Ernest Borgnine won new fans on SpongeBob SquarePants

Jul 9, 2012 at 9:55 p.m. ET

The actor won his Oscar in 1955, but as late as 2011 he was the voice of the SpongeBob SquarePants character, and won over a new generation of fans.

Ernest BorgnineWhen Ernest Borgnine died Sunday, he left behind fans from his many movies and television shows, including the movie Marty and the TV show McHale’s Navy. But he also left behind a new generation of fans he gained only recently.

Borgnine signed on to SpongeBob SquarePants in 1999, when the series was just starting.

“He went on to play the character in several episodes of the series alongside his former McHale's Navy co-star Tim Conway, who voiced Mermaid Man's sidekick Barnacle Boy,” said the LA Times.

Borgnine said later the Nickelodeon character helped him relate to children, and helped children relate to him too.

The LA Times tells a story about an interview in 2010 where Borgnine said he had a meet and greet with a group of Girl Scouts.

"I asked [the girls] how many of you have seen my pictures?" he said during the interview. "They said nothing. Zilch. Suddenly I had a brain storm. I said 'How many of you know SpongeBob?' Yes! I said 'Well I happen to play Mermaid Man.' I was in!"

Borgnine worked far beyond many actors of his generation.

“He remained an active, steadily working actor well into his 90s; his capacity to pop up randomly in various movies and TV shows became one of his trademarks,” said the Washington Post. “It was simultaneously a pleasant surprise and no surprise at all to see him in contemporary films like Red or voicing the Mermaid Man in Spongebob Squarepants.”

Borgnine was acting all the way up until his death. His most recent film The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez has just been completed.

Besides SpongeBob, Borgnine had four different projects in 2011.

TCM is going to remember Borgnine with a 24-hour marathon on July 26, according to the network’s website. The marathon will include a number of Borgnine’s movies (sorry, no SpongeBob SquarePants) followed by a one-on-one filmed with the actor in 2009.

Photo courtesy Adriana M. Barraza/