Variety is reporting that Bill Nunn—who played Radio Raheem in Spike Lee’s pivotal 1989 drama Do The Right Thing, and editor Robbie Robertson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies—has died. A celebrated actor of television, stage, and screen, with more than 70 credits to his name, Nunn was 62.
Nunn got his start as an actor in 1988, when he played country boy Grady in Lee’s second feature, School Daze. The two would ultimately work together on four films, with Lee casting the large-framed Nunn in Mo’ Better Blues, He Got Game, and, most prominently, Do The Right Thing.
As the boombox-toting Radio Raheem, Nunn served as one of the engines of that film’s slowly building wave of tension, blasting Public Enemy and giving an impassioned speech about the war between Love and Hate. When conflict erupts over the “Wall Of Fame” in a local white-owned pizza parlor, it’s Raheem’s radio that sets off the first wave of violence—and his death at the hands of the NYPD that drives the conflict toward its unstoppable conclusion.
Nunn worked steadily throughout the 1990s, appearing in everything from New Jack City to Sister Act. In 2001, he secured his first regular TV gig, starring opposite Denis Leary in ABC’s short-lived police drama The Job. The following year, he helped usher in the superhero movie craze with a role in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. As beloved comic book newsman Robbie Robertson, Nunn served as a straight man and moderating influence on J.K. Simmons’ boisterous J. Jonah Jameson, and his ongoing quest to denounce Tobey Maguire’s good-hearted wall-crawler. Nunn would ultimately appear in all three of Raimi’s original Spider-Man films.
Spike Lee announced Nunn’s death on social media today, writing on Instagram, “Radio Raheem is now resting in power. Radio Raheem will always be fighting the powers that be. May God watch over Bill Nunn.” He later posted a mural of Nunn’s character, and an original poem about him from poet Lemon Andersen: