David Huddleston, the US actor who played the title roles in The Big Lebowski and Santa Claus: The Movie, has died in New Mexico aged 85.

Born in 1930, the former US Air Force mechanic played the millionaire whom Jeff Bridges’ character was mistaken for in the Coen brothers’ 1998 comedy.

He previously starred with Dudley Moore in the 1985 film about the Christmas gift-giver.

His widow said he died on Tuesday of advanced heart and kidney disease.

“He’d always make you laugh,” Sarah Koeppe told the Santa Fe New Mexican, saying her late husband had been “so amazed as he looked back at what happened in his life”.

David Huddleston with his wife Sarah Koeppe
Image captionThe actor’s death was announced by his widow Sarah Koeppe

Huddleston’s other roles included the mayor in Mel Brooks’s Blazing Saddles and a Republican senator in The West Wing.

He was nominated for an Emmy in 1990 for his guest appearance as Granpa Arnold in The Wonder Years.

Fellow actor Wilford Brimley remembered him as “a wonderful human being” who was “honest and kind and loyal”.

Besides Koeppe, he is survived by a son, a daughter-in-law and a recently adopted dog named Dooley.