Actor Fred Ward, best known for his roles in films such as Escape from Alacatraz, Tremors, Henry & June, and Shortcuts, sadly has passed away at the age of 79. One of his reps confirmed to the New York Post on Friday, May 13, 2022, that the star passed away the previous weekend, on May 8th.
The Golden Globe-winning actor and producer had devoted the majority of his life to his acting. Beyond the films we just mentioned, he also had notable roles in offerings such as Miami Blues, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, and The Right Stuff.
It was Ward’s dying wish that any memorial tributes in his honor made in the form of donations to a cause that he cared about deeply – Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy research and treatment. Ward instructed that donations should made to the Boston University Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center.
According to his rep, while Ward wasn’t very active in Hollywood in the last few years of his life. And only appearing in a handful of minor television roles – he did spend a lot of time developing his second favorite art form, painting.
Once the news of Ward’s passing hit social media, it quickly made the rounds. Rolling Stone editor Alan Sepinwall posted a moving Tweet drawing attention to Ward’s beloved cult status. Alan referred to Ward as a great character actor whose biggest shot at a leading role. 1985s Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, unfortunately, was a flop. But even so, he continued to pump out solid performances for the remainder of his acting career.
Likewise, film critic Robert Daniels issued his condolences with his own sentimental post. Daniels called Ward ‘absurdly good’, and went on to say that he was professional in everything he did from 1990s Tremors to 1992s The Player. According to Daniels, even when Ward cast in a relatively idiotic role like in 2001s Joe Dirt, he still put everything he had into his performance. Daniels sounded off by calling Ward ‘totally underrated’.
We tend to agree with Daniels. Fred Ward trully was one of the most underappreciated actors of our time. He will sorely missed. With talent like his, it makes you wonder if there is some kind of alternate universe where Ward ended up becoming a high-profile blockbuster superstar akin to stars like Hugh Jackman or Robert Downey Jr.
Even though he was an actor whose true potential was never quite realized, he still deserves our respect. Join Facts Verse as we take a reflective look back on the life and times of Fred Ward’s last wish.
Fred Ward’s Early Life And Rise To Fame
He was born Fredrick Joseph Ward on December 30, 1942, in San Diego, California. Before he got into acting, Ward spent several years serving in the United States Air Force. During his military years, Ward was an avid boxer and ended up breaking his nose three times. After getting out of the service, he found work as a lumberjack in Alaska.
For quite some time, Ward struggled to figure out what he ultimately wanted to do with his life. After growing tired of the lumberjack life, he gave janitorial work a go. Soon enough, however, he found that too to be unfulfilling and found a job instead as a short-order cook.
Eventually, Ward started taking acting classes at New York’s Herbert Berghof Studio. While it’s not quite clear how he ended up there, in time, Ward relocated to Rome, Italy.
While there, he continued his acting studies. He then began dubbing Italian films into English and made several appearances in films by the neo-realist director Roberto Rossellini, best known for the movies Rome Open City, Paisan, and Germany Year Zero.
Before he found success, Ward also worked as a mime to make ends meet. After returning back to the United States, Ward spent some time doing experimental theater while occasionally landing some work in television.
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And don’t go anywhere just yet Keep watching to learn all about Fred Ward’s later career and most recent credits. Join Facts Verse as we take a reflective look back on the life and times of Fred Ward’s last wish.
Persistence Paid Off
Ward made his first appearance in an American film in 1975 when he played a cowboy in Hearts of the West. His first major role, however, was in the 1979 Clint Eastwood vehicle Escape From Alcatraz. In that film, he played an escapee named John Anglin.
Ward’s next significant role was playing a violent National Guardsman in the 1981 film Southern Comfort.
His first starring role in a film was in 1982s Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann. He then played an astronaut named Gus Grissom in 1983s The Right Stuff, followed by a role in the Gene Hickman-led action film Uncommon Valor. Rounding out ’83, Ward made one last appearance in the drama film Silkwood.
In 1984, Ward landed a co-starring role in the film Swing Shift. The following year, he appeared in the teen rom-com Secret Admirer. Join Facts Verse as we take a reflective look back on the life and times of Fred Ward’s last wish.
