Veteran Actor Fred Ward, Star of The Right Stuff and Tremors, Dies at 79 Movie

Veteran Actor Fred Ward, Star of The Right Stuff and Tremors, Dies at 79  Movie

Veteran character actor Fred Ward, best known for his performances on The Right Stuff, Tremors and Short Cuts, has died at the age of 79. A statement from Ward’s rep to the New York Post says the actor died on May 8. No cause of death was given, but the statement said it was Ward’s desire to make donations to Boston University’s Center for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

Born in San Diego, Ward joined the Air Force before deciding to become an actor. After struggling to get roles, he worked as a lumberjack, sailor and boxer before resuming his acting career in Italy, where he had an early role in a 1974 Roberto Rossellini made-for-TV film about Descartes. Eventually, when he returned to the US, he was recognized in Hollywood as bank robber John Anglin, Clint Eastwood’s fellow fugitive in Escape from Alcatraz. Other high-profile roles followed: in Southern Comfort as murderous Corporal Reece, as a Vietnam veteran in Uncommon Valor, and in The Right Stuff as flawed astronaut Gus Grissom.

Ward, center, in The Right Stuff.
Heady highs…Ward, center, in The Right Stuff. Photo: Warner Bros./Allstar

Ward was then cast in the title role of Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, a 1985 film that would be the first in a series of action thrillers starring the character from Destroyer’s detective novels. But the film was not a success and Ward returned to character and supporting roles. Highlights included Henry Miller in the erotic literary drama Henry & June; handyman Earl Bassett in the horror comedy Tremors; and studio security chief Walter Stuckel in Robert Altman’s The Player. Ward also used his own money to buy Miami Blues, the cult ’90s thriller in which he played a detective.

The connection with Altman brought Ward his biggest success: In the Raymond Carver adaptation “Short Cuts” Ward played one of a group of men who discover a body in the water during a fishing trip. Ward won a Golden Globe for being part of the film’s ensemble cast, as well as the Venice Film Festival Volpi Cup for acting (again for the full cast).

Ward worked steadily throughout the 1990s and 2000s, averaging two or three films a year. he has also appeared on TV shows such as ER, Grey’s Anatomy and True Detective.

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