Fred Ward, who appeared in films such as Tremors, The Right Stuff and The Player, has died at the age of 79.
The actor died on Sunday according to his publicist Ron Hofmann. Cause and place of death have not been specified.
Ward had previously worked as a boxer, as a lumberjack in Alaska, and as a short-term cook serving in the U.S. Air Force.
Ward, born in San Diego, was part of the Cherokee. Although he was known for his tough roles, he was known for adding a certain warmth to his parts.
After studying acting in Rome, Ward got his first major role against Clint Eastwood in Escape From Alcatraz in 1979.
He would go on to win a Golden Globe and an Ensemble Award for the Venice Film Festival for his role in Robert Altman’s comedy drama Short Cuts.
Other major roles include the title character in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins and Mercury 7 astronaut Virgil ‘Gus’ Grissom in the 1983 Oscar-nominated The Right Stuff and as a union activist and collaborator on Meryl Streep’s character in Mike Nichols’ Silkwood.
One of his most memorable roles was against Kevin Bacon in the horror comedy Tremors, where he played a repairman who fights giant underground snakes in the Nevada desert.
Bacon praised Ward and wrote on social media: “So sad to hear about Fred Ward. When it came to fighting underground worms, I could not have asked for a better partner. I will always remember chatting about his love for Django Reinhardt and jazz guitar during our long hot days in the high desert. Rest in peace Fred. “
Actor Matthew Modine, who starred with Ward in Short Cuts and Alan Rudolph’s Equinox, tweeted: “Destroyed to learn of my friend’s passing, Fred Ward. A tough facade that covers emotions as deep as the Pacific. Godspeed amigo.”
Actress Kate Mulgrew wrote: “I mourn the loss of Fred Ward, who was so kind to me when we worked together on Remo Williams. Decent and modest and completely professional, he disarmed himself with a smile that was at once warm and mischievous.”
Ward’s other key appearances include a rogue police officer chasing a psychotic criminal played by Alec Baldwin in George Armitage’s Miami Blues; a terrifying father to Freddie Prinze Jr.’s character in Summer Catch and David Spade’s title character in Joe Dirt.
He played President Ronald Reagan in the 2009 spy thriller Farewell and had a supporting role in the 2013 action film 2 Guns, starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg.
Ward took on a more revealing role in Philip Kaufman’s Henry & June. Based on the erotic novel by Anais Nin, he played the novelist Henry Miller. Speaking to the Washington Post at the time, he said of the film’s success: “My backside seemed to have something to do with (that rating)”.
Ward demonstrated his comedy in Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult in 1994, in which he played a terrorist who intended to blow up the Oscars.
On television, he had recurring roles on NBC’s ER as the father of Maura Tierney’s Abby Lockhart between 2006 and 2007 and guest starred in programs such as Grey’s Anatomy.
Ward most recently appeared in the second season of HBO’s True Detective as the retired police officer of Colin Farrell’s detective Ray Velcoro.
Ward leaves behind his third wife, Marie-France Ward, and his son from his second marriage, Django Ward.