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RIP Ned Beatty, Died Without a Starring Role

Ned Beatty was one heck of a character actor. He graced the big and small screen for over four decades and left behind a legacy that won’t be soon forgotten. The news of his death on June 13, 2021 was a devastating blow for the entire entertainment industry and dozens of his former co-stars took to social media to offer up their sincerest condolences to his friends, family, and legions of fans. 

The unforgettable Oscar-nominated actor was 83 years old when he passed. He was perhaps best known for his supporting roles in films such as Superman: The Movie and its sequel Superman II, All the President’s Men, Toy Story 3, and The Network.

He died of natural causes.

Beatty’s Manager, Deborah Miller, first broke the news of his passing. According to an official statement that she put out, Ned was surrounded by his loved ones when he breathed his last breath. No further details have been revealed at this time.

For almost half a century, Beatty was celebrated as one of the most distinctive actors in Hollywood. His image and voice became well known to fans of all ages and walks of life. He was born and raised in Kentucky but discovered his love for acting towards the end of his teen years. In his twenties, Beatty started performing on stage. In 1972, he landed his first big-screen role in 1972s Deliverance.

He would eventually go on to play a diverse array of roles in dozens of productions. His career spanned from the 70s to the 2010s. Over the course of his prolific acting career, he would have credited roles in films, TV shows, stage productions, and even a few video games. He was a jack of all trades of sorts when it came to offering consistently exquisite performances.

He was celebrated with numerous Emmy, Oscar, and Golden Globe nominations, but his artistic choices were always a bit tricky to anticipate. He was just as likely to star as a character like Detective Stanley Bolander on Homicide: Life on The Street as he was to provide the voice for the villainous Lots-O’-Huggin-Bear in Pixar’s Toy Story 3.

Whatever film or TV show that Beatty signed on to was always sure to be elevated by his presence. Whenever he would pop up in a film – even in one of his lesser-known ones like 1990s Captain America – he was almost always the best part.

Beatty’s 165 acting credits make up an incredibly diverse body of work that contains very little duds. Almost everything that he agreed to put his name on was decent at the very least, but the majority of his roles were downright iconic.

His death is sure to inspire his fans to revisit some of his greatest works – and there certainly is no shortage of those. Ranking his finest films objectively is perhaps a fool’s errand, so instead of picking favorites, let’s just take a moment to look at some highlights from his 40+ years in the industry.

Detective Stanley Bolander – Homicide: Life on the Street

Nowadays, seeing a star of Ned Beatty’s pedigree gracing a TV show might seem pretty standard but back in the early 90s, it wasn’t as common as it is today. Regardless, from 1993 to 1995, Beatty was an integral cast member on NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Street.

Beatty played Detective Stanley Bolander, the breadwinner of the show’s homicide team. From an outside perspective, Bolander seemed to be a fairly run-of-the-mill crotchety veteran type, but he had a surprisingly gentle side and a complex yet conflicted personal life.

Bolander retired from the force after season three after sustaining a particularly serious and traumatic gunshot wound. He did, however, make a brief cameo in 2000s spin-off film Homicide: The Movie. Still, even though he was no longer with the series after the first few seasons, his presence is felt throughout the show.

Bolander’s partner in that series was John Munch portrayed by Richard Belzer. As you probably are already aware, Bunch went on to become a mainstay in Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit in addition to appearing in multiple other television series.

Although Bolander and Munch relationship was oftentimes antagonistic, they eventually learned how to show each other the respect they both deserved. Much even stated later on in the series that Bolander was his greatest mentor.

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And don’t you even dare think about sneaking off so soon. Stay tuned to find out which role earned Ned Beatty an Academy Award nominations for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. We’ll give you a hint. It wasn’t White Lighting.

Otis – Superman 

Otis was Lex Luther’s assistant in the classic 1978 film adaptation of Superman. Ned Beatty delivered a top-notch performance as the perpetually bumbling henchman. Although he clearly was on Luthor’s team, Otis still comes across as innocent and simple-minded. Throughout the film, he made quite a few avoidable mistakes that at times became equally as big of a threat to his boss’s devious plans as the Man of Steel himself. So it’s not at all surprising that Luthor decided to leave Otis behind when he made his grand escape from his prison cell in the 1980 sequel film Superman II.

