Fred Ward Took Off in The Right Stuff

Actor's varied roles included 'Tremors,' 'Henry and June'
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 13, 2022 2:50 PM CDT
Updated May 13, 2022 3:35 PM CDT
Fred Ward Took Off in The Right Stuff
Fred Ward, left, talks with actor Morgan Freeman at a premiere in 2007.   (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Fred Ward, a longtime character actor known for his roles in the historical space epic The Right Stuff and the cult classic Tremors, has died. He was 79. Ward brought an old-time grit and charisma to a variety of roles, Variety reports, that struck audiences as genuine. "The unique thing about Fred Ward is that you never knew where he was going to pop up, so unpredictable were his career choices," wrote his publicist, Ron Hofmann, per CNN. He played a heroic astronaut, Gus Grissom, in The Right Stuff in 1983, for example, and followed that with the role of Henry Miller, the rebellious author, in Henry & June.

Ward, who was born in San Diego, served three years in the Air Force. Before entering acting, he worked as a short-order cook and boxer, as well as a lumberjack in Alaska. He studied acting in New York, then went to Europe, where he worked dubbing Italian films in English. Ward's first significant film role was in Clint Eastwood's Escape From Alcatraz in 1979. His long list of credits also includes Silkwood, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, and Miami Blues. Ward also played a terrorist in Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult.

On TV, he appeared in True Detective, ER, Grey's Anatomy, and scores of other series. When choosing roles, Ward told the New York Times, "I look for change, a person that changes—he's on a voyage." Reviewing Miami Blues, the late critic Roger Ebert wrote of Ward, "In movies like this and the underrated UFO, he sits back and takes everything in and plays the cynic who will really bother you only if you really bother him." (More obituary stories.)

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