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Home > Actor Clu Gulager’s Memorable Career: Cowboy Turned Horror Hero

Actor Clu Gulager’s Memorable Career: Cowboy Turned Horror Hero

Clu Galager

Commemorating Cowboy Turned Horror Hero

With zombie fever resurgence through HBO’s mega-hit The Last of Us, we must pay  homage to the original cowboy turned horror hero: Clu Gulager.  It’s coming up on a year since we lost him and nearly 38 years since his roles in  Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and The Return of the Living Dead (1985). 

The Return of the Living Dead

Clu’s turn as “Burt” in The Return of the Living Dead was a complete game changer for  zombies on screen. Previous films portrayed zombies as mere flesh eaters. However, the zombies seen today as synonymous with hungering for brains came about from this cult classic. This interpretation would influence countless others and cement Clu’s status as a horror icon. 

A Family Affair

You could say Clu’s love of performing was in his bloodline. His father was a former  vaudevillian actor who became a county judge and inspired Clu’s acting career. In turn,  Clu’s son, John, became a horror director of the film Feast, which spanned two sequels, both of which Clu acted in. Clu’s grandson even made an appearance in one as an 11-month-old. Sure, the infant could barely walk and talk, yet he couldn’t pass up the chance to appear onscreen with his iconic grandfather. It really was a family affair. 

Clu Gulager

Oklahoman Cowboy

Clu Gulager wore a cowboy hat throughout his life because he was a quintessential  Oklahoman cowboy. He got started playing a heightened version of himself in western classics like The Tall Man (1960), The Killers (1964), and The Last Picture Show (1971).  

Paying it Forward

Despite his success, he always remembered his Oklahoman roots and even took a break from acting in 1968 to run film camps in his home state, according to The Oklahoman. As early as 1969, he ran a workshop that taught horror film acting and directing. He wanted to pay it forward. 

Film Connoisseur 

He is remembered as someone who loved sharing his love of film with friends and  strangers. Clu frequented Los Angeles’s New Beverly Cinema and even garnered the attention of Quentin Tarantino, who owned the theater, so much so that he gave him a cameo in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019). 

Horror Held a Special Place in His Heart

Clu’s passion for acting never died down, and his film resume boasts an impressive 165  credits over a 70-year career. But horror, in particular, held a special place in his heart,  as he believed in its power to unite people. “We need to laugh; we need to be scared; we need to hug our girl in the theater. It  lightens the load of this crummy life.” 

Celebrating Clu Gulager

So this is in celebration of one of horror’s most beloved figures, pop in The Return of the  Living Dead, and for god’s sake, don’t let any zombies (or rabid weasels) in.


Commerative Video of Clu Gulgar’s Career (2022).

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Laura T Fenney
Laura is a screenwriter and script consultant based in New York. She has a penchant for absurd comedy and psychological thrillers.