Fred Ward, a veteran actor known for his extreme sensitivity to tough-guy characters in films like “The Right Stuff,” “The Player,” and “Tremors,” has died. He was 79 years old.
Ward died on Sunday, according to his spokesman Ron Hofmann. According to the family’s requests, neither the reason nor the location of the death was publicized.
Ward won a Golden Globe and a Venice Film Festival ensemble prize for his role in Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts,” He also portrayed the lead character in “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.” In the 1983′s Academy Award-nominated picture “The Right Stuff,” he played Mercury 7 astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom.
“Devastated to learn of my buddy, Fred Ward’s, death,” actor Matthew Modine, who co-starred with Ward in “Short Cuts” and Alan Rudolph’s “Equinox,” tweeted. “A rugged exterior concealing emotions as deep as the Pacific.” “Best wishes, amigo.”
Ward, a San Diego native who was half Cherokee, was a former boxer, a lumberjack in Alaska, and a short-order chef who served in the United States Air Force. In 1979, he co-starred in “Escape From Alcatraz” with Clint Eastwood.
“I grieve the passing of Fred Ward, who was so wonderful to me on ‘Remo Williams,'” actress Kate Mulgrew tweeted. “Decent, unassuming, and completely professional, he disarmed with a pleasant, cheeky smile.”
In George Armitage’s “Miami Blues,” Ward plays a rumpled detective hunting a crazed criminal played by Alec Baldwin. In both “Summer Catch” and “Joe Dirt,” he portrayed a strong and scary father to Freddie Prinze Jr.’s character and David Spade’s lead character.
Ward portrayed President Ronald Reagan in the 2009 Cold War spy thriller “Farewell,” He appeared in the 2013 action film “2 Guns” alongside Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg.
Ward co-starred with Kevin Bacon in the horror-comedy “Tremors” as a pair of repairmen who wind up helping a hardscrabble Nevada desert village plagued by huge subterranean snakes.
Ward demonstrated more than grit in the sexually charged NC-17 “Henry & June.” Ward played author Henry Miller against Anais Nin and his wife, June, in the film based on Anais Nin’s book and directed by Philip Kaufman. “It appeared like my rear end had anything to do with (that rating),” he told The Washington Post.
He later reteamed with Altman in 1992 for the role of a studio security head in the director’s Hollywood comedy “The Player.” In 1983, he portrayed a union activist and Meryl Streep’s coworker in Mike Nichols’ “Silkwood.”
Ward made his comedic debut in 1994 as a terrorist plotting to blow up the Academy Awards in “Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult.”
From 2006-to 2007, he had recurring appearances on NBC’s “ER” as the father of Maura Tierney’s Abby Lockhart, and he guest-starred on shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy” “And leverage,” and “United States of Tara.” Ward most recently starred as the retired cop father of Colin Farrell’s Detective Ray Velcoro in the second season of HBO’s “True Detective.”
Ward is survived by his 27-year-old wife, Marie-France Ward, and their son, Django Ward.