Actor Fred Ward might not have become a household name but he it was not for lack of trying and he was an easily recognisable face.
Born Frederick Joseph Ward on December 30th 1942 in San Diego when his father was already in prison and allowed out briefly to see his new born son before he went back inside. But by the age of three Ward’s mother left her husband and left the child with her mother in Texas whilst she made arrangements in New Orleans to work and live there before Ward joined her.
It was something of an itinerant lifestyle he led as a child and he joined the US Air force as a radar technician. Having served three years in the military he went to New York in 1964 to study acting and in 1965 he married but divorced the following year. Whilst looking for acting jobs he juggled jobs as a lumberjack, a short order cook and even as an amateur boxer which he did between appearing in early Sam Shepherd plays in San Francisco. The work paid for a Euro trip where in Rome he dubbed Roberto Rossellini films before returning to the US where he began to get film roles albeit uncredited at first but in 1979 he landed a role in 1979’s Escape from Alcatraz starring Clint Eastwood which caught the eye of producers and he began getting cast as hardened tough guys in films such as 1981’s Southern Comfort written and directed by Walter Hill. But what followed were roles in the Oscar winning true life space drama The Right Stuff that almost saw him killed in a scene set in the water. But he also began to play in more sensitive films such as 1983’s Silkwood opposite Meryl Streep.
But it was really action that saw him most comfortable. 1985’s Remo Unarmed and Dangerous had Ward in the title role of an intended franchise but the film bombed and would not get a sequel. Perhaps the film that was a favourite with his fans was 1990’s Tremors (read our piece on the film HERE) an affectionate 1950’s style monster movie with practical monsters in an age before CGI which spawned a load of sequels though all went straight to video and he only appeared in the first sequel. His back catalogue widened the genre of films he would appear in and were as diverse as Robert Altman’s The Player & Short Cuts to broad comedies such as The Naked Gun 33 1/3. Ultimately he was never really a leading man and was most comfortable in supporting or character roles and his body of work in that capacity was wide but had stepped away from acting after his last role in 2015’s TV series True Detective. He never directed but did branch out the once into producing with Miami Blues in 1985
He was twice married with his second marriage lasting 27 years until his death aged 79 on 8th May 2022. He had one son.