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Fred Ward dies at 79: The Right Stuff actor passes away


Hollywood character actor Fred Ward died on May 8 at the age of 79, it was revealed by his publicist on Friday.

The San Diego native began his career in the 1970s and went on to star in many well known films including Tremors, Henry & June, Sweet Home Alabama and Enough.

He was best known for playing Gus Grissom in the 1983 US Space Program movie The Right Stuff opposite Sam Shepard and Dennis Quaid.

Sad loss: Hollywood character actor Fred Ward died on May 8 at the age of 79, it was revealed by his publicist on Friday. Seen in 2011

Ward died Sunday, his publicist Ron Hoffman announced this week and according to The Hollywood Reporter, no cause or place of death was shared which was his family’s wish.

Ward, who was part Cherokee, had a background in boxing, which led to him playing gruff tough guys role on the big screen.  

He also had notable roles in Silkwood with Meryl Streep and Swing Shift with Goldie Hawn.

His last role was in 2015 as Eddie Velcoro for two episodes of the series True Detective with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.

The Right roles: He was best known for playing Gus Grissom in the 1983 US Space Program movie The Right Stuff opposite Sam Shepard and Dennis Quaid. Seen with Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, and Quaid

The Right roles: He was best known for playing Gus Grissom in the 1983 US Space Program movie The Right Stuff opposite Sam Shepard and Dennis Quaid. Seen with Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, and Quaid

Ready to fly: He is seen here in his orange and silver astronaut suit

Ready to fly: He is seen here in his orange and silver astronaut suit

He landed his first break in the 1973 TV movie The Age Of The Medici as Niccolo.

After that he popped up on TV shows like Quincy ME in 1978.

Ward was cast again and again as the rough type until he finally stood out when he landed the role of John Anglin in the 1979 movie Escape From Alcatraz with Clint Eastwood. He played a prisoner keen on escaping the San Francisco prison.

He could do period films too: Seen with Maria DeMedeiros as writer Anais Nin in the 1990 movie Henry & June in which he played author Henry Miller. Uma Thurman was also in the movie as June

He could do period films too: Seen with Maria DeMedeiros as writer Anais Nin in the 1990 movie Henry & June in which he played author Henry Miller. Uma Thurman was also in the movie as June

Scary movie: In 1990 he starred as Earl Bass, right, alongside Kevin Bacon, left in the horror movie Tremors

Scary movie: In 1990 he starred as Earl Bass, right, alongside Kevin Bacon, left in the horror movie Tremors

Next came the role of Jamie in 1979’s Cardiac Arrest then the role of Reece in 1981’s Southern Comfort.

In 1983 he got a bigger break in the critically acclaimed space movie The Right Stuff.

He held his own against stage actor Shepard and movie star Quaid. The film revolved around the U.S. space program’s development from the breaking of the sound barrier.

Playing tough in The Player: Ward, left, had a standout role as Walter Stuckel in the ensemble The Player in 1992 with co-star Whoopi Goldberg, right

Playing tough in The Player: Ward, left, had a standout role as Walter Stuckel in the ensemble The Player in 1992 with co-star Whoopi Goldberg, right

It also covered the selection of the Mercury 7 astronauts, from a group of daring test pilots. 

The drama Silkwood followed in 1983 then Swing Shift in 1984 before he was given the titular role in the 1985 movie Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.

Fred worked steadily from then on, often making three or four movies a year.

In 1990 alone he made four films: Tremors, Catchfire, Miami Blues and Henry & June.

Ward had a standout role as Walter Stuckel in the ensemble The Player in 1992 with co-star Whoopi Goldberg. And that same year he played Wyatt Earp in the TV movie Four Eyes and Six-Guns.

His friend: Ward and Morgan Freeman at the Feast of Love premiere at The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in LA in 2007

His friend: Ward and Morgan Freeman at the Feast of Love premiere at The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in LA in 2007

His work in the 1990s was rounded out by small parts in Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994), Chain Reaction (1996), Dangerous Beauty (1998) and the mini series Invasion Earth (1998).

He was very busy in the 2000s with roles in big Hollywood movies like The Crow: Salvation, Joe Dirt and Summer Catch as well as the Jennifer Lopez thriller Enough (2002).

And he showed up on two episodes on ER in 2006 as Eddie.

He worked less starting in 2010; he showed up in only a handful of roles like as Admiral Tuwey in 2 Guns in 2013. 

He wed Marie-France Ward in 1995. She filed for divorce in August 2013 but they reconciled that same year.

With his wife: Seen with spouse Marie-France Ward at 30 Minutes Or Less premiere in 2011. She filed for divorce in August 2013 but they reconciled that same year

With his wife: Seen with spouse Marie-France Ward at 30 Minutes Or Less premiere in 2011. She filed for divorce in August 2013 but they reconciled that same year



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