Veteran actor Fred Ward, whose career begin with an Italian TV miniseries in 1973 and lasted more than forty years, has died at the age of 79, as confirmed by his publicist and reported by Variety. Born in San Diego in 1942, Ward served in the Air Force and worked as a lumberjack in Alaska before training at the Herbert Berghof Studio in New York and working in Italy to dub Italian films. His first onscreen role was in The Age of the Medici, from director Roberto Rossellini.
Among the highlights from his lengthy career were 1981’s Southern Comfort, from director Walter Hill, 1983’s Silkwood, from Mike Nichols, and 1984’s Swing Shift, from Jonathan Demme. His performances in 1979’s Escape from Alcatraz and 1983’s The Right Stuff earned him greater recognition, as did three films from 1990: Miami Blues, Henry & June, and Tremors. He worked with director Robert Altman on The Player and Short Cuts. In recent years, he made television guest appearances on series including Grey’s Anatomy, ER, United States of Tara, and True Detective.
His publicist, Ron Hoffman, shared a poignant tribute with NPR by e-mail: “The unique thing about Fred Ward is that you never knew where he was going to pop up, so unpredictable were his career choices. He could play such diverse characters as Remo Williams, a cop trained by Chiun, Master of Sinanju (Joel Grey) to become an unstoppable assassin in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, or Earl Bass, who, alongside Kevin Bacon, battle giant, worm-like monsters hungry for human flesh in ‘cult’ horror/comedy film, Tremors (1990), or a detective in the indie film Two Small Bodies (1993) directed by underground filmmaker Beth B., or a terrorist planning to blow up the Academy Awards in The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994), or the father of the lead character in Jennifer Lopez’s revenge thriller Enough (2002).”
Ward leaves behind his wife of twenty-seven years, Marie-France, and his son, Django. Donations can be made to the Boston University Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center.