Fred Ward, star of ‘The Right Stuff’ and ‘Henry and June’, dies at 79

Fred Ward, a flexible actor with a powerful display screen presence who in an extended profession performed roles starting from the sexually adventurous novelist Henry Miller to the meticulous and brooding astronaut Gus Grissom, died on Could 8. He was 79 years previous.

His demise was introduced by his publicist, Ron Hofmann, who stated Ward’s household wouldn’t specify a reason behind demise or say the place he died.

Mr. Ward got here for his manly persona authentically – or as authentically because the stereotypes of a few of the jobs he held would possibly recommend. He labored as a logger and lumberjack in Alaska, boxed as an newbie, and spent three years within the Air Pressure as a radar technician within the chilly and sometimes bleak area of Labrador, Canada.

Although he by no means got here near attaining stardom from macho leads like Bruce Willis or Dwayne Johnson — he typically had supporting roles — he performed powerful, resilient characters in movies like “Remo Williams: The Journey Begins” (1985), through which he he was a James Bond-like murderer, expert in martial arts, on task for a secret authorities company; “Timerider: The Adventures of Lyle Swann” (1982), through which he performed a daredevil motorcyclist; “Tremors” (1990), through which he and Kevin Bacon battled crawling worm-like monsters; and the comedy “Bare Gun 33 ⅓” (1994), through which he was solid as a terrorist plotting to explode the Oscar present.

However his extra refined skills as an actor had been dropped at life in “Henry and June” (1990), a racy account of the Parisian love triangle Miller had along with his spouse, June (Uma Thurman), and diarist Anaïs Nin (Maria de Medeiros) within the Along with garnering consideration for its subject material, the movie obtained a bit of extra notoriety as a result of it was the primary to be blessed with an NC-17 score from the Movement Image Affiliation of America, which allowed it to flee penalties – in misplaced newspapers and reluctant tv and film promoting – this could have resulted if it had been rated X.

“My ass appeared to have one thing to do with it,” Ward stated of the X-rated menace, although he wasn’t the one ass on show.

“For the reason that girls had been the instigators as a lot as the lads on this movie, that may have been threatening to some folks,” he instructed The Washington Publish in 1990. “Or that is perhaps my cockamamie concept.”

In concord with Miller’s urge for food for all times and bawdy humor, Ward captured his working-class Brooklyn background and accent, in addition to the rascal, bohemian pleasure he felt in flouting conference. He shaved his head to appear like Miller’s and studied previous Miller’s videotapes to imitate his tics.

“He spoke out of the nook of his mouth,” Ward stated. “He had a squint.”

Reviewing “Henry and June” in The Occasions, critic Janet Maslin wasn’t variety to the movie — however stated of Ward that whereas he was “requested to provide extra of an impersonation than a efficiency,” he was “at all times compelling. ”

Hal Hinson of The Washington Publish was rather more passionate about each the movie and Ward’s efficiency. Like Miller, he wrote, “Ward delivers a hilarious model of American bravado, however he retains the character’s vulgarities in steadiness along with his inventive impulses.” It was, he stated, “a star efficiency with the authenticity of a personality actor.”

Frederick Joseph Ward was born on December 30, 1942, in San Diego to an alcoholic father. “My dad did lots of time,” he instructed The Chicago Tribune in 1985. “He was in jail once I was born, left briefly to have a good time the delivery and got here again quickly.”

When Fred was 3 years previous, his mom left her husband and went to New Orleans to rebuild her life, placing Fred within the care of his grandmother in Texas. “After some time, she known as me,” Ward instructed The Tribune. “She supported us working in bars. In 5 years we lived in 5 completely different locations. Then she married my stepfather, who was with the carny. Perhaps that is the place my unease comes from. I inherited.”

Three days after graduating from highschool, Ward enrolled within the Air Pressure as a result of, in line with him, it was his obligation to his nation. As soon as his service ended, he took a bus to New York and enrolled in appearing courses on the Herbert Berghof Studio, supporting himself by working as a janitor and building employee.

When courses yielded solely a small movie position, he left for Florida, the place he loaded vehicles, after which to New Orleans, the place he labored in a barrel manufacturing facility; Houston, the place a doable job as a sailor was derailed by a strike; and Yuba Metropolis, California, the place he discovered a job as a cook dinner at a bowling alley. In San Francisco, building work on the transit system financed a visit to Spain, Morocco, France and Italy.

“I had a stressed Kerouac streak, the decision of the street,” he stated in 1985. “I believe I needed to expertise this existential factor of being alone.”

Returning to the USA, he performed an uncredited position as a cowboy within the 1975 movie “Hearts of the West”. However he did not get his first important position till 1979, when he performed a convict who groups up with Clint Eastwood in an try to flee jail in “Escape From Alcatraz.” Different roles adopted, together with Mike Nichols’ Silkwood (1983), through which he performed a union activist and colleague of Meryl Streep.

However the first movie to draw critical Hollywood consideration was “The Proper Stuff” (1983), the saga of the Mercury Seven astronauts, primarily based on Tom Wolfe’s ebook of the identical title. Mr. Ward performed Virgil “Gus” Grissom. The Hollywood Reporter’s evaluation praised him as “earthly and unassuming in what is probably the movie’s most demanding position”.

The director of this movie was Philip Kaufman, who solid Ward in “Henry and June”.

Two years after “The Proper Stuff” got here a serious profession disappointment. The creators of “Remo Williams: The Journey Begins” had hoped that – because the title recommended – it might be the beginning of a James Bond-like franchise, and Ward signed on for 2 sequels. However it was a field workplace failure, and the opposite movies had been by no means made.

Mr. Ward was married 3 times. His survivors embrace Marie-France Ward, his spouse of 27 years, and a son, Django, named after guitarist Django Reinhardt.

In his final a long time, Mr. Ward appeared in a motley assortment of movies and tv reveals, however he labored most intensively on creating a expertise he felt he had for portray. In that quest, he could also be following his interior Henry Miller — Miller, Ward as soon as stated, tried to “expertise life over and over.”

“He was a person who knew he needed to comply with that interior need, creativity and fervour,” he stated. “Or he would die bitter.”

Amanda Holpuch contributed experiences.


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