Golden Globe-winning character actor and producer Fred Ward passed away at age 79 on Sunday May 8, 2022.
Ward’s passing was confirmed by his publicist, Ron Hoffmann. No cause of death has yet been revealed, but Hoffmann said Mr. Ward wanted any memorial donations given to a Boston University center for the study of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease.
Freddie Joe Ward was born in San Diego on December 30, 1942. Before acting, Ward spent three years in the United States Air Force. He was also a boxer (breaking his nose three times) and worked as a lumberjack in Alaska, a janitor, and a short-order cook.
He studied acting at New York’s Herbert Berghof Studio after serving in the U.S. Air Force. While living in Rome, he dubbed Italian films into English and appeared in films by neorealist director Roberto Rossellini.
In the 1970s he returned to the states to pursue his acting career and made his film debut as a cowboy in Hearts of the West in 1975, but his “big break” was playing John Anglin in the Clint Eastwood film Escape from Alcatraz in 1979.
In the 1980s, Ward continued to make a name for himself in Hollywood, appearing in 19 projects over the decade including Southern Comfort, Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann, The Right Stuff, Uncommon Valor, Silkwood, Swing Shift, Secret Admirer, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, Off Limits, Big Business, and with Keanu Reeves in The Prince of Pennsylvania.
In 1990, Ward starred as Earl Bassett in the monster movie Tremors with Kevin Bacon and the movie became a cult classic and inspired a sequel Tremors II: Aftershocks in 1995, in which he also starred.
Also in 1990, he starred in Henry & June with Uma Thurman and as cop Hoke Moseley in his self-produced Miami Blues with Alec Baldwin and Jennifer Jason Leigh. That same year he also played an FBI agent in Dennis Hopper’s film Catchfire.
In 1993 Ward won a special ensemble Golden Globe when he starred in the Robert Altman film Short Cuts, which also won an ensemble award that same year at the Venice Film Festival. During the 1990’s he also starred in such films as Two Small Bodies, Naked Gun 33+1⁄3: The Final Insult , The Blue Villa, Chain Reaction, Best Men, …First Do No Harm with Meryl Streep and Dangerous Beauty.
Ward continued to build his already impressive resume in the 2000s. He starred in the action-thriller The Chaos Factor and appeared in the gangster movie Circus, the teen movie Road Trip and The Crow sequel The Crow: Salvation.
He also co-starred in Joe Dirt, Summer Catch, Wild Iris, the mini-TV-series Dice and the comedy film Corky Romano with Chris Kattan.
In 2002, Ward appeared in Sweet Home Alabama as the father of Reese Witherspoon’s character. He also appeared in Enough and Abandon that year. He had the starring role in Birdseye. After roles in The Last Ride, 10.5 and Coast to Coast, he took a short break from acting and returned as a guest in the TV series Grey’s Anatomy and ER. He then appeared in the ensemble drama Feast of Love, the thriller Exit Speed, Management with Jennifer Aniston, The Wild Stallion DVD and in Armored.
Ward guest-starred as Ronald Reagan in the French political thriller L’affaire Farewell. He appeared in 30 Minutes or Less, guest-starred in the Toni Collette TV series United States of Tara, In Plain Sight and Leverage.
All in all, Ward could boast 89 credits in movies and TV appearances.
Ward lived in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles. His first marriage, to Carla Evonne Stewart in 1965, ended in divorce the following year. His second marriage was to Silvia Ward, with whom he had a son, Django. After they divorced, he married Marie-France Boisselle.
Ward is survived by his wife of 27 years, Marie-France Ward and his son Django Ward.
Fans and Friends Pay Tribute
Many fans and colleagues took to Twitter to pay their respects:
Ward was a very notable character actor who opened the door for many actors like him and he will be missed.