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The Devastating Death Of Tremors Star Fred Ward

The entertainment world is reeling today at the news that character actor extraordinaire Fred Ward has died at the age of 79. No cause of death has been noted, per a statement from the actor's longtime publicist Ron Huffman (as reported by NPR). The actor passed away on May 8, leaving behind his wife of 27-years, Marie-France Ward, and his adult son, Django Ward.

Known for his gruff charm, adventurous spirit, and everyman appeal, NPR reports that Ward began acting in the early 1970s after a stint in the United States Air Force, followed by spells as a boxer, a lumberjack, and a short-order cook. After relocating to Rome, Italy, Ward also worked as a mime, and a voice-over artist before being discovered by legendary Italian auteur Roberto Rossellini ("Rome, Open City"). Ward would spend the bulk of the next five decades carving out one of the most distinctive careers in showbiz. In the process, he would endear himself to film and television fans of every generation.

Ward's showbiz legacy is fascinating and diverse

As it was, there wasn't much Fred Ward didn't do in his decades-long career, a fact noted by his publicist's comment: "The unique thing about Fred Ward is that you never knew where he was going to pop up, so unpredictable were his career choices." One glance at Ward's IMDb page will confirm that he was indeed one of the more free-spirited actors in Hollywood — he appeared in award-winning dramas, critically-adored indies, and kooky cult hits alike. 

Many moviegoers first took notice of Ward in the hit 1979 drama "Escape From Alcatraz," which found him trading lines with screen icon Clint Eastwood. Ward quickly established himself as a low-key scene-stealer, wowing fans as astronaut Gus Grissom in the Oscar-winning drama "The Right Stuff," and going on to appear in classic films like "Henry and June," "The Player," "Short Cuts," and "Sweet Home Alabama." He even fronted his own action flick in 1985's "Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins," and appeared on TV hits like "ER," "Grey's Anatomy," "The United States of Tara," and HBO's "True Detective."   

Ward perhaps remains best-known, however, for his role as Earl Bass in the beloved 1990 cult-hit creature feature "Tremors," a role he reprieved in the better-than-you-probably-remember sequel, "Tremors II: Aftershocks." And if you're looking to celebrate the man's esteemed career this weekend with a Fred Ward-centric film fest, the "Tremors" flicks are as solid a starting place as any project in his oeuvre.