One of the most talented and memorable character actors of his generation has died. According to a statement from his publicist, Fred Ward passed away on Sunday, May 8th. The cause of death is not named; Ward was 79 years old.
Movie buffs may remember him best for Tremor, an unusual but very interesting horror comedy about underground monsters terrorizing a city in the deserts of Nevada. The film achieved a cult following and spawned a long-running franchise; Ward is back for the first sequel, Quake 2: Aftershocks. In the show, he plays Earl, a guy who, along with his buddy Val (Kevin Bacon), discovers the existence of these tunnel «graboid» monsters.
Born in California in 1972, Ward spent the early days of his life in the Air Force and as a boxer before taking a break from show business with Italian director Roberto Rossellini while living in Rome for a time. Returning to the United States, he began working in theater and television, and later starred in a Don Siegel film. Escape from Alcatraz opposite Clint Eastwood.
While Ward has played many heavyweights and villains, he has also starred in an action adventure. Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, based on the popular series of novels. The film was supposed to launch the franchise, but it didn’t do well enough at the box office to ever get a sequel.
Another career highlight came in 1983, when Ward played Mercury Seven astronaut Gus Grissom in a Philip Kaufman film. The right thing about the early days of the American space program.
Except Tremormy favorite Fred Ward game is probably the very funny role of the insane terrorist in Naked gun 33 1/3where he spoofed many of the tough guy roles he played over the years.
In an email about Ward’s death, his publicist Ron Hofmann had this to say about Ward’s special talents:
The uniqueness of Fred Ward is that you never knew where he would appear, so unpredictable was his career choice. He could play characters as diverse as Remo Williams, a police officer trained by Chiun, the Master of Sinanju (Joel Gray) to become an unstoppable assassin in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, or Earl Bass, who, along with Kevin Bacon, a fighting giant, like the monsters lusting after human flesh in the «cult» horror/comedy film Tremors (1990), or the detective in the indie film Two Little Bodies (1993) directed by underground filmmaker Beth B., or the terrorist planning to blow up Academy Award in The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Last Insult (1994) or the father of the protagonist in Jennifer Lopez’s revenge thriller Enough (2002).
It’s actually a beautiful tribute to Ward, a versatile and memorable actor who’s always been waiting on screen. He will be missed.
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