His First Leading Role Flopped
1985 was the year that Ward was given his first leading role playing the title hero in Guy Hamilton’s action movie Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. The film intended to be first of a series of movies based upon The Destroyer series of paperback novels.
Although the film promoted well, with Ward making the late-night rounds and appearing on the cover of several entertainment magazines. It only managed to gross a measly $15 million against a $40 million budget.
The fact that the film flopped was a considerable blow for Ward’s career. It supposed to be his chance at proving that he could be a marketable lead. But after Remo Williams failed, Ward’s future leading role prospects seemed to evaporate before his eyes – at least for the time being.
It wasn’t a total loss, though. Remo demonstrated that Ward had a knack for comedic timing and satire. These skills would come in handy later on.
After Remo, Ward appeared in just a handful of low-budget films for the next few years, but in 1988 he returned to the big screen playing a cop in the action-thriller Off Limits. That same year, he also played Roone Dimmick in Big Business and Keanu Reeves character’s father in The Prince of Pennsylvania.
In 1990, Ward appeared in one of the biggest films of his career when he starred as Earl Bassett in the monster flick Tremors. He followed that up playing an erotic writer alongside Uma Thurman in the controversial film Henry & June. The movie was the first in history to receive the MPAA’s NC-17 rating.
Ward then played a cop named Hoke Moseley in his self-produced 1990 film Miami Blues. Also that year, he portrayed an FBI agent in Catchfire.
Ward’s next major role was playing Walter Stuckel in Robert Altman’s 1992 satirical black comedy The Player. Proving again that he shined in comedic roles, Ward’s next role was as anchorman Chip Daley in the Tim Robbin’s political satire Bob Roberts.
In 1994, Ward played the vicious but dimwitted gangster Leslie Nielsen in Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Cut.
He Never Gave Up
In the new Millennium, Ward appeared in numerous films and telvision shows. He appeared in the thriller The Chaos Factor and starred in the gangster film Circus, In 2000. And In 2001, he co-starred in Joe Dirt and Corky Romano.
In 2002, he co-starred in Sweet Home Alabama and had a starring role in a TV pilot for a show called Georgetown. But unfortunately, it didn’t picked up by the network. After appearing in films like The Last Ride and Coast to Coast in 2004, Ward took a break from acting for a couple of years.
He returned to television in 2006 with a guest appearance on Grey’s Anatomy and followed that up with roles in films like Feast of Love in 2007 and Armored in 2009.
Some of Ward’s last noteworthy roles include appearances in 2011s 30 Minutes or Less and 2013s 2 Guns.
In 2018, he reprised his role as Earl Bassett in a made-for-TV reboot of the film Tremors. Join Facts Verse as we take a reflective look back on the life and times of Fred Ward’s last wish.
The Cause He Believed In
While it’s unclear at the moment what took Fred Ward’s life, it’s interesting that his last wish was for his fans to donate to the Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center. Once again, it’s unknown if Ward himself suffered from this disease, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE is a time of brain degeneration caused by repeated head injuries. It’s very difficult to diagnosis the disease, and oftentimes, it’s only discovered when an autopsy is performed.
CTE has been discovered in the brains of people who have played contact sports like football or boxing. It also has been documented in military personnel who experienced multiple concussive blasts in the line of duty.
Some symptoms of CTE include difficulties with thinking and cognition, emotional problems, and other abnormal behaviors. It’s generally thought that such symptoms develop years or even decades after the repeated head traumas occurred.
A CTE diagnosis isn’t normally made during life except for in people that are especially at high-risk. In Fred Ward’s case, his time in the military and his amateur boxing career when he was young along with his later work doing his own stunts in his films might possibly have led him to develop the condition.
As previously mentioned, this is all just speculation. No official cause of death has been announced as of yet.
Fred Ward was an incredibly diverse actor that accordingly to IMDB appeared in or produced 89 films and television shows. And while he may be gone, he won’t soon be forgotten.
Ward has left behind a legacy that will endure many years to come. He might not have been the most prolific or iconic star of our day, but he certainly left his mark on the entertainment industry. Join Facts Verse as we take a reflective look back on the life and times of Fred Ward’s last wish.
Did you know that Fred Ward was a boxer before studying acting in Rome? And are you familiar with the medical condition Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy that may have contributed to his death? Let us know in the comments.
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