Peter Donat, Celebrated Stage and X-Files Actor, Dies at 90

Peter Donat in 1965. Photo courtesy of the New York Times


Peter Donat, Celebrated Stage and X-Files Actor dies at 90


Peter Donat, celebrated Canadian-born actor, passed away on Monday at the age of 90 at his home in Point Reyes, California. According to his wife Maria, the cause was complications of diabetes. He was the older brother of Haven actor Richard Donat and nephew to Oscar-winning actor Robert Donat.

“The Closest Thing to the Ideal Creative Life”

Born Pierre Collingwood Donat in Kentville, Nova Scotia on January 20, 1928, Donat emigrated to the United States in 1950. He studied drama at Yale University after graduating from Acadia University in Nova Scotia. He enrolled at Yale for only a year before landing small roles in television and on stage. Donat took a chance on Broadway in 1957; he played Prince Leopold in Tyrone Guthrie and Alexander Cohen’s The First Gentleman. He appeared later that year in The Country Wife; the next year he appeared alongside Laurence Olivier in John Osborne’s The Entertainer. In 1960, he generated attention as a leading stage actor in a production of Cyrano de Bergerac.

Photo courtesy of Toronto Star

Over the years, he performed on stage as Prospero, Shylock, King Lear, and Hadrian VII. In 1984, Donat described theater to The Honolulu Advertiser as “The closest thing to the ideal creative life.” He was regularly involved with the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and the Stratford Festival in Canada. He was also involved in local theater. Donat took his first singing role in 1988 as Professor Higgins in the Cabrillo Stage production of My Fair Lady.

Donat also held roles in a panoply of productions on television and in film; he appeared in the original Mission: Impossible and Charlie’s Angels series, as well as on The Waltons, Hawaii Five-O, Mannix, Dallas, Hill Street Blues, and Murder, She Wrote among others. He was considered for the role of Tom Hagen in The Godfather, before director Francis Ford Coppola plucked Robert Duvall from a list. Coppola eventually cast Donat as a lawyer in The Godfather Part II. He then played Otter Kerner in Coppola’s Tucker: The Man and His Dream. Donat’s film credits also include The Hindenburg, F.I.S.T., and The China Syndrome.

I Remember Donat as William Mulder

Peter Donat as William Mulder on The X-Files. Photo courtesy of

Although Donat had prominent and significant theatrical roles under his belt, he became most recognized for portraying Fox Mulder’s father on The X-Files. He played William Mulder for six episodes, providing Agent Mulder with ever-mysterious insights into the government’s involvement in alien experimentation. He broke the news of Project Paperclip; was the first to tell Mulder his sister had come home; blew us all away when he revealed he used to work with the Smoking Man. His stoic and cautious embodiment of William Mulder gave all of us watching vital insight into why Fox Mulder is That Way.

David Duchovny gave tribute via Twitter,

“Peter had an easy gravitas as a performer and seemed to come from that generation that took the art seriously but not too seriously. It was an honor to know him and work with him.”

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About the author

Lauren Boisvert

Lauren Boisvert is a writer and pisces from Florida. She has had poems published with Memoir Mixtapes, spy kids review, The Mochila Review, and others. She loves Mystery Science Theater 3000, classic horror, and making everyone in the car listen to the Beastie Boys.

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