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Angela McEwan (1934 - 2015)

Getty Images / David Livingston

Angela McEwan (1934 - 2015)

Angela McEwan, a character actress who played a small-town newspaper publisher in the Oscar-nominated movie "Nebraska," has died. She was 81.

McEwan died Dec. 20 of lung cancer, according to multiple news sources.

McEwan appeared in the 2013 movie alongside Will Forte and Bruce Dern. Her performance as Peg Nagy was a scene-stealing turn that was praised by critics. And it was, late in life, her first feature film role.

Though McEwan dreamed of becoming an actress as a child, studying acting for a year at Los Angeles City College, she changed her plans when she met the man who would become her husband. They married, and she began working as a Spanish translator in criminal court. It was a career that helped sustain her family for decades.

But when her husband retired, McEwan began dabbling in acting classes once again. And when he died, she occupied her time with a few TV roles here and there, guest spots on hit series including "New Girl" and "Parks and Recreation," as well as roles in several independent short films.


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She auditioned for a different role in "Nebraska," didn't get the part, and assumed that would be it. But six months later, she was called back for a second audition. She read for the role of Nagy; her audition was praised, but again, much time passed, and she gave up on the job.

That's when she got a call from director Alexander Payne, who wanted to meet her. McEwan invited him to her sister-in-law's home for a friendly chat. She thought he might be breaking it to her gently that someone else would be playing Nagy. Instead, he offered her the role. Payne recalled in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, "We had coffee together in the late afternoon. She had baked me cookies. It just came from her heart."

McEwan continued to pursue an acting career after the success of "Nebraska." As she wrote in an essay for the Huffington Post, "For the first time in a long time, I am actively engaged and passionate about something I had longed for most of my life."

After "Nebraska," McEwan appeared in two movies that are due for upcoming release: "Moments of Clarity" and "Boonville Redemption."

Two sons survive her.

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