Fred Ward, a veteran actor who brought cuteness to tough characters in films like “The Right Stuff” (“The Chosen Ones”), “The Player” (“The Rules of the Game”) and “Tremors” (“Terror Below the Earth” ), passed away. He was 79 years old.
Ward died Sunday, his publicist, Ron Hofmann, said Friday. The cause or place of death was not disclosed at the request of the family.
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Ward received a Golden Globe and shared the Best Ensemble Award at the Venice Film Festival for his work on Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts” and played the title character in “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins” (“Remo Williams, unarmed but deadly”). He also reached new heights playing Mercury 7 astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom in the 1983 Academy Award-nominated film “The Right Stuff.”
“Devastated to learn of the passing of my friend, Fred Ward,” tweeted actor Matthew Modine, who worked with Ward on Alan Rudolph’s “Short Cuts” and “Equinox.” “A hard facade that covers emotions as deep as the Pacific Ocean. Good luck friend”.
Ward, a former Alaskan boxer and lumberjack and fast-food cook who served in the United States Air Force, was a San Diego native who was part Cherokee. One of his first major roles was opposite Clint Eastwood in 1979’s “Escape From Alcatraz.”
“I am sorry for the loss of Fred Ward, who was so kind to me when we worked together on ‘Remo Williams,'” actress Kate Mulgrew tweeted. “Decent, unassuming and utterly professional, he disarmed with a smile that was both warm and mischievous.”
Ward’s other roles included a scruffy cop chasing a psychotic criminal played by Alec Baldwin in George Armitage’s “Miami Blues.” He was a formidable and intimidating father to both Freddie Prinze Jr.’s character in “Summer Catch” and David Spade’s main character in “Joe Dirt.” ).
Ward played President Reagan in the 2009 Cold War espionage thriller “Farewell” and had a supporting role in the 2013 action film “2 Guns,” starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. .
In the horror comedy “Tremors,” Ward teamed with Kevin Bacon to play a pair of repairmen who end up saving a Nevada desert community beset by massive underground snakes.
With the sexually charged “Henry & June” (“Henry and June”), which received an NC-17 (not suitable for children under 17) rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Ward showed more than just guts. In the film, based on the book by Anais Nin and directed by Philip Kaufman, he played novelist Henry Miller alongside Nin and his wife, June. “My butt seems to have had something to do with (that rating),” he told The Washington Post.
He also returned to work with Altman in the 1992 Hollywood satire “The Player,” playing a studio security chief, and played a union activist and co-worker of Meryl Streep in Mike Nichols’ “Silkwood” in 1983.
Ward showed off his comedic chops playing a terrorist planning an explosion at the Academy Awards in “Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult” (“And where’s the cop? 33 1/3: The final insult?”). end” of 1994.
On the small screen, he had recurring roles on NBC’s “ER” as the father of Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney) in 2006-2007 and guest-starred on such series as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Leverage” and “United States of Tara.” ”. Most recently, he starred in the second season of HBO’s “True Detective” as Colin Farrell’s retired cop father, Detective Ray Velcoro.
He is survived by his wife of 27 years, Marie-France Ward, and their son, Django Ward.