Dirk Benedict survived cancer just before becoming ''Faceman''

The A-Team star took his stage name from a favorite breakfast dish.

When The A-Team premiered in 1983, screenings following the Super Bowl helped spike ratings and make it an instant hit.

As most fans know, the cast seen in the pilot slightly shifted when the original actor cast as Templeton "Faceman" Peck — Tim Dunigan — was suddenly replaced in following episodes by a more well-known actor, Dirk Benedict.

Benedict had made his name by featuring in two Seventies series, a short-lived drama called Chopper One and the sci-fi epic Battlestar Galactica.

Replacing Dunigan on The A-Team’s all-star cast, Benedict fit perfectly as the new "Face."

A critic writing an early review in the Miami Herald praised the new show, calling it the "naughty-boy Mission: Impossible" and proclaiming, "The writing is bright and the acting is crisp."

For Benedict, joining The A-Team marked the next phase in his career, where he was happy to let Mr. T and George Peppard take over the spotlight to become the show’s stars.

It gave Benedict less to worry about, as any time filming paused, he wasn’t off to do press events, but instead flew his private plane back home to Montana to go fish in the creeks where he was raised.

By 1983, Benedict had gained a new outlook on life after receiving a cancer diagnosis in 1975, when his weight had dropped from 200 to 135.

His skin began yellowing and doctors discovered a large tumor.

Instead of fearing for his life, Benedict found peace in the diagnosis.

"You’d say this guy was in a bad way," Benedict told The Alternative Press in 1983. "I was so at peace. I was living from moment to moment."

When he got the news, he told doctors he didn’t even want to know for sure if the tumor was malignant.

"I refused a biopsy and doctors won’t say you have a malignancy without a biopsy," Benedict said. "But when you’re 20 and have a tumor the size I had, if it’s not malignant, it soon will be."

Benedict continued acting, seizing each moment by taking on the role of Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica and joining casts of Broadway shows. However, he did decide to make one major change in his life, which he later attributed to clearing out the cancer in his body.

Growing up in Montana, Benedict was raised eating wild game like grouse, elk and deer, and he said even after he left Montana, he continued to prefer eating wild meats.

When he started feeling badly in 1971, he gradually cut meat out of his diet, and by the time he got his diagnosis in 1975, he had also cut out dairy.

He said that it was extremely hard on his body to shift his diet so dramatically, but worth it.

"Changing my way of eating caused terrible changes in my body," Benedict said. "I nearly died once. You have withdrawal from eating meat and dairy products. It caused a tremendous reaction that lasted for years. I had cramps, I had headaches that made me want to put my head through the wall. It was in 1975 that I really got strict. I only ate grains, certain beans and Japanese condiments. I changed myself from one kind of human being to another. I became a different person. I went back to the body I had when I was 12 years old."

Then, in 1983, after eight years of clean eating, Benedict went to the doctor’s office and a physical exam showed the tumor had disappeared. Benedict beat the cancer, and the actor is still working in TV and movies today.

You could say that paying attention to what he was eating was always a major factor in his success in life.

Back when he was starting out, he was just a young actor named Dirk Niewoehner, having breakfast with his agent.

His agent suggested that he find a stage name that would be easier to remember and stick with casting agents and fans.

Dirk had to look no further than his own breakfast plate to find a name that worked.

"We were having breakfast, and I saw eggs Benedict on the menu," Benedict told The Kansas City Star in 1983. "I not only ate them; I made it my name."

Watch The A-Team on MeTV!

Weeknights at 6P

*available in most MeTV markets
 
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

64 Comments

Post a comment
zman47240 24 days ago
He was also great in the movie Scavenger Hunt.
Mike 27 days ago
Fun Facts:

- When Dirk Benedict appeared on a talk show to discuss his health issues, Gloria Swanson was watching at home with her husband, William Dufty.
Swanson & Dufty contacted Benedict to tell him about Dufty's book, Sugar Blues, which Dirk adopted as a health guide; the three remained close friends.
When Benedict wrote his own autobiography, Bill Dufty was his collaborator; the dedicated the book to Gloria Swanson, who'd died not long before.

