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'Tremors' and 'The Right Stuff' actor Fred Ward has died

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Fred Ward, best known for starring in films such as Tremors, The Right Stuff, The Player and Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, has died aged 79.

His death was confirmed to the New York Post by his publicist Ron Hofmann, who revealed that the actor passed away last Sunday (May 8).

“I am sad to announce the passing of acclaimed actor Fred Ward, who passed away on Sunday, May 8, 2022, at age 79,” Hofmann’s statement read. “The Golden Globe winner, actor and producer is best known for The Right StuffRemo Williams: The Adventure Begins, TremorsMiami Blues, Henry & JuneThe Player and Short Cuts.”

No cause of death has been revealed, but Hofmann did share the actor’s finals wishes: “It was Fred Ward’s wish that any memorial tributes be made in the form of donations to the Boston University Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center. Please visit or contact 617-358-9535 for more information.”

A former boxer, lumberjack and short-order cook who served in the U.S. Air Force, Ward, a San Diego native known for bringing a gentlemanly tenderness to the tough guy roles he played, began his career starring alongside Clint Eastwood in 1979’s Escape From Alcatraz.

Fred Ward
Fred Ward and Morgan Freeman at the premiere of ‘Feast Of Love’ in 2007. CREDIT: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Ward went on to play a motorcycle racer in Timerider: The Adventures Of Lyle Swann (1982), a former Vietnam War tunnel rat in Ted Kotcheff’s Uncommon Valor (1983) and a cop who battles a psychotic criminal (Alec Baldwin) and loses his dentures in George Armitage’s Miami Blues (1990).

“The unique thing about Fred Ward is that you never knew where he was going to pop up, so unpredictable were his career choices,” Hofmann wrote in an email (via NPR). “He could play such diverse characters as Remo Williams, a cop trained by Chiun, Master of Sinanju (Joel Grey) to become an unstoppable assassin in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, or Earl Bass, who, alongside Kevin Bacon, battle giant, worm-like monsters hungry for human flesh in ‘cult’ horror/comedy film, Tremors (1990), or a detective in the indie film Two Small Bodies (1993) directed by underground filmmaker Beth B., or a terrorist planning to blow up the Academy Awards in The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994), or the father of the lead character in Jennifer Lopez’s revenge thriller Enough (2002).”

His most notable roles include Earl Bass, the Nevada handyman who fights off creepy crawlers in Tremors (1990) and its 1996 sequel, and astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom in 1983’s The Right Stuff.

Part Cherokee, he tapped into his heritage as a union activist and Meryl Streep’s workmate in Mike Nichols’ Silkwood (1983) and for his turns in Errol Morris’ The Dark Wind (1991) and Michael Apted’s Thunderheart (1992).

Ward also starred the heavy-drinking author Henry Miller, who has a ménage a trois in Paris in 1931 with his wife (Uma Thurman) and another writer (Maria de Medeiros), in Philip Kaufman’s Henry & June (1990). It was the first NC-17 film to play in cinemas.

“My rear end seemed to have something to do with [that rating],” Ward once joked in an interview with The Washington Post.

Other films he starred in included Southern Comfort (1981), Swing Shift (1984), UFOria (1985), Secret Admirer (1985), The Prince of Pennsylvania (1988), Bob Roberts (1992), Chain Reaction (1996), The Player (2002), Road Trip (2000), Joe Dirt (2001), Enough (2002), Sweet Home Alabama (2002), The Wild Stallion (2009) and 2 Guns (2013). He also appeared in two episodes of HBO‘s True Detective.

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

Tributes have begun to pour in online for the actor, including from Bill & Ted actor Alex Winter, who tweeted: “RIP Fred Ward. He always elevated the films he was in.”

Edgar Wright wrote: “Farewell to Fred Ward who gifted us with so many rugged, funny and relatable characters throughout his career and always had charm to burn. Loved him in ‘Tremors’, ‘Miami Blues’, ‘The Right Stuff’, ‘The Player’, ‘Southern Comfort’ and more. RIP and thanks for all the movies x”

“Fred Ward was so amazing in everything but the way he delivers the line, “I guess we can’t make fun of Burt’s lifestyle anymore” is pure poetry,” Patton Oswalt added.

See more tributes below:

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