Lenny Von Dohlen, ‘Twin Peaks’ Star, Dead at 63

by Emily Morgan

Lenny Von Dohlen, who starred in the hit David Lynch TV series “Twin Peaks,” has died, per his agent. He was 63. During his time on the hit show, he played Harold Smith. His agent said von Dohlen died July 5 at his Los Angeles home after suffering from a long illness.

On Thursday, Dohlen’s sister, Catherine Von Dohlen, announced the tragic news via Facebook.

“The world lost a magnificent man on July 5. Brother Len was passionate about everything and everyone. He was always leading; whether it be riveting conversation, an artistic creation or a trip to new places,” she penned the heartfelt tribute. She added, “He loved a good laugh. He continues on his spiritual journey. Living life full in his memory,” she wrote.

Born on December 22, 1958, in Georgia and raised in Texas, Von Dohlen had a small role in the Robert Duvall country music pic Tender Mercies before getting his big break when he booked Electric Dreams. He starred as Miles Harding, an architect whose PC becomes self-aware. 

Von Dohlen most famously played the anxious Harold who refused to leave the house on “Twin Peaks” and in the prequel film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. 

Sheryl Lee’s character, Laura Palmer, gave Harold her secret diary during the show. As fans will know, after Palmer is gruesomely murdered, her friend Donna Hayward becomes friends with Harold while investigating the murder. 

However, his character’s story ended badly when Donna tried to steal the diary, and Harold hanged himself. 

Off-camera and away from the “Twin Peaks” world, Von Dohlen also played the character of Burton Jernigan. Jernigan was one of the antagonists in Home Alone 3. He most recently appeared in an episode of Seth MacFarlane’s TV series “The Orville.” 

‘Twin Peaks’ actor remembered for lengthy career

He made his debut in 1981 on TV when he appeared on NBC’s Emmy-winning show “Kent State.” Per IMDb, his other acting credits included “Tollbooth” (1994), “Bird of Prey” (1996), “One Good Turn” (1996), “Entertaining Angels” (1996), and “Cadillac” (1997). 

He also made guest cameos on several episodes of “Miami Vice,” “The Equalizer,” “Walker Texas Ranger,” “Red Dwarf,” “The Pretender,” and “Psych.”

Once the news of his death broke, numerous tributes poured in for the actor. For instance, the “Red Dwarf” producers tweeted their condolences. 

They wrote: “We’re so very sorry to learn of the passing of Lenny von Dohlen, a gifted actor who many will remember as Twin Peaks’ reclusive Harold Smith, who also made an iconic appearance in #RedDwarf V’s Back to Reality. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. RIP.”

Von Dohlen is survived by his partner, playwright James Still; his daughter, Hazel; his mother, Gay Von Dohlen; and siblings Mary Gay, Catherine, and John David.