Fred Ward, who starred in films such as Tremors, The Right Stuff and The Player, has died aged 79.
The actor died last Sunday according to his publicist Ron Hofmann. The cause and place of death were not specified.
Ward had previously worked as a boxer, a lumberjack in Alaska, and a short-lived cook who served in the US Air Force.
Originally from San Diego, Ward was part Cherokee. Although he was known for his badass roles, he was renowned for bringing a certain warmth to his roles.
After studying acting in Rome, Ward landed his first major role opposite Clint Eastwood in Escape From Alcatraz in 1979.
He won a Golden Globe and an ensemble prize at the Venice Film Festival for his performance in Robert Altman’s comedy-drama Short Cuts.
Other big roles include lead character in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins and Mercury 7 astronaut Virgil ‘Gus’ Grissom in the 1983 Oscar-nominated The Right Stuff, and as a labor activist and co-worker of the character of Meryl Streep in Silkwood by Mike Nichols.
One of his most memorable roles was opposite Kevin Bacon in the horror comedy Tremors, playing a repairman battling giant underground snakes in the Nevada desert.
Bacon paid tribute to Ward, writing on social media, “So sad to hear about Fred Ward. When it came to fighting underground worms, I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. I I will always remember talking about his love for Django Reinhardt and jazz guitar during our long hot days in the high desert. Rest In Peace Fred.”
Actor Matthew Modine, who co-starred with Ward in Alan Rudolph’s Short Cuts and Equinox tweeted: “Devastated to hear of the passing of my friend, Fred Ward. A harsh facade covering emotions as deep as Pacific Ocean. Godspeed amigo.”
Actress Kate Mulgrew wrote: “I mourn the loss of Fred Ward, who was so kind to me when we worked together on Remo Williams. Decent and unassuming and utterly professional, he disarmed with a smile at both warm and playful.”
Ward’s other key performances include a scruffy cop chasing a psychotic criminal played by Alec Baldwin in George Armitage’s Miami Blues; an intimidating father to Freddie Prinze Jr’s character in Summer Catch and David Spade’s main character in Joe Dirt.
He played President Ronald Reagan in the 2009 Cold War spy thriller Farewell and had a supporting role in the 2013 action film 2 Guns, starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg.
Ward played a more revealing role in Philip Kaufman’s Henry & June. Based on the erotic novel by Anais Nin, he played novelist Henry Miller. Speaking to The Washington Post at the time, he said of the film’s success: “My rear end seemed to have something to do with (that rating).”
Ward demonstrated his comedy timing in 1994’s Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, playing a terrorist intent on blowing up the Oscars.
On television, he had recurring roles on NBC’s ER playing Maura Tierney’s father Abby Lockhart between 2006 and 2007 and guest-starred on shows such as Grey’s Anatomy.
Ward most recently appeared on the second season of HBO’s True Detective as the retired detective father of Colin Farrell’s Detective Ray Velcoro.
Ward is survived by his third wife, Marie-France Ward and his son from his second marriage, Django Ward.
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