- I read somewhere that among Dirk Benedict's stage appearances were productions of Prescription: Murder, by Richard Levinson and William Link, in which Dirk played Lt. Columbo on stage.
I'd have liked to see that ...
OVkid 27 days ago
Good thing he changed his name. Niewoehner is hard to remember.
justjeff OVkid 25 days ago
Niewoehn-der I couldn 't remember it!
Coldnorth OVkid 11 days ago
I don’t even know how to pronounce it
WayneKeith 28 days ago
I watched the premier after the Super Bowl and the next day everyone at work was going nuts over it! Huge hit in the day, but I never realized FaceMan got replaced after 1 episode. Guess I wasn't paying as close attention as I thought.
JCM5 28 days ago
The producers on The A-Team wanted Benedict for the role of Faceman from the start, but NBC execs thought he was too old and insisted on casting Dunigan. After the pilot was shot the execs realized Dunigan was too young to believably play a Vietnam vet and Benedict got the role.
Zip 28 days ago
I had only heard that Dirk was a diabetic, not that he had cancer. Glad he got rid of it.
audie65 28 days ago
Hey F5twister-- thanks for the sentence structure correction. Is the test on friday?? Get over yourself.
JeffBaker 29 days ago
Met him at a convention once; couldn't have been nicer or more chatty!
JeffBerthold 29 days ago
We, the whole family have always liked theA-team!!
F5Twitster 29 days ago
After the cancer, who would have thought that Benedict would outlive, by several years already, his "Battlestar Galactica" co-star, Richard Hatch (two months younger)?

As for

"As most fans know, the cast seen in the pilot slightly shifted when the original actor cast as Templeton 'Faceman' Peck — Tim Dunigan — was suddenly replaced in following episodes by a more well-known actor, Dirk Benedict."

Better that you should have written a BETTER-known actor, Dirk Benedict. Don't overcomplicate things.
Jaxter14 F5Twitster 29 days ago
Richard Hatch is dead?
Dayna Jaxter14 29 days ago
Pancreatic Cancer. February 2017
NanC 29 days ago
Good thing he wasn't having waffles.
I heard it was a toss up between Dirk calling himself Dirk Benedict , or Dirk Waffles. I think he made the right choice. I loved the 1973 horror movie he was in where Strother Martin turned him into a snake. "Sssssss".
CecilMJames1 29 days ago
Dirk Benedict should go plantbased 1000% all the way and he and Maren Jensen who played Athena on Battlestar Galactica had the best flawless chemistry on the show.
I believe he did. Last I heard he was still on his macrobiotic diet. He talked about his diet change in his book Confessions of a Kamikaze Cowboy but it’s been so long since I read it last I don’t remember the specifics. I can’t remember if it was in the book or from the entertainment shows at the time that he said he would always bring his food from home instead of eating anything craft services brought so he knew exactly what he was eating. I do remember he credited his jawline with the fact that he chewed his food so well before swallowing.
Peter_Falk_Fan 29 days ago
Yum, Eggs Benedict! It's my favorite egg dish to have whenever we go to a brunch buffet (usually Easter or Mother's Day).

It's always nice to see someone beat their cancer.
Andybandit 30 days ago
I was happy to know that Dirk Benedict was still alive. I thought he passed away after the A-Team ended.
BuckeyeBeth Andybandit 29 days ago
That was George Peppard that passed away in 1994, seven years after the A-Team ended. He was still battling lung cancer (former heavy smoker) when he passed away from pneumonia.
Dirk Benedict, Mr. T, and Dwight Schultz are still alive although T like Dirk has also had cancer scares.
collene Andybandit 29 days ago
It's Richard Hatch that passed away a few years ago,
Michael BuckeyeBeth 29 days ago
George Peppard was in an episode of Matlock with Tracey Nelson. Matlock just introduces the story, then it's off to LA. They say it was a pilot for a show, Peppard playing a PI and Tracey his daughter assisting.

But he died, so no series
BuckeyeBeth Michael 29 days ago
Yes. I remember when I saw that episode about a year or so ago on MeTV that I was thinking it looked like a blatant set up for a new show. Also that it might have had some potential. I never saw it when it originally aired because I never watched Matlock during its first run. It was just not my thing at the time. I looked it up on IMDb and realized it was the last thing that George did and it wasn’t made into a series because of his death. If he had lived and made the series I probably would have watched it since I was a bit of a Peppard fan from his films, and I also like detective shows. He was only 65 at his death and seemed more active than Buddy Ebsen (also 65) when he started Barnaby Jones.
Jaxter14 Michael 29 days ago
Yes, and Tracy is the daughter of Ricky Nelson and stared along side “Mr Cunningham” Tom Bosley in Father Dowling.
Michael Jaxter14 29 days ago
I like Tracey Nelson. I got Square Pegs on DVD mostly because of her "Jennifer Denucio". But I also got Father Dowling Mysteries on DVD. Tom Bosley as Sheriff Tuper on Murder She Wrote is good, so he's Father Dowling.
JimmyD Andybandit 18 days ago
He actually had a cameo in the 2010 A-Team movie.
Catman 30 days ago
"flew his private plane back home to Montana to go fish in the creeks where he was raised."

