Fred Ward, the versatile actor who played an astronaut in “The Right Stuff,” a grizzled drifter in “Tremors” and the titular writer in “Henry and June” across a decades-long career, died on Sunday. He was 79.
His publicist, Ron Hoffman, confirmed his death. He did not specify the cause of death.
“The unique thing about Fred Ward is that you never knew where he was going to pop up, so unpredictable were his career choices,” Mr. Hoffman said in a statement.
Mr. Ward was likely best known for his performances in “The Right Stuff,” the acclaimed 1983 adaptation of a book by Tom Wolfe, and “Tremors,” a monster movie that ascended to cult classic status since its release in 1990.
But his long career included a broad range of roles in which he applied a sometimes gruff but almost always grounded charisma to parts on film and TV: among other parts, a union activist in “Silkwood,” a detective in “Miami Blues,” Henry Miller in “Henry and June,” and a motorcycle racer in “Timerider: The Adventures of Lyle Swann.”
Mr. Ward also played the lead in “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins,” which was intended to be the first in a series but fared poorly in theaters in 1985 and drew mixed reviews.
In an interview with The New York Times in 1990, Mr. Ward explained how he chose some roles, saying, “I look for change, a person that changes — he’s on a voyage.”
He said he was drawn to the part of Henry Miller because, “I’m part of a generation that, I think, was heavily influenced by Henry Miller, Paris, the ideals there: liberation, a kind of personal and benevolent anarchy that sings through all his pages.”
He is survived by his wife, Marie-France Ward, and his son, Django Ward.