Ubiquitous actor Fred Ward, whose body of work included “The Right Stuff,” “Short Cuts,” “Tremors,” and “Silkwood,” is dead at 79.
The Golden Globe winner’s publicist Ron Hoffman confirmed Ward died Sunday, but gave no cause of death. A memorial request was made for donations to the Boston University Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center. CTE is brain degeneration likely caused by repeated head traumas,
After completing three years in the U.S. Air Force, then roughing out a living as a short-order cook, a boxer and an Alaskan lumberjack, Ward’s acting career took flight when he was cast as astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom in 1983′s Academy Award nominated film “The Right Stuff.”
That same year he would appear in “Silkwood,” featuring Meryl Streep and Cher. Ward was cast in the lead of the action film “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.” In 1989, he appeared in “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” which helped launch Daniel-Day Lewis and Juliette Binoche to stardom.
Celebrated director Robert Altman used his services in 1993′s “Short Cuts” and 1992′s “The Player,” starring Tim Robbins. Robbins and Ward also paired up for 1992′s “Bob Roberts,” which Robbins directed.
“Devastated to learn about the passing of my friend, Fred Ward,” actor Matthew Modine tweeted. “I had the absolute pleasure of working with this wonderful man in Robert Altman’s Shortcuts and Alan Rudolph’s Equinox. A tough facade covering emotions as deep as a the Pacific Ocean. Godspeed amigo.”
Ward’s sturdy demeanor made him a formidable father character to Freddie Prinze Jr.’s character in “Summer Catch” and David Spade’s title character in “Joe Dirt,” which were both released in 2001. In 2000, he played Peter Facinelli’s character’s dad in “Ropewalk.”
Kevin Bacon, who starred with Ward in “Tremors,” tweeted a picture of the two of them from the set of that 1990 monster-comedy film.
“So sad to hear about Fred Ward,” Bacon wrote. “When it came to battling underground worms I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. I will always remember chatting about his love of Django Reinhardt and jazz guitar during our long hot days in the high desert. Rest In Peace Fred.”
On the small screen, he appeared on hit programs including “Grey’s Anatomy,” “ER,” and “True Detective.”
Ward spent his later practicing what Hoffman called his “second favorite art form,” which was painting.
He is survived by his wife of 27 years, Marie-France Ward, and son Django Ward.
“I mourn the loss of Fred Ward, who was so kind to me when we worked together on Remo Williams,” actress Kate Mulgrew tweeted. “Decent and modest and utterly professional, he disarmed with a smile that was at once warm and mischievous.”