Home Entertainment Fred Ward, character actor with ‘The Proper Stuff,’ dies at 79

Fred Ward, character actor with ‘The Proper Stuff,’ dies at 79


Fred Ward, a grizzled character actor who confirmed a knack for comedian timing and a large dramatic vary whereas enjoying dozens of movie roles, together with because the astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom in “The Proper Stuff,” creator Henry Miller in “Henry & June” and a bumbling repairman battling wormlike creatures in “Tremors,” died on Could 8. He was 79.

His dying was introduced in a press release by his publicist, Ron Hofmann. The assertion didn’t give a trigger, however mentioned Mr. Ward wished any memorial donations given to a Boston College heart for the research of continual traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative mind illness.

Mr. Ward launched his display profession enjoying rugged lawmen and macho outdoorsmen, a becoming starting for an actor who had served three years within the Air Power, broke his nostril within the boxing ring and labored as a lumberjack, discipline hand and short-order cook dinner. He went on to attract extensive popularity of his portrayal of Grissom, one in every of America’s first astronauts, in “The Proper Stuff” (1983), primarily based on Tom Wolfe’s epic chronicle of the early U.S. area program.

“Gus had an actual earthiness about him,” Mr. Ward advised the Los Angeles Instances. “He wasn’t gregarious, not comfy with public life — considerably like me.”

Directed by Philip Kaufman, “The Proper Stuff” acquired eight Oscar nominations, successful 4, and featured actor and playwright Sam Shepard, one in every of Mr. Ward’s early collaborators, alongside Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid and Scott Glenn, who performed his fellow astronauts.

“As a result of they’re typically so excellent,” wrote New York Instances reviewer Vincent Canby in 1983, “the film’s most interesting astronaut is Gus Grissom,” who was proven panicking with claustrophobia after his spacecraft splashes down within the Pacific. The scene was criticized by some historians who objected to the suggestion that Grissom could have prematurely blown the hatch, inflicting the capsule to flood with water.

“Does or doesn’t Gus Grissom have the proper stuff?” added Canby. “This impertinent query retains the film from turning into the unadulterated paean to American heroism and know-how it would in any other case have been.”

Mr. Ward made two different motion pictures that 12 months, enjoying a haunted Vietnam Conflict veteran in “Unusual Valor” and a union activist in “Silkwood,” and appeared poised for lasting stardom when he was forged because the action-hero title character in “Remo Williams: The Journey Begins” (1985). The movie was presupposed to launch a blockbuster film franchise, with Mr. Ward enjoying a New York Metropolis cop who turns into a martial-arts knowledgeable and vigilante murderer — the embodiment of “the 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not get away with it.”

However “Remo Williams” bombed on the field workplace, grossing solely $14 million and successfully tanking Mr. Ward’s probability at transitioning right into a bankable main man. One of many film’s few upsides was that Mr. Ward, a health junkie, bought to do a lot of his stunts: Once they filmed on location in Mexico, he reportedly spent his time without work climbing a 17,800-foot peak.

Mr. Ward remained an in-demand actor, reuniting with Kaufman to star within the erotic biographical drama “Henry & June” (1990), which explored the love triangle between the roguish “Tropic of Most cancers” creator Miller; his second spouse, June (Uma Thurman); and author Anaïs Nin (Maria de Medeiros). It grew to become the primary film to obtain an NC-17 score. “My rear finish appeared to have one thing to do with it,” Mr. Ward advised The Washington Submit in 1990.

That very same 12 months, he was featured alongside Kevin Bacon within the zippy horror comedy “Tremors,” utilizing a lasso to idiot a man-eating worm into swallowing a makeshift pipe bomb. The film acquired a cult following, and Mr. Ward reprised the position in 1996 for a direct-to-video sequel. He additionally confirmed off his comedic chops in two Robert Altman movies, as a movie-studio safety chief in “The Participant” (1992) and an out-of-work salesman who finds a corpse throughout a fishing journey in “Brief Cuts” (1993).

Lots of his movies featured an analogous mixture of darkish comedy and lurid violence, together with “Miami Blues” (1990), for which he served as government producer after shopping for the movie rights to against the law thriller by Charles Willeford. Mr. Ward performed Hoke Moseley, a toothless detective pursuing Alec Baldwin’s violent ex-con, a sociopath who frightens a Hare Krishna follower to dying by breaking his finger.

“The darkish humor actually appealed to me — and this random, abrupt violence,” he advised the Los Angeles Instances. “It may be humorous after which sink into this ugly place. It displays my view of the world.”

By most accounts, he was born Freddie Joe Ward in San Diego on Dec. 30, 1942. His father was out and in of jail, behind bars the day Mr. Ward was born, and his mother and father separated when he was three years previous. Mr. Ward was raised in Texas and Louisiana by his mom, who labored at bars earlier than she remarried.

“You carry the bags of your childhood with you till you possibly can step right into a Zen area and objectify it,” Mr. Ward advised the Los Angeles Instances. “There are specific components of want — the necessity for acceptance — from my childhood that gave me the drive that an actor has to have.”

After deciding to turn out to be an actor at age 19, Mr. Ward studied on the Herbert Berghof Studio in New York. He ultimately moved to Italy, the place he did mime performances in cabarets, dubbed spaghetti westerns into English and appeared in TV motion pictures directed by neorealist filmmaker Roberto Rossellini. He later appeared onstage in San Francisco, performing in performs by Shepard earlier than touchdown his first main movie position in “Escape From Alcatraz” (1979) as a jail inmate attempting to interrupt out with Clint Eastwood.

Mr. Ward later performed a Nationwide Guard member antagonizing a bunch of Cajuns in “Southern Consolation” (1981), a dirt-bike racer who stumbles right into a time-travel experiment in “Timerider: The Journey of Lyle Swann” (1982), a Native American tribal chief in “Thunderheart” (1992) and a gangster plotting to explode the Academy Awards in “Bare Gun 33⅓: The Ultimate Insult” (1994).

His different credit included the films “Chain Response” (1996), “Joe Grime” (2001) and “Candy House Alabama” (2002), and episodes of “Gray’s Anatomy,” “ER” and “True Detective,” by which he performed Colin Farrell’s alcoholic father.

Survivors embrace his spouse of 27 years, the previous Marie-France Boisselle; and a son, Django, from an earlier marriage to Silvia Ward.

Within the assertion, his publicist mentioned Mr. Ward “spent the final years of his life growing his second favourite artwork type: portray.”

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