The Right Stuff and Escape from Alcatraz star Fred Ward dead at 79

Ward, pictured with Morgan Freeman, got his break in <i>Escape from Alcatraz</i>.

Ward, pictured with Morgan Freeman, got his break in Escape from Alcatraz. Photo: Getty

Veteran US film and television actor Fred Ward, 79, best known for playing gruff tough-guy roles in movies such as Tremors, Escape from Alcatraz and The Right Stuff, has died, his publicist says.

No cause or place of death was released, as per his family’s wishes, publicist Ron Hofmann said.

Ward took a roundabout way into acting, after serving three years in the US Air Force in the 1960s and then working as an Alaskan lumberjack, a boxer where his nose was broken three times and a short-order cook, according to a biography provided by Hofmann.

His career spanned more than four decades, starting with foreign films in the early 1970s and stretched through 2015 with his final role in the television series True Detective, according to his online IMBD page.

He made his first US film appearance playing a cowboy in the 1975 film, Hearts of the West.

But his breakthrough role came when he played opposite Clint Eastwood in the 1979 film Escape from Alcatraz.

“The unique thing about Fred Ward is that you never knew where he was going to pop up, so unpredictable were his career choices,” the release said.

He played everything from an astronaut, cowboy, Vietnam war soldier, a chain-smoking police detective-turned-assassin to a hero battling giant worms, the release said.

In 1983 he portrayed Mercury 7 astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom in the adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s book The Right Stuff.

That same year he appeared in the action movie Uncommon Valor with Gene Hackman and in the drama Silkwood with Meryl Streep.

Ward won a Golden Globe and the Venice Film Festival ensemble prize for his performance in Short Cuts in 1993, his biography said.

He is survived by his wife of 27 years, Marie-France Ward, and a son, Django Ward.


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