Takei also tweeted a tribute to his late friend.

7. How did René Auberjonois die?

René Auberjonois died after battling metastatic lung cancer. He's survived by his wife, Judith, a writer who he was married to since 1963, as well as their children, Remy and Tessa. Remy is an actor best known for his roles on Weeds and Mad Men. He's also survived by his sisters, Marie and Anne, son-in-law, Adrian Latourelle, daughter-in-law, Kate Nowlin, and three grandchildren.

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Amy Lamare is a Los Angeles based writer covering entertainment, pop culture, beauty, fashion, fitness, technology, and the intersection of technology, business, and philanthropy. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook.