Entertainment

Character actor Fred Ward, known for role in The Right Stuff, dead at age 79

Veteran film and television actor best known for playing gruff, tough-guy roles in movies such as Tremors, Escape from Alcatraz, and The Right Stuff, died on Sunday, his publicist said on Friday. No cause or place of death was released, as per his family's wishes.

Career spanned from 1970s to 2015's True Detective

Fred Ward is seen in 2008. The veteran character actor died on Sunday, according to his publicist. He was 79 years old. (Michael Buckner/Getty Images for AFI)

Veteran film and television actor Fred Ward, 79, best known for playing gruff, tough-guy roles in movies such as Tremors, Escape from Alcatraz, and The Right Stuff, died on Sunday, his publicist said on Friday.

No cause or place of death was released, as per his family's wishes, publicist Ron Hofmann said.

Ward took a roundabout way into acting, after serving three years in the U.S. Air Force in the 1960s and then working as an Alaskan lumberjack, a boxer (where his nose was broken three times), and a short-order cook, according to a biography provided by Hofmann.

His career spanned more than four decades, starting with foreign films in the early 1970s and stretched through 2015 with his final role in the television series True Detective, according to his IMDB page. 

Ward in 2011 at the premiere of 30 Minutes Or Less. The veteran character actor died on Sunday. (Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

He made his first U.S. film appearance playing a cowboy in the 1975 film, Hearts of the West. But his breakthrough role came when he played opposite Clint Eastwood in the 1979 film Escape from Alcatraz.

"The unique thing about Fred Ward is that you never knew where he was going to pop up, so unpredictable were his career choices," the release said.

He played everything from an astronaut, cowboy, Vietnam war soldier, a chain-smoking police detective-turned-assassin, to a hero battling giant worms, the release said.

In 1983 he portrayed Mercury 7 astronaut Virgil "Gus" Grissom in the adaptation of Tom Wolfe's book, The Right Stuff. That same year he appeared in the action movie Uncommon Valor with Gene Hackman and in the drama Silkwood with Meryl Streep.

Ward won a Golden Globe and the Venice Film Festival ensemble prize for his performance in Short Cuts in 1993, his biography said.

He is survived by his wife of 27 years, Marie-France Ward, and a son, Django Ward.

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