'The Larry Sanders Show,' 'Men in Black' Star Rip Torn Dies at 8807/10/2019
Rip Torn, the versatile Emmy-winning actor best known for HBO’s The Larry Sanders Show and the Men in Black franchise, has died at the age of 88.
A prolific actor on the stage and the screen, Rip Torn died Tuesday at his home in Lakeville, Connecticut, according to his representatives. Torn’s publicist did not release a cause of death, but said he was at his home surrounded by family in Lakeville.
In a career spanning seven decades, Torn appeared in more than 80 feature films, dozens of television shows, and 10 Broadway plays, one of which he directed.
Known for his gravelly voice and sinister appearance, Torn often played villains like the evil wizard Maax in the 1982 sword and sorcery film The Beastmaster. But he could also easily switch gears to become the gruff authority figure, as seen in his roles in the first two Men in Black films. But in one of his most celebrated later roles, he would combine those qualities as the sleazy washed-up dodgeball legend Patches O’Houlihan in 2004’s DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, in which he delivers one of the film’s best lines: “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.”
Born Elmore Rual Torn Jr. in Temple, Tex., a small city north of Austin, he took on the nickname “Rip” after his dad and uncle. Torn began his career in theater and supporting roles in dramas before landing the role as the bombastic producer on Garry Shandling’s The Larry Sanders Show, an HBO late-night talk show satire that ran from 1992 to 1998 and would provide the foundation for shows like The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and 30 Rock, the latter of which would see Torn make recurring appearances. Torn earned six Emmy nominations and a win in 1996 for the role of the hard-nosed producer, along with a slew of other awards including two American Comedy awards, an American Television Award, and one Cable Ace award.
Larry Sanders gave Torn a late-career boost, and he would appear in a variety of prestige pictures including Michael Mann’s The Insider, Curtis Hanson’s Wonder Boys, and Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. He would also make multiple appearances on 30 Rock as the fictional CEO of General Electric.
In his long career, Torn was nominated for only one Tony, for his performance in the Tennessee Williams play Sweet Bird of Youth in 1959 and for one Oscar, for his role as the hard-drinking backwoodsman in 1983’s Cross Creek. The New York Times attributes those lack of wins to his “reputation for volatility.” Torn once acknowledged, “I get angry easily.” In 2010, Torn was arrested after drunkenly breaking into a bank with a loaded gun, claiming he thought it was his home. In one famous example of his erratic behavior lending to his performance, an unscripted brawl with Norman Mailer while making the 1970 film Maidstone — in which Torn struck Mailer with a hammer and Mailer responded by biting his ear — became the centerpiece of the movie.
Torn was married three times: to Ann Wedgeworth from 1955 to 1961, to Geraldine Page from 1963 until her death in 1987, and to Amy Wright from 1989 until his death. He is survived by Wright, his five children, his sister, and four grandchildren.
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