Beatty’s role in the film franchise wasn’t particularly big, but his character made a lasting and notable impression. Even though his character was only concocted specifically for the sake of the movie, a version of his character was eventually given a minor cameo in the mainstream DC Comics universe and variations of Otis have shown up in a handful of other DC-associated projects. Otis was also given a subtle shout-out in the video game Arkham Knight where a district in Gotham’s Founders’ Island is named Otisburg.

Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear – Toy Story 3

Ned Beatty’s extensive acting credits prove that he had an uncanny knack to embody characters that could be either incredibly warm, deeply insecure, or boundlessly ruthless. As such, he was the perfect casting choice for almost any occasion.

He tapped into all of these qualities in 2010 when he gave his voice to the Lots-o’ Huggin’ Bear, or Lotso for short – in Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 3. The villainous stuffed bear role proved to be quite the welcome challenge for Beatty to undertake, but despite the fact that he had to step out of his comfort zone a bit for that part, he loved every minute of it. He took great pride in having the opportunity to participate in that project and everyone he worked alongside had nothing but praise to throw in his direction.

After Beatty’s passing, Toy Story 3’s director Lee Unkrich, shared on Twitter how much of a joy and honor it was to have had the opportunity to work with him.

Bobby Trippe – Deliverance 

1972s Deliverance is famous for a lot of different reasons. Who could forget that famous Dueling Banjos scene? And then there was the fact that it was nominated for several Academy Award nominations. More controversially, however, was the fact that the film’s portrayal of that region of the American South left the good folks of Rabun County, Georgia with a pretty nasty taste in their mouths. It didn’t exactly portray that part of the country in a positive light.

Still, the most memorable – albeit incredibly disturbing – scene in that film involved Ned Beatty. Ned played Bobby Trippe, one of four businessmen who set out on an ill-fated canoe trip in rural Georgia. Besides giving an incredible performance throughout the movie, Beatty is also pivotal in the film’s notorious ‘squeal like a pig’ scene, in which Trippe is sexually assaulted by one of the Hillbilly’s who comes across him and his buddy Ed, played by Jon Voight.

It was a particularly gritty role especially considering the fact that it was Beatty’s first film. According to the film’s director Jon Boorman, it was a role that followed Ned for nearly his entire career. Everywhere he would go people would still say ‘Squeal like a pig’ – even decades later.

Arthur Jensen – Network 

The mid-70s were pretty exciting times for Beatty. The films he took part in between 1975 and 1976 received three Academy Award nods for Best Picture. Every role that he agreed to do, he gave his whole to. Beatty would, in fact, stick to that pattern of excellence throughout his entire acting career. During these two years, Beatty starred in such celebrated films as All The Presidents Men and Nashville but one film role in particular from this era overshadows both of those.

Beatty was particularly talented at playing both meek and bumbling characters as well as fierce villains. He once joked that he loved being the ‘bad guy’ because it paid more and was generally speaking more fun. He might have been speaking a bit facetiously, but his incredible performance in Sidney Lumet’s classic black comedy, Network, was a testament to his ability to play such a grizzly role with grace.

Beatty played Arthur Jensen, the sinister chairman of the Communication Corporation of America. After meeting the film’s lead character, rogue news anchor Howard Beale played by Peter Finch, he delivered one of the most ominously, over-the-top, super villain speeches in film history. He essentially coerces Beale to become his underling and to perpetuate his cult-like corporate rhetoric. Ultimately this leads the fictional TV network’s ratings to go into a free fall – with disastrous results of course for Beale.

Beatty’s powerful performance as the charismatic yet horrifying media bigwig earned him an Academy Award nod for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Alright. Well, that’s about all the time we’ve got for this video. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed reflecting on Ned Beatty’s distinguished acting career with us. He may be gone, but he certainly won’t be forgotten. The mark that he made on Hollywood will never be erased. His legacy will live on for decades to come.

But now’s your turn to let your voice be heard. In the comments section, let us know which one of Ned Beatty’s films was your favorite. Maybe you’re a die-hard Superman fan or perhaps All The President’s Men really resonated with you. Either way, drop us a line and let us know what your thinking.

And before you go, be sure to take a brief moment to show us a little bit of support by giving this video a like and by subscribing to Facts Verse. Tap the bell icon to turn on notifications. That way you’ll never have to miss another one of our videos.

We’ll catch you next time for another facts-packed installment of Facts Verse.

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