A versatile with a powerful on-screen presence that played a role in his long career, from the sexually adventurous novelist Henry Miller to the meticulous and silent astronaut Gus Grissom. Actor Fred Ward died on May 8th. He was 79 years old.
His death was announced by his spokesman, Ron Hoffman. He said Ward’s family did not want to identify the cause of death or say where he died.
Mr. Ward came by his fearless persona, as if it were real, or as suggested by some stereotypes of the work he did. He worked as a logger and lumberjack in Alaska, boxed as an amateur, and spent three years in the Air Force as a radar engineer in Canada’s cold and often desolate Labrador region.
Although never comparable to stardom, a macho top-notch man like Bruce Willis or Dwayne Johnson, he usually played a supporting role. He was an assassin like James Bond, a martial arts expert assigned to a secret government agency. In “Timer: The Adventures of Lyle Swan” (1982), he played a fearless motorcycle racer. In “Tremors” (1990), he and Kevin Bacon fought a crawling insect-like monster. And the comedy “The Naked Gun 33⅓” (1994), in which he was cast as a terrorist attempting to blow up an Academy Awards show.
But his more delicate talent as an actor is Miller’s wife June (Uma Thurman) and diary author Anais Nin (Maria de Medeiros) in the 1930s. In addition to drawing attention to the subject, the film became even more notorious because it was the first film to be blessed with an NC-17 rating from the American Film Institute and was spared a penalty. TV ads and reluctant theaters — would have been the result if it had been rated X.
“My rear end seemed to have something to do with it,” Ward said of the threatened X rating, but he wasn’t the only rear end on display.
“Women were as instigated as men in this movie, so it could threaten some people,” he told The Washington Post in 1990.
In harmony with Miller’s desire for life and his sneaky humor, Mr. Ward evokes the origins and accents of his working class Brooklyn, and the wild, bohemian joy he received at the ruckus competition. I caught it. He shaved his head to resemble a mirror and examined the old mirror’s videotape to imitate Chick.
“He spoke from the corner of his mouth,” Ward said. “He had a squint.”
Critic Janet Maslin reviewed The Times’ Henry & June, which wasn’t kind to the movie, but Ward said, “I was asked to disguise rather than perform,” but “always attractive. It was a target. ” .. “
The Washington Post’s Hal Hinson was much more enthusiastic about both the film and Mr. Ward’s performance. As a mirror, he writes: He said it was “a star performance with the credibility of a character actor.”
Frederick Joseph Ward was born on December 30, 1942 in San Diego to an alcoholic father. “My dad spent a lot of time,” he told the Chicago Tribune in 1985. “He was in jail when I was born.
When Fred was three years old, the mother left her husband to New Orleans to rebuild her life and take Fred’s grandmother’s care in Texas. “After a while, she sent me,” Ward told Tribune. “She supported us by working at the bar. In five years we lived in five different places. Then she married my stepfather who was with Kearney. Maybe that’s the source of my restlessness. I inherited it. “
Three days after graduating from high school, Mr. Ward enrolled in the Air Force, saying he was obliged to the country. At the end of his service, he boarded a bus to New York, enrolled in acting classes at Herbertberghoff Studios, and worked as a janitor and construction worker to support himself.
When he got only one small movie role in his class, he flew to Florida, where he loaded a truck, then went to New Orleans, where he worked at a barrel factory. Houston, possible job as a sailor was upset by a strike. In Yuba City, California, he found a short-term cook job at a bowling alley. In San Francisco, transportation system construction work funded trips to Spain, Morocco, France and Italy.
“I had a restless Kerouac line, the call of the road,” he said in 1985. “I would have liked to experience the existence of being alone.”
After returning to the United States, he played a credit-free role as a cowboy in the 1975 movie “Hearts of the West.” However, he did not play the first important role until he played a prisoner who joined Clint Eastwood in an attempt to escape prison in “Escape from Alcatraz” in 1979. Other roles continued, including Mike Nichols’ “Silkwood” (1983), where he played a union activist and a colleague of Meryl Streep.
But the first movie that got him serious attention in Hollywood was The Right Stuff (1983), the story of Astronaut Mercury, based on the book of Tom Wolfe of the same name. Mr. Ward played the Virgil “Gus” Grissom. A Hollywood Reporter review praised him as “probably the most demanding role of the film, naive and unpretentious.”
The film was directed by Philip Kaufman, who cast Mr. Ward in “Henry & June.”
Two years after “The Right Stuff,” my career was very disappointing. The creators of Remo Williams: The Beginning of Adventure, as the title suggests, hoped it would be the beginning of a franchise like James Bond, and Ward signed two sequels. But it was a box office revenue and no other movie was made.
Ward got married three times. His survivors include his 27-year-old wife, Marie Franceward, and his son, Django, named after guitarist Django Reinhardt.
Over the past few decades, Ward has appeared in a miscellaneous assortment of movies and television shows, but he has been most enthusiastic about developing the talent he felt he had for painting. In that pursuit, he may have been chasing his inner Henry Miller — Miller, Ward once said, “experimenting in life over and over again.”
“He was a man who knew that he had to obey his inner impulses, creativity and passion,” he said. “Or he will die bitterly.”
Amanda Holpucci Report that contributed.