Why was he raised in creeks? Couldn't his family afford a house?
Load previous comments
Zip ELEANOR 28 days ago
Yes, it is like watching tv but without the commercials. Always something on.

Though I was once sitting peaceably by a creek and out popped Billy Mays trying to sell me something. Ruined the whole mood.
justjeff ELEANOR 25 days ago
That does sound relaxing. Unfortunately, South Florida is known for its canals - not creeks... and that's a shame...
justjeff Catman 25 days ago
The house was built from old forest wood, and every time someone walked on the floor, it "wood creek"...
zman47240 Catman 24 days ago
🤣🤣
daDoctah 30 days ago
One part of the story isn't strictly accurate. I had a mole on my neck removed because I kept cutting it and drawing blood when shaving (which isn't supposed to happen when you use an electric razor, but it sure did for me). They send such things for biopsy as a matter of course, and a week later I got a phone call from my doctor telling me it was malignant and asking what I wanted to do about it.

Because the lab said the bit removed was completely surrounded by healthy tissue on all sides but one, it looked like on the one edge it was about to peter out, it was in a highly conspicuous spot, and I now knew I was susceptible to cancerous skin, we decided to just keep an eye on it and in 35 years it hasn't returned.
Peter_Falk_Fan daDoctah 29 days ago
I had a mole on my neck removed on the advice of my doctor (about 20 years ago). They sent it for biopsy. The report came back stating that it could have become cancerous (pre-cancerous?). I have another mole on my neck, but the doctor says that it's just a mole and he's not worried about it. Just to keep an eye on it for any changes. I have a mole near my belly button, but it's fading.
Michael 30 days ago
Maybe he suffered because he gave up meat because "it was good for him". So the reaction he felt was gecause he missed meat.

My body never had to adapt. I gladly stopped eating it in 1979, no regrets, no missing it, no reaction. I knew I'd never eat meat again.

I never saw Chopper One, but I remember it. There was controversy in some circles because an early episode had a kid ccreating a hoax by pretending to be in an accident in the desert and calling for help yon the radio.
Catman Michael 30 days ago
Vegan since 1986
Catman Catman 30 days ago
I have never before heard of anyone having this kind of problem giving up meat and dairy. To be honest, I never really noticed any negative reactions at all, and I went vegan -- strictly -- all at once and never looked back. I know a lot of others who never reported any "withdrawal symptoms" either.
Michael Catman 30 days ago
I've heard of the reverse. Go without meat !ong enough and your body gets used to it. So if you start eating meat again, you do have to adapt. I have no idea how common that is. I can certainly see it happening.
epickett Michael 29 days ago
What made you stop eating meat in the first place? It's tough giving up something to eat that you actually enjoy...which is why I'm still hooked on sugar...
Sachelle Michael 29 days ago
It's weird how he was sick for so long after giving up meat. I gave up meat once and got sick but it only lasted a few weeks.
justjeff epickett 25 days ago
On a serious note... I gave up 99.999% of red meat years ago because doctors advised me it's bad for the colon, the heart and the prostate... but I still enjoy chicken, turkey and seafood... and the .001% where I do give in is either just a "taste sample" or some pepperoni on an occasional slice of pizza.

In my younger days I loved [and existed on] hamburgers, pasta with ground beef and tomato sauce, hot dogs, etc. I never got sick by cutting those items out of my diet - and I don't really miss them. I also try to avoid as much excess sugar as possible to keep my carbs and A1C in check. Sure, it may be "boring" by comparative eating habits, but I have no regrets. I'm not "preaching" to anyone - just relating what worked for me...

justjeff 1 month ago
Dirk became "Benedict"... but I supply the "yolks" around here!
Load previous comments
LoveMETV22 justjeff 25 days ago
I don't remember you telling Vincent he could ge in on the punnery. LOL
LoveMETV22 LoveMETV22 25 days ago
Opps typo "get" .
justjeff LoveMETV22 25 days ago
But didja notice that the resident "experts" at MeTV referred to Vincent Price's character as "Eggman" and NOT "Egghead" - which is the correct name! These people must be from the Twilight Zone! LOL!
justjeff LoveMETV22 25 days ago
Let me eggspress my appreciation for your continued accolades. I can't eggsplain my pun-chant to make pun of some topics, but at times I just eggshume the humor out of the mundane. After all, what more can you eggspect from me? Does that mean we'll need an eggsorcist to rid me of my eggcentric sense of humor? I hope not. It's the only way I ever get to come out of my shell!

Eggsperts agree that a pun is the lowest form of humor... but you can't deny that eggsotic puns like mine bring - if not a laugh - at least a smile and a groan! That's fine with me... I'm a groan boy and I can take the heat as long as I'm not grilled over my eggsasperating puns!
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?