Fred Ward, a veteran actor who brought a gruesome softness to tough-to-find roles in the films Tremors, The Right Stuff and The Player, has died. He was 79 years old.
Erd died on Sunday, his publicist Ron Hoffman said on Friday. No cause or place of death was given as per the wishes of the family.
A former boxer, woodcutter in Alaska, and a short-order cook who served in the U.S. Air Force, Ward was a San Diego native who was part of the Cherokee. An early major was starring Clint Eastwood in 1979’s Escape from Alcatraz.
Ward earned a Golden Globe and shared the Venice Film Festival ensemble award for his performance in Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, and played the title character in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. He reached new heights playing Mercury 7 astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom in the 1983 Academy Award-nominated film The Right Stuff.
In the horror-comedy Tremors, Ward played a pair of repairmen alongside Kevin Bacon who rescue a harsh Nevada desert community surrounded by giant subterranean snakes.
Bacon reacted to the news of Ward’s death by tweeting: “So sad to hear about Fred Ward. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner when it comes to fighting underground insects. Our long hot summer in the high desert Through the days I will always remember talking about Jango Reinhardt and his love of jazz guitar. Rest in Peace Fred.”
So sorry to hear about Fred Ward. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner when it comes to fighting underground insects. I will always remember talking about Jango Reinhardt and his love of jazz guitar during our long hot days in the high desert. Rest in Peace Fred. pic.twitter.com/WLOB0iVwkd
— Kevin Bacon (@kevinbacon) 13 May 2022
Ward’s other roles included a rumored cop chasing a psychotic criminal played by Alec Baldwin in George Armitage’s Miami Blues.
Ward played President Ronald Reagan in the 2009 Cold War espionage thriller Farewell and had a supporting role in the 2013 action flick 2 Guns, which starred Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg.
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He reunited with Altman for the role of a studio security chief in the director’s 1992 Hollywood satire The Player, and played a union activist and Meryl Streep co-worker in Mike Nichols’ Silkwood in 1983.
On the small screen, he had recurring roles in NBC’s ER playing the father of Maura Tierney’s Abby Lockhart in 2006–2007, and guest starred in such series as Grey’s Anatomy, Leverage and United States of Tara.
Ward most recently appeared on the second season of HBO’s True Detective as the retired cop father of Colin Farrell’s Detective Ray Velcoro.
Ward is survived by his wife of 27 years, Marie-France Ward, and his son, Jongo Ward.