Fred Ward, Veteran Character Actor And Star Of Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, Has Died At 79

Fred Ward, a constant reliable presence over the years as an established character actor who elevated every movie he appeared in, died Sunday, May 8, 2022, at the age of 79. First reported by critic Alan Sepinwall on Twitter and subsequently confirmed by the late actor's publicist Ron Hofmann, Ward's death at least gives movie fans the opportunity to celebrate decades of commanding performances throughout a broad range of genres and budgets. Most widely known for bringing a rugged, experienced, and tangible texture to his roles in movies such as "Escape from Alcatraz," "The Right Stuff," "Tremors," and many more, perhaps his most fondly-remembered performance among certain fans might just be the 1985 action/adventure film "Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins." Planned as the first of an entire series of films based on the original "The Destroyer" novels (yes, studios putting the cart before the horse was never only a recent phenomenon!), the film was meant to boost the actor into leading man territory ... until its lackluster critical and box office performance put an end to that.

Undaunted, Ward went on to enjoy widespread success through various movie and television appearances, carving out his own unique niche and refusing to be pigeonholed into any sort of box whatsoever. With his first major acting gig in "Escape from Alcatraz" (opposite Clint Eastwood, no less), a bit role in "The Incredible Hulk" series, and his tricky performance as astronaut Gus Grissom in "The Right Stuff" (among many other roles) already under his belt, the veteran performer leveraged his early success to bring a specific sense of authenticity, earnestness, and emotion to otherwise no-nonsense characters — many of whom might not have contained quite as many layers on the page.

Fred Ward dead at 79

Born in San Diego in 1942, Fred Ward lived a rich and multifaceted life before ever even arriving in Hollywood. First serving in the United States Air Force, THR also notes that he made ends meet working as a boxer, a lumberjack in Alaska, a cook, and a construction worker in San Francisco before making the leap to dubbing films in Rome, acting as a mime, and acting in various projects by Roberto Rossellini. It should come as no surprise that the actor brought this lunch-pail, quintessentially American, blue-collar spirit to his acting career, as well.

All told, Ward worked under a dizzying array of name-brand directors such as Don Siegel, Philip Kaufman, and Robert Altman, leading to some of the most fascinating collaborations and thoroughly entertaining movies of his entire oeuvre. But lest any viewer think that the actor only ever brushed shoulders with the most self-serious and prestigious talent in the industry, Ward never hesitated to bring the exact same level of commitment and verve to otherwise silly roles, as well. Few others would've turned in as great a performance as he did in 2001's "Joe Dirt," credited simply as "Joe's Dad" in the 2001 David Spade-starring vehicle. And as /Film's own Chris Evangelista pointed out, "Cast A Dead Spell" features Ward as H.P. Lovecraft himself ... but with a hilarious twist, naturally.

Having climbed the Statue of Liberty, made it to outer space, and fought side-by-side with Kevin Bacon to fend off hungry worm-monsters — which really only scrapes the surface of his tireless work throughout such an incredibly prolific career — it's fair to say that most will never lead as charmed a cinematic life as Fred Ward. He's survived by his wife of 27 years, Marie-France Ward, and his son, Django Ward.