Acclaimed actor Fred Ward, best known for his roles in films like “The Right Stuff,” “Tremors,” and “Escape From Alcatraz,” died Sunday at age 79, his publicist confirmed to CBS News. Ward’s cause of death was not released.
Before Ward’s film career began in the early 1970s, he held several other titles, according to a biography from his publicist: He served three years in the US Air Force, and also worked as a short-order cook, a boxer and a lumberjack in Alaska.
Once his acting career began, he became known for the versatility of his roles, the biography said, whether as a cop or an author of erotic stories in “Henry & June” – the world’s first NC-17 movie. His first major role came in the 1979 Clint Eastwood film “Escape from Alcatraz;” soon after, he played an accidental time traveler in the 1982 film “Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann.”
The next year, he played Air Force captain and Mercury 7 astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom in the acclaimed film adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s “The Right Stuff.”
“The unique thing about Fred Ward is that you never knew where he was going to pop up, so unpredictable were his career choices,” his biography said. He also appeared on TV shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Leverage” and “True Detective.”
In the final years of his life, he spent time painting, which his publicist called his “second favorite art form.”
He is survived by his wife Marie-France Ward and his son Django Ward. He asked that any tributes be made in the form of donations to Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center.