Fred Ward has died at age 79. Fred, who’s best known for playing no-nonsense badasses in movies like Tremors (1990), Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985), and The Right Stuff (1983), passed away on Sunday. His publicist confirmed the sad news to People, but did not share the cause or location of his death (per his family’s wishes). Fred leaves behind his wife of 27 years, Marie-France Ward, and one son, Django.
I know Fred best from Tremors, where he starred as an unreasonably sexy good ol’ boy who blows up evil worms with Reba McEntire and Kevin Bacon. But he’s got 89 acting credits on his IMDb. He played Reese Witherspoon’s dad in Sweet Home Alabama (2002), Meryl Streep’s co-worker in Silkwood (1983), Lily Tomlin’s boo in Big Business (1988), a grizzled cop in Miami Blues (1990), and novelist Henry Miller in Henry & June (1990). He also won a group Golden Globe for “Special Ensemble Cast” for his supporting role in Robert Altman’s Short Cuts (1993). Fred’s last onscreen appearance was in 2015, when he played Colin Farrell’s father in the second season of True Detective.
Fred was born in San Diego in 1942. Before he got into acting, he served in the U.S. Air Force for three years, and worked as a short-order cook, a janitor, a lumberjack in Alaska, and a boxer. In the early seventies, he studied acting in New York and Rome. While he was in Italy he dubbed Italian movies and worked as a mime.
Fred’s publicist, Ron Hofmann, says that it was Fred’s wish that “any memorial tributes be made in the form of donations to the Boston University Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center.” And Hollywood is mourning his loss:
RIP, Fred Ward, a great character actor whose big shot at leading man status, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, unfortunately flopped, but who kept giving great, lived-in performances for the rest of his career. pic.twitter.com/X3NnD3PgnX
— Alan Sepinwall (@sepinwall) May 13, 2022
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) May 13, 2022
Fred Ward was seemingly incapable of being inauthentic
His characters felt like they lived a full life and we’re only seeing a part of it and that’s a magic trick done right in front of you and very luckily captured in light forever
RIPhttps://t.co/IGLOOMel48 via @variety
— Diedrich Bader (@bader_diedrich) May 13, 2022
Devastated to learn about the passing of my friend, Fred Ward. I had the absolute pleasure of working with this wonderful man in Robert Altman’s Shortcuts and Alan Rudolph’s Equinox. A tough facade covering emotions as deep as a the Pacific Ocean. Godspeed amigo. ❤️💛🙏🏽✌🏽 pic.twitter.com/IRdPrDPrac
— Matthew Modine (@MatthewModine) May 13, 2022
Rest in Peace, Fred. Those worm monsters from Tremors better not even think of following you up to heaven.