Fred Ward, a veteran actor who brought a gruff tenderness to tough-guy roles in films Tremors, The Right Stuff and The Player has died. He was 79.
Ward died on Sunday, his publicist Ron Hofmann said on Friday. No cause or place of death was disclosed per the family’s wishes.
A former boxer, lumberjack in Alaska and short-order cook who served in the US Air Force, Ward was a San Diego native who was part Cherokee. One early big role was alongside Clint Eastwood in 1979’s Escape From Alcatraz.
Ward earned a Golden Globe and shared the Venice Film Festival ensemble prize for his performance in Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, and played the title character in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. He also reached new heights playing Mercury 7 astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom in 1983′s Academy Award-nominated film The Right Stuff.
In the horror-comedy Tremors, Ward paired with Kevin Bacon to play a pair of repairmen who end up saving a hardscrabble Nevada desert community beset by giant underground snakes.
Bacon reacted to the news of Ward’s death by tweeting: “So sad to hear about Fred Ward. 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.”
Ward’s other roles included a rumpled 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, starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg.
He also reteamed with Altman for the part of a studio security chief in the director’s 1992 Hollywood satire The Player, and played a union activist and Meryl Streep’s workmate in Mike Nichols’ Silkwood in 1983.
On the small screen, he had recurring roles on NBC’s ER playing the father of Maura Tierney’s Abby Lockhart in 2006-2007 and guest starred on such series as Grey’s Anatomy, Leverage and United States of Tara.
Ward most recently appeared in 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, Django Ward.