Fred Ward, a character actor and producer who starred in “The Right Stuff,” “Tremors” and “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins,” has died at 79.
Publicist Ron Hofmann confirmed to USA TODAY that Ward died Sunday. Ward had a steady presence on screen since the late 1970s, garnering his first major role alongside Clint Eastwood in 1979’s “Escape from Alcatraz.” Ward memorably played Mercury 7 astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom in 1983’s space epic “The Right Stuff” but also tackled giant monster worms side by side with Kevin Bacon in the 1990 cult horror comedy “Tremors.”
Born in San Diego, Ward’s pre-acting jobs – including three years in the Air Force and stints as a short-order cook, boxer and lumberjack – prepared for the tough-guy roles he’d be recognized for in his Hollywood career.
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Ward headlined the 1985 action adventure “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins,” in which he played a cop trained to become an assassin by a martial-arts master (Joel Grey). It turned out to be a failed franchise vehicle, but Ward had noteworthy roles in a pair of 1990 films: He starred as author Henry Miller in “Henry & June,” the first NC-17 film, also featuring Uma Thurman, and he played a Miami detective hunting down Alec Baldwin’s ex-con in the neo-noir dark comedy “Miami Blues.” (Ward himself bought the book rights for Charles Willeford’s novel two years before.)
In addition, Ward had a role as a studio security chief in Robert Altman’s “The Player” and a TV anchor in Tim Robbins’ “Bob Roberts” – both in 1992 – and was a terrorist planning to detonate a bomb at the Oscars in the 1994 spoof “The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult.”
Ward also played a number of dads, in comedies like 2000’s “Road Trip,” 2001’s “Summer Catch” and 2011’s “30 Minutes of Less” as well as the 2002 revenge thriller “Enough” where he was Jennifer Lopez’s on-screen father.
The actor also worked on the small-screen, including parts in the disaster miniseries “10.5” and shows “In Plain Sight,” “The United States of Tara,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Leverage” and “True Detective.”
A painter late in life, Ward is survived by his wife of 27 years, Marie-France Ward, and son Django Ward.