Entertainment & Arts

Eileen Brennan, star of Private Benjamin, dies aged 80

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Media captionEileen Brennan was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Private Benjamin

Eileen Brennan, the actress best known for her Oscar-nominated role as Goldie Hawn's tormentor in 1980 army comedy Private Benjamin, has died aged 80.

Her managers said she died on Sunday at her home in Burbank, Los Angeles after suffering from bladder cancer.

Brennan, who also appeared in The Last Picture Show and Clue, was known for her husky voice and spiky demeanour.

"Our world has lost a rare human," said Hawn in a statement in which she paid tribute to her "old friend".

"Eileen was a brilliant comedian, a powerful dramatic actress and had the voice of an angel."

Brennan earned a best supporting actress Oscar nomination for her role as US Army Captain Doreen Lewis in Private Benjamin.

She reprised the role in an adapted TV series from 1981 to 1983, winning an Emmy and a Golden Globe in the process.

Born Verla Eileen Regina Brennan in September 1932, Brennan began her career on the New York stage before heading to Hollywood in the late 1960s.

Image caption Brennan was born Verla Eileen Regina Brennan in September 1932

After appearing alongside Hawn in the first series of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, she was singled out for praise and a Bafta nomination, for her role as careworn waitress Genevieve in The Last Picture Show.

Brennan continued her association with its director, Peter Bogdanovich, by appearing in his films Daisy Miller and At Long Last Love.

She was also seen in comic roles in Murder By Death and The Cheap Detective, appearing in both alongside the late Peter Falk.

Brennan was seriously injured in 1982 when she was hit by a car after a dinner with Goldie Hawn in Los Angeles.

The actress became dependent on painkillers as a result and later entered the Betty Ford clinic to cure her addiction.

She returned to the screen in 1985's Clue, a murder spoof inspired by the board game known in the UK as Cluedo.

In later life she gave supporting turns in such films as Jeepers Creepers, Miss Congeniality 2 and TV's Will and Grace.

"I love meanies... because they have no sense of humour," Brennan told the Associated Press in 1988.

"If we can't laugh at ourselves and the human condition, we're going to be mean."

The actress is survived by her ex-husband, David John Lampson, and their two sons, Patrick and Sam.

In a statement, her family remembered her as "funny and caring and truly one of a kind".

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