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Actor, 53, dies of brain cancer

LOS ANGELES — Sam Bottoms, who had small but memorable roles in the 1970s classics Apocalypse Now and The Last Picture Show, has died. He was 53.

Mr. Bottoms, one of four actor-brothers, died Tuesday of brain cancer at his home in Los Angeles, wife Laura Bickford said.

In Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 Vietnam War epic, Mr. Bottoms played pro surfer-turned-soldier Lance B. Johnson, who takes to the waves amid bombs and bullets under the orders of the maniacal, surfing-mad Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore played by Robert Duvall.

"He was a handsome, tall young man and very sweet-natured and seemed to be right for that part," Coppola said Wednesday. "Sam was a good actor. Of course, he comes from a family that had a lot of theatrical activity."

In his 1971 film debut, the 15-year-old starred alongside his best-known brother, Timothy, in The Last Picture Show, playing a mute and mentally handicapped boy forced by friends to lose his virginity to a prostitute.

After his 1970s films, Sam Bottoms went on to appear in the Clint Eastwood westerns The Outlaw Josey Wales and Bronco Billy, and Coppola's 1987 Vietnam film Gardens of Stone.

He more recently appeared in the films Seabiscuit, in which he played the role of Mr. Blodget, and Shopgirl.

He is survived by his three brothers, his parents and his wife.