Fred Ward, Tremors and The Right Stuff actor, dies at age 79

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Fred Ward has died at the age of 79. Best known for his roles in Tremors, The Right Stuff, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, Miami Blues, Southern Comfort, Henry & June, Sweet Home Alabama, and the Robert Altman films The Player and Short Cuts, the actor died Sunday, May 8, his publicist Ron Hofmann confirmed. The cause of death has not been revealed.

Fred Ward
Fred Ward

Jason Merritt/FilmMagic Fred Ward

"The unique thing about Fred Ward is that you never knew where he was going to pop up, so unpredictable were his career choices," said Hofmann in a statement. "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, battles 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); or the Major, Danny McBride's overbearing ex-Marine father, in 30 Minutes or Less (2011)."

Ward was born in San Diego and served for three years in the United States Airforce.

"I'd been in the Air Force when I was young — not as a pilot, but as an airborne radar technician in Goose Bay, Labrador during the Cold War," he once told Wired. "We were one of the first lines of defense."

Ward spent six months as an acting student in New York during the early 1960s but quit to take up a series of blue-collar jobs in an array of locales.

"I was very restless then," he told The Washington Post in 1990. "Thought I'd go to Florida and catch a ship. Didn't work out. Wound up in New Orleans."

Ward eventually traveled to Rome, where he started his career as a screen actor with a part in Roberto Rossellini's 1973 miniseries The Age of Medici.

After memorable supporting roles in 1981's Southern Comfort and 1983's The Right Stuff, Ward achieved leading-man status with 1985's Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, 1990's Henry & June, and 1990's horror-comedy-western Tremors, in which he costarred with Kevin Bacon.

"I thought he was a really great, interesting choice, because Fred has a real, genuine American cowboy, man-of-the-earth kind of persona," Bacon said in a recent interview. "You could have could have gone, 'Well, who's a funny guy that we can put in this part?' But they really didn't cast in that way. They really wanted some authenticity in that role, and I thought he really lended a lot of authenticity to it... He's just such an unusual character that I really sparked to him, and we enjoyed our time in the desert together."

Bacon paid tribute to his Tremors costar after news of his death broke.

"So sad to hear about Fred Ward," the actor wrote. "When it came to battling underground worms I couldn't have asked for a better partner. I will always remember chatting about his love of Django Reinhardt and jazz guitar during our long hot days in the high desert. Rest In Peace Fred."

Ward's last significant role was in the 2015 second season of HBO's True Detective. According to Hofmann, Ward spent the last years of his life developing his second-favorite art form: painting.

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